Leaders Are Salespeople


Last week I had a call with a CEO for a company I’m speaking for in a few weeks. He started the call by saying, “We are interested in your message around storytelling but our leaders don’t sell anything, I just believe storytelling is a crucial business skill.”

I agree that storytelling is a key skill for leaders to develop.

He told me more about the leaders that would be in the room when I speak. He explained their roles, challenges, fears and successes. He said he wanted to create common language so they would tell a unified story and he wanted to have me give them insights on how to tell stories effectively.

I asked if there was a key story they need to tell or a scenario where they need to use storytelling.

He said, “These leaders have to present often to the board to get buy in and persuade them to support certain initiatives.”

I replied, “Then it sounds like your leaders are in sales.”

The truth is every leader is in sales. When you share a vision you are selling a path forward.  When you train you are selling ideas. When you present you are seeking buy in. It is all Influence. In other words – sales. All leaders are in sales.

Today, sales is about influence. It’s about moving people.

Lisa Sasevich, a top sales trainer, said, “In today’s world, people are looking to be inspired. Encouraged. Taught. Heard. It’s no longer about simply selling. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor. You’re now learning to influence. And that, my friends, is where you begin to make the biggest impact and attract dedicated, highly committed, highly invested clients and contributors.”

I completely agree with Lisa.

They say that leadership is influence. But here is the insight—so is sales.

And while we are on the topic, so is speaking, marketing, teaching, and coaching. If you are in the people business (which we all are) then you need to learn to influence people.

Push strategies don’t influence others, they turn people off and drive them away. They achieve the exact opposite of our purpose of engagement: grabbing their attention and getting them emotionally involved.

And that brings us back to stories.

The reason that stories are an influencer’s best friend is because they are the ultimate pull strategy—the polar opposite of push. A pull strategy is about attraction, and stories naturally draw people in, causing them to listen, learn, and respond. When you share the right story, in the right manner, your message will become magnetic and you will increase your influential pull.

So if you are a leader then I believe storytelling is a crucial skill for you to learn and the reason it is – is because you are in sales.


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