Why do successful sales people suffer a “sales lobotomy” when they become leaders? If you’ve been promoted to a leadership role, it’s probably because you’ve got a consistent record of delivering sales results in your business. To succeed you had to master core techniques and approaches:

  • to build rapport with your client, to earn trust and influence
  • to understand client business priorities so you could propose appropriate solutions
  • to uncover the motivations behind objections so you could overcome them
  • to tailor the right information at the right time to each client

You probably excel at all of these things and more, but what many people in your position don’t realise, is that all of the things that make you a great sales person, can also make you a great leader. The reality is that successful managers see leadership as a sales job. They see their role every day as “Selling” their team on doing their jobs to hit both their own and the company’s goals.

Dale Carnegie famously said:

“there is only one way….to get anybody to do anything, and that is by making the other person want to do it.” 

This applies to sales as much as leadership, so lets re-cap on some of the sales basics that effective leaders apply to managing their teams.


Strong relationships help deliver the right solution and get repeat business. They also enable you to have influence throughout the sales process. As a sales person you have to work at building this relationship, even when clients are being reasonable. The state of your relationships with each individual in your team will affect their openness to new ideas, feelings of loyalty towards you and the likelihood of them changing their behaviour.


The power of the sale ultimately rests in the client’s hands. Too many leaders fall in to the trap of thinking that they hold the power because they are further up the ladder. Successful leaders recognise that the salary only gets people to their desk, the power of whether or not someone works hard and performs, rests with that individual. You need to sell your team on performing rather than just sitting at their desk and to do that you need to understand what drives them.

Sales Cycle

The first thing you learn in a sales career is the “Cycle of a Sale”.  First you build rapport, then you question to find the need, then you present a solution and lastly you close. Successful sales people have this inbuilt, but many forget to apply it to their leadership approach when they get promoted.  You would never sit with a client and say “ let me tell you what you are going to do today” so why would you do that to your team? Start thinking of every interaction like a sales call or sales meeting. Plan in advance what you want them to be doing differently, think about your need finding questions and then execute the sales call/meeting. Leaders who remember and remaster this “cycle” will find their ability to influence, coach, motivate and develop their team transformed.


When a client objects to your proposal the sales professional thinks “Why don’t they understand that this product is perfect for them? I need to continue the education process”. When you get an objection from someone in your team about doing something you suggest, do you think this or do you think “get on with it, just do what I ask?


Whether in good times or bad, a great sales professional takes ownership for the status and profitability of a client relationship. This means they are the first to apologise if it helps get a sale and they will take the blame even when none is due. Ultimately this is the key to being a successful sales leader, whilst you cannot pick up the phone or close the sale for your team, their problems are your problems, you are responsible for how motivated they feel, how capable they are at handling client situations and helping them to achieve their goals.
Wondering whether this is relevant for you? Take the test below and find out:

Choose one person in your team and rate your relationship with them in the following areas:
Rate yourself from 0 (very low) to 10 (very high)

a) Relationship: when in a meeting with this person, how open are they to doing things the way you suggest?

b) Power: How hard do you rate their work ethic when you are not in the office?

c) Sales Cycle: How aware are you of working through a “sales cycle” when trying to influence this person’s behaviour?

d) Objections: How would you rate your attitude when you get objections from this person about doing aspects of their job?

e) Ownership:  How would you rate your level of ownership towards the level of performance of this person?

How did you score?