What Leaders Can Learn from Sales

Last Updated Jun 16, 2008 9:45 AM EDT

Leaders must sell. Maybe not widgets, but ideas. Maybe not extended warranties, but top priorities. Maybe not service contracts, but competitive context. If leaders can't sell their organization on a vision, they will fail.

So what can executives learn about selling from the sales staff don the hall? Leadership consultant John Baldoni, writing on Harvard Business, articulates four tips for executive selling:

  1. Listen first.
  2. Present the benefits.
  3. Overcome objections
  4. Ask for support
"Selling is the closure of persuasion, and persuasion drives leadership." Baldoni writes. "It is the means by which leaders bring people to their point of view in order to get things done. Making the sale in leadership terms creates trust."
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.