“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

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>> Selling You

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Holistic Common Sense and Social Networking

I enjoyed reading my friend Amber Naslund‘s post recently entitled The Taboo (but critical) Community Skill. Essentially, what Amber says is that we should not neglect the importance of selling skills – after all, all of this community engagement needs to lead us to some kind of business outcome.

As Amber put it:

When we talk about community or social media people in business roles, we talk about a lot of things.

Their ability to communicate, to interact. To be helpful. To be a diplomat and a conversationalist and a steward of the brand. But because it’s so often a taboo subject in social media, we miss talking about a pivotal skill that I think community professionals need to have. Sales skills.

Now I happen to agree with Amber. We cannot be fastidious about the reality that we are promoting, selling, seeking to grow business. I think we need to look at social media, and those who are tasked with putting it to use, under the very holistic umbrella of Business Growth. In fact, just swap out “social media” and put about anything in its place. The very broad category of Communications. A sub-category, On-line Communications. And a sub-category of that, Social Networking. How do each of these functions contribute to the things that contribute to the “Big Thing” – business growth?

Instead of overly simplistic questions like, “What’s the ROI of Social Media?“, business people should move backward from the “Big Thing” – business growth (more sales, new customer acquisition, better efficiency, great hires, etc.), and then look back to those elements that contribute to it – see the bullet points in blue above.

Now, in order to accomplish those tasks, what long-term strategies need to be in place? You can swap out Communications with IT or Management or various other disciplines – all of it should be geared toward business growth.

Now, think about social networking as part of the larger bucket of Communications. Don’t get narrowly focused in on the ROI of Social Media. Instead, use Holistic Common Sense. Will involvement in these communication approaches help create awareness, build a fan base, build a pipeline of prospective customers, sell your offering, serve customers, position you as a thought leader, influence a market, and provide marketing intelligence?

If social media (or anything else – fill in the blank) will significantly help accomplish these goals, leading to business growth, then come up with a good plan and make the commitment to employ a workable strategy. If not, then don’t.

You may be able to calculate some ROI on specific tactics and approaches over time. But look, first and foremost, at what will lead to business growth. That’s your ultimate goal – right?

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I am not a “Salesman”

For two decades, my primary professional role was Sales. Yes, I did marketing as well, and some biz dev strategic stuff, and some management, but my primary role was getting business.

I succeeded. And never felt comfortable doing it.

used-car-salesmanI’d see “real” salespeople – folks who could establish rapport at the drop of the hat, or relentlessly drive a deal to its conclusion, or blast past yearly quotas by July, and I’d feel thoroughly inferior. Yet there I was, in Sales (ummm…high-end healthcare stuff, not like the guy you see over to the right!)

Over time, I came to realize that my discomfort stemmed from a mis-match – pushing a product, or hitting numbers, or winning a deal, simply didn’t drive me. I want to help people. I want to think things through, and solve problems. I care more about telling the truth than making the sale. I am an analyzer, not a promoter; a native introvert, not a schmoozer.

But, people bought from me because they trusted me. So I succeeded anyway. Until hitting the wall and finally admitting to myself, “I’m not a Salesman.”

This was a liberating realization. Now I could be free to tap into what I truly was – a problem solver. A resource-finder. A connector. A consultant. And I decided to go off on my own and create my own job/role/company built around precisely those things.

Can I sell? Actually, yes. I can be very persuasive. People listen to me and follow my advice – not because I’m a promoter, but because I’m a listener and a problem-solver. And is there a place in this shark-infested business world for someone who wants to help other people, for someone who cares about doing what’s right, for someone who wants to build a network in order to do good?

Yes, there is. And that’s why I’m sharing this. Are you mis-matched in your role, driven by something other than what that job requires? Get honest – don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and say, “I’m not a….” Then work on identifying who/what you really are, what your value-add truly is.

Perhaps you can make a new professional life for yourself. It’s worth the effort, time, and risk. And if you do it, let me know if I’ve “sold” you!

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