This blog post is one in a series of eight articles that explore the most important characteristics of better leaders. These articles are linked to a Prezi visual presentation, which you can view here.
Be the Chief Customer Finder
If you think about it, the words Chief Executive Officer don't have a lot of practical meaning. But tell people you're the Chief Customer Finder, and they'll understand your role in an instant!
Unless you're a born salesperson, chances are good that sales are the first thing you were delighted to give up - maybe even with your first hire. You don't have to be the primary salesperson to be a better leader, but you do have to maintain a primary role in the finding and serving of customers.
What does this mean? To begin with, it means that you put emphasis on finding and training the best salespeople for your organization. You maintain close communication with them, and let them know their insight is vital to the growth and well-being of the company. You support them, motivate them, and take their advocacy for their customers very, very seriously.
It's a funny thing about that. Salespeople often suffer from shoot-the-messenger syndrome. After all, who is most likely to rub the shortcomings of your beloved company in your nose? The customers. And who are those customers entrusting with that information? Your sales people. Don't shoot the messenger!
Seek Personal Contact with Customers and Potential Customers
Look for opportunities to spend time with your customers - even if you're not directly involved in serving them. Take them out for a meal, or to an entertainment event, or just call them on the phone to ask "how are we doing?" Your customers will tell you things about your company (and possibly your competitors!) that they wouldn't think to tell your staff.
Help Integrate Sales and Marketing
Sales and Marketing are two of the most co-dependent departments of any company, yet the larger a company gets, the more likely the two departments are to be at odds with one another. Be the integrator of the two departments. Help them understand each other and their interdependence. Keeping communication open and flowing (and competition between them to the merest whisper) between Sales and Marketing is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the right things happen to find new customers.
And, OK, Keep Selling
You don't have to be the primary salesperson for your company, but you never get to stop selling. After all, if you can't target the right customer, listen to his needs, and tell the story of how you can meet those needs in a compelling way, how can you expect more from the rest of your organization? Always keep your sales skills sharp and effective, because becoming a better leader means taking the lead on representing your organization's compelling benefit and attributes.
I hope you're enjoying this series on becoming a Better Leader! Stay tuned for the next installment in a day or two.