Gaining Commitment and Co-ownership


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Leadership as an essential sales skill

“Leadership is the ability to gain wholehearted followers for a common course of action.”

Although much has been written about leadership, when you boil it down to the basics, a leader is the person with followers. You may consider yourself inspiring, but if you look around and nobody is coming with you, you are not a leader. Change the word “follower” to “customer” and leadership becomes the essential sales skill to achieve success as a distribution rep in the livestock industry.

In previous articles, I have stressed the importance of good communication, and while that is an essential component, it is not leadership. So how do you inspire others beyond a logical agreement and into a wholehearted commitment to co-own the idea or course of action?

Understand the process

To better understand the process of inspiring others, let’s look at a time when you reached a confident commitment to a product or service.

You may have had some negative perceptions to get started, and you really couldn’t get started with the product or service until these issues were resolved. Prior to that point, you were not receptive. So that first step is to create an openness (LOOK/LISTEN) that allowed you to look at and listen to the presentation.

Only then were you willing to talk about the details, the facts and the data (STUDY) surrounding the product or service. The conversation probably slowed down and calmly presented the information in a logical, straightforward manner. Depending on the volume of data, this process could involve one or several conversations to assimilate the information at hand.

Once all the data is on the table, there will be areas that you needed more information (INTEREST), and you asked questions to clarify or seek a more in-depth understanding. These Q&A interactions may go on for some time until you have all their questions answered.

From there, the level of conversation moved to the point of hypothetically using the product or service (PLAY). This level of conversation is more animated and enthusiastic. At this point, you started feeling pretty good about the product or service.

Finally, you decided to go for it and reached a wholehearted commitment to the product or service (CONFIDENT). At the commitment stage, you were then prepared to present it to your customers.

So, let’s apply that process to a discussion with one of your customers about Quartermaster.

Rep: I am sure that Quartermaster Suspension for dry cow mastitis control and prevention is good for milk producers and their herds. Let’s review the information so you can determine whether to bring Quartermaster into your protocols for cows during dry-off

Customer: OK, but I only have a few minutes. (LOOK/LISTEN)

Rep: (Acknowledge) Then let me be brief. (Raise to STUDY) Quartermaster Suspension has a 40-year track record of effectiveness with more than 150 million doses over that time period. 

Customer: That sounds good. But what about some science behind those decisions? (Aligns with STUDY but has a question.)

Rep: (Acknowledge) Good Question. (INTEREST so answer the question). The 2013 study assessing three commercial dry cow mastitis preparations showed no difference in efficacy between Quartermaster and a third-generation cephalosporin affecting a bacteriological cure. Does that answer the question, and do you have any others?

Customer: No, I think this information is great. 

Rep: (Acknowledge) Absolutely. (Raise to PLAY) The best part of this whole deal is it reduces the frequency of existing infection and prevents new staph aureus infections and provides savings for you.

Customer: We need to watch every penny.

Rep: (Acknowledge) Yes, in today’s economy, pennies count. (Raise to COMMIT). Based on your history, here is my suggested order to get you started with Quartermaster Suspension. (Stop talking and wait for your customer to join you at COMMIT).

There will probably be more back and forth in your actual call, but at least you can recognize the skill of inspiring your customers to a level of wholehearted followership, which is the essence of sales leadership.

A word of caution – you cannot lead anyone any higher than your own point of view. So, if you only think Quartermaster is a good idea, you may get customers who think it is a good idea also, but nothing will happen – no results or output. In poker terms, a leader must be “all in,” head and heart, fully committed before she or he can inspire others to that same level of commitment. If you’re not “all in,” contact your manager for the additional information necessary for you to reach full confidence.

Is it easy – NO! It requires a lot of practice to enhance these skills and then a great deal of patience with persistence to engage others. However, there is a huge difference in results between intellectual agreement and wholehearted commitment. And that difference makes it all worthwhile.