Six Essential Leadership Competencies, or Why Salespeople Cannot Live by Charisma Alone

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“I sell ice in the winter; I sell fire in Hell.
“I’m a hustler, baby; I’ll sell water to a well!”

—Jay-Z

If pure, unadulterated charisma alone could persuade prospects to buy, we’d all be recruiting Jay-Z’s for our sales teams. But for leaders, “charisma without substance and competence is meaningless, even dangerous,” according to University of Virginia management professor Thomas S. Bateman.

In his article, Leading with Competence: Problem-Solving by Leaders and Followers, Bateman offers six essential personal capabilities leaders should possess:

1. Clearly defining problem scope and goals
2. Generating multiple alternative courses of action
3. Thoroughly evaluating those alternatives
4. Making the choice
5. Implementing the decision
6. Following up by changing the approach

These skills should be familiar to anyone who works in professional sales development, because they are the same skills sales leaders must bring to customer engagements. Today, salespeople who don’t possess these skills will experience sales opportunities that self-destruct into a rubble of friction and mistrust. Here are the pitfalls when leadership needs aren’t matched with corresponding competencies from sales professionals:

Clearly defining problem scope and client goals. Salespeople often tackle the wrong business issue or challenge. Key problems are overlooked and ignored. “When you sell hammers, every problem looks like a nail.”

Generating multiple alternative courses of action. Salespeople regress into either-or thinking in which only two outcomes are possible, and only one—a sale—is desirable. “I want to be your ‘trusted advisor.’ But first, to make my quota, I urgently need your business this quarter.”

Thoroughly evaluating those alternatives. Salespeople are often burdened with a distorted view of customer risk and opportunity, and fail to consider the myriad issues that accompany technological and organizational change. “We just don’t understand why our prospects don’t make timely decisions when our business case is so compelling.”

Making the choice. “Get the deal off the street” versus “make the right choice.” Frequently, short-term vendor revenue goals clash with the longer-term objectives of prospective customers.

Implementing the decision. After prospects purchase, many sales organizations do not offer meaningful incentives for salespeople to stay involved in customer relationships, often contributing to post-sale support problems. “After we bought, we never heard from our salesperson again.”

Following up by changing the approach. Following a major win, vendor euphoria can cloud reality, and customer success is often prematurely assumed. In fact, customer angst and frustration can be highest right after implementation. Ongoing evaluation of new value-producing opportunities solidifies the buying-selling partnership.

“Naïve sugarcoating, cynical spinning, denying problems, and other misleading communications about harsh realities undermine credibility, support, and performance—and make people think their leader is incompetent,” Bateman writes. Customer leaders need salespeople who understand their leadership challenges, and can support their efforts. Sure, charisma never hurts. But charisma and leadership skills? Gosh, with that, you just might be able to sell water to a well!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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