In today’s world, developing your gravitas can transform your performance and make you a far more effective sales leader. When used correctly, gravitas is a tool that can make all the difference when it comes to winning the respect of your people and (most importantly) influencing them to be fully committed to achieving outstanding results.
The great thing is that everybody can acquire gravitas. So long as you have an area of expertise or can acquire some deep insight that is relevant to the sales strategy and you have the confidence to apply and express your expertise with a purpose and presence, then gravitas (and all of the virtues that come with it) is well within your grasp.
What is Sales Leadership Gravitas?
Although not well understood by many, gravitas has long been recognised as a virtuous characteristic, both inside and outside of the business world. In ancient times, to have gravitas meant to have dignity, to be impressive, to be serious and to be able to communicate your thoughts with influence, impact and presence.
Not much has changed. Although nowadays, being impressive and serious is probably less important than how you communicate your thoughts, to have gravitas in today’s sales leadership world means to be able to:
- Demonstrate relevant insight, wisdom and authority.
- Communicate with purpose, conviction and impact when it matters.
- Demonstrate presence, poise and decisiveness when under pressure.
It would be difficult to argue against these virtues being critical qualities that would serve any sales leader well. Indeed, gravitas is a characteristic that is widely recognised in business as a crucial leadership skill to acquire. A recent study found that over two-thirds of senior executives see gravitas as one of the core characteristics required for professional presence in senior leaders.
Why is Gravitas So Important for Sales Leaders?
Gravitas is of particular importance to sales leaders because the sales people they lead generally tend to rely on an even greater mixture of emotion and reason for their motivation, making decisions and taking action than you will find in most other professional disciplines.
A lot of sales people are highly willing to challenge (or even ignore) rules and processes. The ‘hunters’ among them are often inclined to pursue their own self-interests and motivations, rather than doing what is required for the greater good of the business (e.g. long-term, sustainable growth). These sales people are typically motivated and driven by achievement, recognition, reward, a sense of purpose, belonging to something they believe in and being led by somebody who they respect.
This means that, to achieve exceptional results, it is essential that the sales force is not only well incentivised, well trained and supported with high quality tools and techniques, systems and processes; but that it is also engaged and inspired by a leader who they respect and follow because of the leader’s passion, conviction and ability to influence their thinking and that of others in the organisation and the wider industry. This means that developing your gravitas (no matter how much you already have) is critical to maximising your impact as a sales leader.
Everyone Can Develop Their Own Gravitas
If you don’t have natural gravitas, don’t worry. When it comes to being a great sales leader, an important thing to remember is that gravitas is a learned trait. So long as you can become an expert in a particular aspect of the sales strategy and you can develop the confidence to demonstrate and apply your expertise with a purpose and presence, you can ‘get’ gravitas.
Countless authoritative figures throughout history – from Churchill to Obama – have been told at some early stage in their careers that they lacked authority and impact. But the difference between them and the rest is that they did something about it. They gained an expertise in a field that they were passionate about and learned how to apply and express their views with a purpose, conviction, presence, poise and decisiveness to influence others to rally behind their cause.
To get gravitas you need to develop the following characteristics:
- 1. The relevant insight and authority.
- 2. The ability to communicate with purpose, conviction and impact when it matters.
- 3. The ability to demonstrate presence, poise and decisiveness when under pressure.
Developing these characteristics will put you (as a sales leader) in a much greater position to communicate and engage with your people with impact and influence. Now let’s look at each of these in turn.
1. Having the relevant insight and authority.
Gravitas starts with having the relevant insight and authority. This comes from developing specific knowledge which can translate into important insight and having the confidence to make your words count when communicating with your people and others.
As a sales leader, you need to develop an intimate knowledge of your business, its capabilities, the sales process, your customers and your people to achieve gravitas. By developing your knowledge to become an expert in at least one (but ultimately all) of these areas, you will find it much easier to communicate your plans with real impact.
Developing yourself as an authority in at least one of these areas will also make it much easier to influence your people and stakeholders to deliver on your expectations and requirements. You will be able to communicate with them with much more impact because you will be confident in what you’re saying when you communicate with others at all levels inside and outside of the organisation.
2. Communicating with a purpose, conviction and impact when it matters.
To acquire gravitas you must communicate a real purpose when engaging with your sales force. This means that your communications must focus on outcomes and results (that are valued by the people you are communicating with), as well as how to get there.
You must also communicate with a conviction (i.e. a genuine and firmly demonstrated belief) that the outcomes and the roads to get there are the right ones for your team, regardless of who has decided them. People will trust and respect your views more if they know that you truly believe in what you’re saying.
If you’re already passionate about what you do and where the team is going, then you most likely already convey purpose and conviction when engaging with the sales force. If not, then you probably just need to do a little searching. Challenge yourself to understand what really drives you and your people to deliver on expectations and challenge yourself and your team to define the outcomes that you (and hopefully they) really believe in.
Once you have developed a real sense of purpose, so long as you make sure your messages resonate with what really drives your people and those around you, you will find it much easier to lead others and naturally communicate with impact.
But gravitas also requires knowing when to speak and knowing when to give direction and when to ask questions. It also requires an ability to truly listen to and consider the answers you get. When communicating, if in doubt, first listen and then try to understand the other person’s point of view. Then, and only then, decide how to respond or intervene (e.g. give direction, coach, challenge, re-purpose or validate) and be brief with your messages. Deliver messages with clarity and power to be more compelling and make people respect and pay attention to you. By communicating in a way that is measured and clear, you will make it immediately digestible for your people. This will encourage action.
Remember not to ‘micro-manage’ when there’s no need. Just raise your level of thinking, remember the overarching purpose, have a clear strategy and make sure that you aim your communications at the areas that matter to you and your team.
3. Demonstrating presence, poise and decisiveness when under pressure.
To have gravitas you also need to have presence, poise and decisiveness at all times. That said, the level of respect and impact you generate will be determined by your ability to demonstrate these qualities when under pressure. In a sales leadership role, this can be the crucial difference that sets you apart in the minds of those who you engage with to drive change.
Drawing on steps 1 and 2 above, developing your insight and authority and communicating with purpose and conviction will naturally give you the confidence to demonstrate presence, poise and decisiveness when under pressure. Your expertise and conviction will enable you to think in a way that is more focused and action oriented when it matters.
As well as developing your expertise, purpose and conviction, you also need to practice keeping your mind ‘present’ and calm by managing your attitude and emotions in different situations. Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions. Once you have developed some emotional intelligence, you can practice how to control your reactions. Remember that how you react to any situation, other than physical pain, is actually a choice that you can make.
To develop your emotional intelligence, work on how to manage the demons in your mind which subconsciously tell you how to react to any unpleasant surprise. Try to practice being more self-aware of these demons and develop a technique for avoiding any instinctive ‘knee jerk’ defensive thoughts and associated reactions. You must then convince yourself that even small amounts of fear, doubt and anger are all distractions. The only way you can maintain your gravitas is by detaching yourself from these emotions and concentrating on the task or decision at hand in the context of the overall purpose and strategy that you have set.
When faced with doubt or fear, it helps to breathe deeply and slowly, focus your mind, consider the facts, and involve those with the right expertise and wisdom to help you and your team make the right decisions and take the right actions. In the same way that great sales people enjoy and use objections and challenges to their positive advantage, a great sales leader will develop his or her poise to react calmly and positively to unexpected surprises.
The more presence, poise and decisiveness that you convey when you communicate and engage with those around you (i.e. your people, your customers, your peers and your stakeholders), the more authoritative you will be and the greater the likelihood that you will influence their thought processes and ability to achieve success.
Gravitas is a critical characteristic that every sales leader can and should develop to maximise their impact. Developing this trait and making it a part of your ‘personal development plan’ will enable you to accelerate your ability to influence others, as well as your ability to lead the sales force to new and outstanding levels of performance.
Gravitas is a quality that, when practiced and mastered by actively thinking about and applying the three steps described in this article, will enable you to have much greater influence and a much stronger personal brand – not only across your team, but also across your customer base, your organisation and your industry. Go and develop your Gravitas now!
Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase