Stop Selling and Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen

April 09, 2018


James Kouzes, Barry Posner, and Deb Calvert reveal why, in order to effect change, we have to first believe that we're able to.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner are a prolific team best known for their 1987 book, The Leadership Challenge (one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time). One of the four key leadership characteristics they identified in that book was the tendency to be forward-looking, to be able to "Inspire a Shared Vision."

Veteran sales expert and consultant Deb Calvert has joined the writing team for their new book, Stop Selling and Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen, and a key focus remains that all-important trait of looking, and moving, forward—even when things haven't gone as planned, even in the face of failure.

And, to do that, they explain why… 




Mindset matters. If you believe you are powerless to effect change, you’ll miss your opportunities to do so. Instead of learning from challenges and disappointments, you’ll feel negatively about them. Negativity is contagious and repels buyers. When you fail, look for ways to reframe your failures as learning and growth experiences.

You can formalize this process and conduct “lessons learned” reviews. With your buyers or internal partners, talk openly about what worked and what did not. Don’t dwell on blame or shame for what didn’t work. Instead, ask what you could do differently next time. Make it a priority to learn together anytime things don’t go as expected. One buyer told us such “lessons learned” meetings with sellers were very important, a top priority. Another said, “It’s good to work together as a team and to go over things—positive as well as negative—and to think about how we can better ourselves and the company in the future.”

For some sellers, the idea of baring your failures and errors to buyers may seem strange. But consider these three very important truths:

our Buyers Already Know Something Didn’t Go as Planned or Promised.

Concealing mistakes plants seeds of doubt in the buyer’s mind. They may wonder if you’re aware of the mistakes. If it appears you’re not aware, they may feel apprehensive because now there’s a good chance the mistakes could happen again. Buyers need to know you’re in control when there are mistakes. You want your buyers to feel the way this one did after a problem occurred: “The product had an issue, and the seller was helpful with fixing it, by listening and being open and honest. The seller came up with solutions on how to prevent this from happening again. It made me feel great, less stressed, and more confident in the seller as a long-term partner.”

n You Acknowledge Mistakes and Seize Opportunities to Learn from Failure, You Set a Standard for Your Buyers.

Perhaps they won’t let their fear of failure prevent them from taking risks to champion your shared vision when the going gets tough. You want your buyers to think of you the way this one thinks: “I have a vendor that often faces issues with their raw material suppliers. They always focus on our relationship first. Then they look for creative ways of overcoming the obstacle. It’s all out in the open. I’ve learned a lot from their approach.”

Being Vulnerable and Open Makes You More Trustworthy.

In the buyer/seller relationship, trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Being transparent keeps buyers like this one happy: “There was a problem with an order I placed with the seller. They were on the ball communicating with us, no smoke and mirrors, and they did everything in their power to make sure we were happy. They gave us a discount for the mistake they made, and they were very professional. It made us have confidence in that company and trust in those sales people.”

Failure is bound to happen at some point when you’re pursuing possibilities and challenging the status quo. It’s what you do in response to the failure that matters most. That’s what experimentation is all about, and that’s how you should think about it even before you begin. There’s bound to be trial and error involved in testing new concepts, new methods, and new practices. Your buyers don’t expect perfection. They expect effort to prevent problems as well as acknowledgment when failures or setbacks do occur. You can proactively set expectations on the front end, too, so no one is surprised when learning opportunities manifest.

There are opportunities for learning in everything you do. Learning is essential for leading.


Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Stop Selling and Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner and Deb Calvert.
Copyright © 2018 by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner and Deb Calvert.
All rights reserved. This book is available wherever books and ebooks are sold.



JAMES M. KOUZES is the Dean's Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, and according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the twelve best executive educators in the United States.

BARRY Z. POSNER, Ph.D., is the Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, where he served for twelve years as Dean of the School.

DEB CALVERT is the founder of People First Productivity Solutions and The Sales Experts Channel, and author of one of HubSpot's "Top 20 Most Highly Rated Sales Books of All Time."


For more information about their new book Stop Selling and Start Leading, please visit stopsellingstartleading.com

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