Stop Selling and Start Leading by James Kouzes, Barry Posner and Deb Calvert

Stop Selling and Start Leading is a 224-page book by James Kouzes, Barry Posner and Deb Calvert. As I stumbled across this metaphoric title, I decided that I wanted to share more from my monthly book reads. My modus operandi has always been "ABM," Always Be Marketing, therefore my interest peaked as this title challenged that maxim. Business to Business (B2B) sales is a constant challenge, so my skeptic radars were very much alert for the myths. In the non-profit world, corporate partnerships are a form of sales. You're selling the vision and mission of your organization and the social good that a potential partnership could produce.

My Take-Aways:

Buyers want to buy from leaders; therefore Sellers should act as leaders. Sellers being SMEs in their respective fields should use that authority to inform Buyers of the smart purchase instead of reinforcing the negative stereotypes of being high pressure and manipulative.

Sellers have to establish personal credibility. In other words, your actions should match your words. You have to first convince yourself of what you're selling before you can convince the Buyers.  You should be willing and able to offer specific benefits to the Buyers instead of generic positives and then deliver those benefits.  The Maxim here is that good intentions are useless; actions equal results.

To develop the behavior of leading instead of selling, you must adopt and practice five principles.

1) You must "Model the Way." You should identify the values that drive your distinct voice and build your brand around those values. This will demonstrate authenticity and clarity. Set high standards for yourself and those around you and don't forget to solicit feedback. Have pride in your brand, and live in a way that serves as a positive example.

2) You should "Inspire a Shared Vision."  Imagine what the most positive possible future look likes for your Buyers. Be forward thinking and look for bright future opportunities for your Buyers to use your offerings to support their business. Ensure you and your Buyers are on the same page by asking "what's next" after each interaction. Recruit people within the Buyer's organization that can act as "internal champions" by promoting your organization's offerings.

3) You should "Challenge the Process." Move away from business as usual, and stay current on the latest trends. Use this awareness to act as a catalyst for change in your market.  Continuously ask "What's new? What's next? What's better?" as you look for opportunities to pilot and develop best practices.

4) You should "Enable Others to Act." Sales are the ultimate collaborative endeavor; therefore Sellers should foster collaboration. Collaborative relationships work based on trust, and you have to first trust your Buyers long before you expect them to begin to trust you. Next, Sellers should work to strengthen their Buyers. Your Buyers are your allies, and you want them psychologically secure, so that they can convince their colleagues that buying your products or service makes good business sense. This is accomplished by giving them all the possible information they need.

5) You should "Encourage the Heart." Buyers also work extremely hard and want to be recognized for their contributions. Celebrate the values and victories between you and the Buyers. Avoid every interaction being all business all the time. Look for ways to be light-hearted and let them know you have their backs.

The key takeaways from this book are:

- Change "stereotypical sales behaviors" to "leadership behaviors Buyers desire."

- Be more genuine.

- Don't be in a rush. It takes time.

- Self-development is leadership.

- Exemplify trustworthiness.

- Present an exciting vision of the future to your Buyers.

- Invite others to act through collaboration and direct involvement.

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