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Leadership Is Not a Birthright… and It Shows

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I came downstairs from my hotel room about 6 a.m. My role in this out-of-town meeting was to be facilitator.

I helped our new VP of sales put his presentation together for our event, along with the talking points, sales kits, product packs and layout design of the room.

With our marketing department the materials for some 100 people had been ordered. I drove to the distribution center to proof a test run before the final printing, and, when I got to the hotel the day before the event, I met with the event planner to ensure the boxes, banners and other items had been delivered and would be sitting in our meeting room.

(Related: 14 Misconceptions About Selling Annuities)

Some people drove in, if they lived within two hours of the event. Others were flown in the night before, to stay in the same hotel as the event, which was promoted to start at 10 a.m. the next morning.

It’s important to set the room up with two aisles, with one on each side of the room, and a center aisle, so that, when speaking, we can walk up and down the aisles, engaging with the audience.

The projector must be set up so that, when the presenter is in the “speaking well,” he’s not walking in front of the light projecting the presentation. Or, if there’s a reverse projector screen, one must have the image at an angle, so the speaker isn’t competing with the presentation.

After setting the room up with the event staff, and walking around, from the back of the room to the front, to test for good visual and audio levels, I then go through all presentations, videos and music to make sure they are in the order of the agenda, for a seamless experience.

Once all this is completed, and I’m confident the audience will have the experience they deserve, I then lay out all the material that both the audience and the presenters will need.

There is a 3-foot round table on stage with bottled water, the pointer, and a clicker for the presentations. There’s also a copy of the agenda, along with any other notes the presenters might need.

Timing is critical for a rewarding experience. After all, the participants are commission-based sales professionals. They made the choice to not only sacrifice the opportunity to earn a commission for the length of the event, many also made the choice to be away of their families. Taking breaks throughout the day, having enough time for lunch, and meeting the goals of the event are important.

The doors to the meeting room are shut until 30 minutes prior to the start of the event. This builds anticipation and ensures that, when participants walk in, they are engaged.

The outcome of this event rides on a couple of things that are out of my control: the new VP of sales needs to be “on deck” in time, prepared and polished with his presentation.

I try to get the presenters in the room one hour prior to starting, so we can complete a dry run, and make any last-minute changes to the presentation, room layout or needed materials, so they can be available to welcome the participants as they enter the room.

It’s now 9:50 a.m. The doors to the room are open. People are filing in.

I have called our new VP of sales.

This time, he said, “Lloyd, I’ll be down, there’s no hurry. They’re coming to my meeting; I’m not coming to their meeting.”

And therein is a snapshot of how a sales distribution team’s production, in less than a year, went from a little over $1.2 million a week in annual volume to under $750,000 a week.

Having a title of VP of sales does not, in and of itself, make you a leader.

It might make you the person with authority; however, authority is not leadership, and it does not produce results. It creates chaos, confusion and resentment.

The VP of sales arrived about 10:10 a.m., coming right up on stage, not looking at the people in the crowd, who were in different stages of sitting, standing and being restless, not acknowledging anyone else on stage, the other presenters, the staff or the set-up people.

He said he wanted to see his presentation and make some edits.

Since we had an intro presentation playing, it had to be stopped, and his presentation brought up. He made edits, while 100 participants sat, watching and waiting.

The program finally got started, close to 10:25 a.m.

Can you guess how the rest of the day went?

Do you think people came back to the room from break on time, finished lunch on time, or took much of the material home with them when it was over?

They showed the event the same respect he showed them.

You see, here’s the thing about leadership: The leader’s role is to inspire the team to dig deep, work harder, and get stronger.

For this person, somewhere along the way, he stopped believing the job was about his people and began believing it was about him.

And while he professed that excellence was his goal, normal became his excuse.

He was more concerned about his activity and what was convenient for him, not establishing a culture of digging deep, working hard and achieving pleasing results.

He either forgot, or never realized, that people can only duplicate what they see you doing today.

It doesn’t matter what you accomplished in the past, what title you hold now, if you can’t or don’t inspire your team, they won’t follow you, it will be like steering a parked car, you will go nowhere.

If you want a sales team that meets and exceeds company and individual goals then you must build a sales force that feels like they come from nobility, that they have the best training and the most engaging support, and then you give them enough rope to get rope burn, but not enough rope to hang themselves.

What happens in your mind will happen in time. In the mind of the VP of sales, he was more important than the team. What he wanted to do mattered more than what his team experienced.

In other words, he didn’t know stretch from squat; he was always twirling the dishes that were on the stick.

What he needed to do was:

  1. Do the work. Be the first one in and the last one out.
  2. Elevate your game. Know at least as much as your leaders below you.
  3. Whole hog or die. Be in it to win it. People will follow a leader.

You are not a cork bobbin on the water, and your team shouldn’t be either.

What the VP of sales forgot is that the greatest room in American is the room for self-improvement.

“There is no ‘I’ in team”.

— Read Retirement Planning Made Simpleon ThinkAdvisor.

Lloyd Lofton (Photo: Lofton)

Lloyd Lofton started with John Hancock in 1977, he is the author of “The Sidewalk Executive”, and “Leads to Results”, he is the founder of Power Behind the Sales, and managing partner of 7 Figure Sales Tools, a sales and leadership coaching and training company.


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.