Born Salespeople Don’t = Born Leaders

Sales=Leadership – My2Cents
The topic ‘Sales=Leadership’ is absolutely fascinating to me, both as a student of Leadership & Management, and someone who had never really stepped fully into a sales role – until one year ago last month, when that is exactly where I found myself.

Through the passage of a five-year accidental journey (isn’t most of life like this?) I sped from unemployed, to ‘business development’, to de-facto customer relations guy, to marketing manager, to business line leader/manager, to being appointed ‘business line executioner’, to unemployed, and back again to business development. My very own circle of life. During this process, I learned a great number of things about life, leadership, corporate politics, and about the human side of business (I never was a numbers guy). Where it gets interesting is where my polarity toward the teachings of the great philosophers, academics, and practitioners of modern leadership and management have intersected my current role in the development of new business for my company. I hope to share these experiences in a useful way in this forum.

My Topical Responses:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that Leadership = Sales.
  2. I also wholeheartedly agree with the opinions of many of those responding to this string that being great at sales does not necessarily mean that you have even a remote chance of concurrently being a great leader. As I mentioned to Ron in an off-line discussion, there are certainly exceptions, but the hard drive toward the bottom line, and the typical ‘self-oriented’ nature of the high-level, high-producing sales person does not lend itself to being the kind of leader that I would want to follow.

HOLD THE FLAMES! One of the greatest things about getting educated about leadership is learning that you can get educated about leadership… let us take an intermission to cool those flames and let me go over how I perceive that Leadership = Sales…

So, why does Leadership = Sales? Because life is a sale, and a good leader has convinced you to buy. Does it sound cliché? Yeah, but this one is the real deal.

What is a sale? I am talking about a real sale, not the grocery store. The sale that I am talking about is the sale where you take the time to build a relationship with the prospective buyer, come to an agreement, and be it written or verbal, you close the deal.
You Close The Deal.

Have you ever worked for someone who closed the deal with you? Someone who you considered a leader that you respected, trusted, and could count on? Someone whose stories you still tell to this day in respectful emulation of greatness? I hope you have, because everyone should have the privilege of following a great leader. Can you honestly say that you were not “Closed” by them? Did they build that relationship with you? Did you buy in? Were you sold, or did they convince you to buy? Real salespeople do not have to ‘sell you’ — you want to buy.


  • Build the relationship
  • Communicate the value proposition
  • Generate a buying attitude
  • Close the deal
  • Repeat


  • Build the relationship
  • Communicate the value proposition
  • Generate a buying attitude
  • Close the deal
  • Repeat

Ok, let’s fan those FLAMES!

Please note: some of these sales types can get ambitious about more than the next fat commission check!

Learning to lead is about wanting to learn how to lead. Not all of us are natural leaders, in fact, those who we consider ‘natural leaders’ likely are the ones sitting in a dark house under a small reading light at 4am, listening to the coffee perk, while staring at a book about leadership, wondering if they too can learn to be a great leader.

Being a leader is a lifelong journey that begins with fertile soil within the mind of the pilgrim. The process is continuous, a Mobius strip, no beginning, no end.

Here are my tips for a high-producer who is stepping out of a direct sales role, and into a Leadership role:

  • Stick a pin in that big ego balloon!
    • It served you well, but it is no longer about you! It is about your people! Learn to take pride in their success and your role in helping them to achieve their goals. If you cannot find pleasure or pride in doing this, you will find no pleasure in your new role.
  • Listen to the way you speak about YOU, and do less of it. Work hard to keep conversations about we, our, the team, etc. See first bullet for additional guidance.
  • Get a copy of The Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff. Read it, and do not forget its message when one of your followers calls you out on something. Remember, without followers, there are no leaders and you can only follow yourself around for so long.

I would like to close this with a call to others to add to this incomplete list of tips for the newly hatched leader coming out of a sales role. What is the next step? To pass this information along to those who might benefit from it. Put theory to practice and see what you can grow.

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Posted in born vs. made, Sales Leadership, Sales Self Development
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