Your Most Powerful Leadership Instrument

5 Doctrines of Sales Leadership COMMUNICATION

I’ve known about this potent sales leadership weapon for a long time, but I was reading something the other day, a book that my friend, David Butler, handed me, and I was reminded of just how powerful this instrument is.


John Maxwell is one of my favorite authors. He is fond of saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” He has also stated that, “Leadership rises and falls on communication.” If that is true, and I believe it IS, then…

 …the manner in which you communicate as a leader is your most powerful leadership instrument.

In this article I’m going to give you 5 sales leadership communication doctrines that many of us believe to be sacrosanct. If you are new to a sales leadership role, these points may be somewhat new to your ears. If you’re a grizzled leadership veteran, then these credos won’t seem new, but you’ll have to challenge yourself, ask the question, “Am I practicing these principles?”

  1. Be UNWAVERINGSteady in your message

There are two mistakes leaders sometimes make with regard to the their messages. First, they may come across as unsure, hesitant of their strategies, direction, decisions, team related protocols, etc. This is NOT a good thing. As a result of this lack of resolve, the same leader may flip-flop, say one thing, then second guess themselves and say or do another. Of course, they may sometimes reverse their course because of factors such as, loud influencers, favoritism, or peer pressure.

Regardless of the cause, there is nothing worse than this communication faux pas. When a team member senses that a leader is not completely convicted about their strategies, the direction they want to go, or the protocols they’re advocating, they lose trust. Once their faith in what you say is broken, you rarely gain that trust and faith back.

There are two things that I will challenge you to do to ensure that you’re perceived as an UN-WAIVERING leader.

First, become very well thought out, RESOLUTE in what you wish to communicate to your team. Focus your thoughts on the following critical subjects:

  • Your VISION for the team (make sure it is crystal clear)
  • The most important team OBJECTIVES (those you want them to pursue daily)
  • The key STRATEGIES and initiatives you want them to engage in
  • The team’s PROTOCOLS and rules of engagement

Once you’ve become definite about the vision, objectives, strategies and protocols you wish your team to follow, then, and only then, do you communicate those.

Secondly, once you’ve defined and then carefully communicated your organizational direction and protocols, you MUST then remain STEADFAST in your adherence to those principles.

Your communication and actions must be 100% consistent with each other. They must not waiver.

2. Be PURE in your Communication Style – make your message clear

There is nothing worse for a new team member than to sit through a meeting or a 1-on-1 with a leader only to walk away confused. Don’t try to dazzle people with your brilliance. Rather than that you should strive to…

influence them with your straightforward manner.

Make certain that when they walk away from a group or individual interaction with you, they are crystal clear about what you want them to do.

3. Be PRESENT For Them – Unplug for a moment

I didn’t have to say this 10 or 15 years ago, because the digital noise didn’t exist as it does today. PLEASE…for the love of God, when you are communicating in a group or individual setting, put your mobile device away!

Sheesh…I can’t tell you how many times over the last few years I’ve been trying to communicate with someone (or them with me) never to even experience eye contact. This is because they were locked onto their mobile device or tablet, checking emails, responding to a text or an IM.

There is nothing that says, “You couldn’t be LESS important to me at this moment” than this type of inconsiderate action.

I recall the first time I was face to face with a newly appointed, high-ranking executive with a company I worked with. I was genuinely looking forward to meeting him. Everyone said he was brilliant. We were on a cocktail break from a meeting. As I approached him, he waved me over, shook my hand, and began asking me questions about my sales territory. However, within 30 – 45 seconds his ADD kicked in and he fished his Blackberry out of his pocket. His eyes, permanently diverted, he was texting away, his clipped answers telling me that he was far more interested in whatever was on his tiny screen. I excused myself and walked away. Worse, it wasn’t the only time that happened.

I felt very insignificant in his presence. As a result, I was never motivated to spend time around him or listen to what he had to say. This is a natural oppositional reaction, the one we usually default to whether we’re aware of it or not.

When you are in front of someone on your team, make sure that all of your attention is focused on him or her for those few moments. Be 100% PRESENT for them! Make sure that they are the most important people in your life at that moment.

 Are you 100% present for your team?

4. Be COMPASSIONATE – You have no idea what they may be feeling

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of our business goals and objectives, become obsessed with them, foam at the mouth about them every chance we get.

It is way too easy to begin looking at our team members as merely production numbers on a report rather than as human beings.

When this happens, we can easily begin losing compassion for the people we’re trying to lead. We stop looking for ways to persuade and motivate them. We can even become discourteous, and when we do that and other people see it, we have projected something negative into our culture that’s hard to take back. The discourteous treatment of people could become a pervasive part of your team culture without you intending it.

I recently published a blog article on a closely related leadership topic that may be helpful to you. Take a quick read on it. Click on the link below:

Be kind, compassionate and courteous to each and every team member. You don’t really know what’s going on in their personal life or in their head. You never know when the light is going to come on. You can’t lead them or influence them if they perceive you don’t like them or care about them.

Are you considerate to everyone, regardless of their production level?

5. Be UPLIFTING – make sure your communication makes them feel good

Look, if you are going to follow me, read my stuff or become part of one of our exclusive coaching programs you’re going to have to get used to me asking you to be a nice person—a caring leader.

 In my opinion, being a caring, inspirational leader is almost more important than being a brilliant leader!

I said, “Almost.” We want you to be both!

You have heard the following phrase a zillion times…”They don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”

In my 35+ years of commission sales and leadership experience I have been around my share of leaders who were whip smart, had advanced educations, Master’s degrees, industry designations after their names…they are flat out brilliant people, but…

…after being around them I sometimes walked away demotivated!

Why? It was usually because it was unimportant to them how I felt when I was in their presence. I believe they couldn’t care less how anyone FEELS in their presence. These types of leaders are too self involved to care. It tends to be all about them, their ideas, their philosophies, their brilliance.

The result of them spewing out this sort of insolent communication style is that people feel diminished around them, hence, they begin to dodge them. We’re commission salespeople, which usually means we are at least half nuts and are usually a bit fragile. We prefer not to be crapped on—we want to be motivated…

…we want to FEEL GOOD!

Conversely, I’ve been mentored by leaders who were very intelligent, very gifted, but also understood the power of making people feel good.

The clearest example of this type of leader was a woman named, Tracey. This is the first time I’ve written about her. She was brilliant, and she knew it, but she didn’t flaunt it. Every coaching session of hers, formal or informal (the informal ones usually included a cold Corona…so I liked them better), ended with her making a concise effort to uplift the person she was coaching. She wanted to make them feel good about themselves and their career. Her coaching sessions were all about the other person, not her brilliance.

The saying was that she could call you into a meeting, fire you, and on your way out the door you’d be smiling and you’d thank her!

Thank God I never had one of those conversations with her, but my point is that, Tracey got it. She always made you feel good about yourself; regardless of the nature of the message she had to deliver to you. Tracey understood how powerful the instrument of communication was in sales leadership and she leveraged it to its maximum potential.

How do people feel when they walk away from an interaction with you?

Okay, let’s see what we have learned…let’s do this in the way of a checklist. As a leader of commission sales professionals you must leverage your most powerful instrument, COMMUNICATION – by doing the following:

  • Be UNWAVERINGSteady in your message
  • Be PURE in your Communication Style – Make your message clear
  • Be PRESENT For Them – Unplug for a moment
  • Be COMPASSIONATE – You have no idea what they may be feeling
  • Be UPLIFTING – Make sure your communication makes them feel good

Okay…go LEAD. Go practice these 5 sales leadership communication doctrines. I believe in you. You’re going to have a great year!

Important Note: Joe Buzzello is launching the very first CAP Leadership Platform on February 18th. This is an exclusive 13-week program that requires only a small investment on your part, but will transform the way you think about leading salespeople. Joe’s CAP Leadership Platform will also give you access to multiple personal coaching sessions with Joe. Program access is limited to only the first 32 qualified registrants. For a one-page sheet with full details please send an email request to:

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