Leaders Sell Everyone Except Those Who Matter The Most

Something was wrong…

I remember the day I was fired like it was yesterday. It was January 6, 1996. At 8:15 a.m. I was sitting alone in my boardroom waiting for my company’s quarterly board meeting to begin in fifteen minutes. I was a 35 year old co-founder and CEO of a publicly traded company that was the darling of Wall Street. The board was a no-show. Something was wrong.

This was going to be an important meeting. I had been working behind the scenes to sell the company. I was weeks away from an offer for $625 million – not bad for a company valued by Wall Street at $400 million and, in my view, ready to go off a cliff. The only problem with my strategy was the chairman (and controlling shareholder) didn’t want to sell. And I didn’t sell him.

At 9:00 a.m., I was sitting in my office across from the chairman as he began his prepared speech. “Brian, you have done much that has been positive for the company…” Ten minutes later, I was driving away from fifteen hundred employees, seven years of history, and the lost opportunity to finish what I started.

What was I thinking?

I thought I had a few more weeks. With a written offer, I would present again my concerns about new competition and disturbing trends affecting the fundamentals of the business.

I never got the chance to make my case. In fact, four months later the company did get a firm offer for over $600 million. What did the chairman do? Of course, he turned it down. He thought the business was worth a billion. Eighteen months after the business deteriorated and many interested buyers went away, the company was forced to sell for less than $200 million. How did this happen?

Selling is an Emotional Process

One of the consistent mistakes business leaders make is they sell everyone but their inner circle. When I’m around those I’m closest too I relax and go to my comfort zone, my intellect. Yet selling is an emotional process.

This was my first wake up call that signaled I was disconnected from my emotions. I would wine and dine bankers and take them to sporting events, but when it came to my inner circle I was anything but charming.

Leaders assume their track records speak for themselves, that those who know them should inherently trust them and know how great their ideas are. I would make weak attempts to sell my board and get frustrated if they didn’t “get it” quickly. I resented having to take the time to pitch my management team on my ideas. Come to think of it, this happens at home as well. The truth is, selling to these folks felt vulnerable and I had a habit of pulling up short.

On a Scale of One to Ten…

How hard are you selling your inner circle? Don’t make the mistake that many leaders make when it comes to the often emotional process of selling. When it comes to your inner circle, reach into your heart and the heart of those around you and take the risk of selling hard.

Align Your Team?

Now more than ever, team energy needs to be captured and focused. We offer Top Team Alignment off-sites for corporate teams. Our focus is building trust, clearing conflict and developing tools to improve communication and focus. Do this while working on a business dilemma or working through performance-limiting or unproductive interpersonal dynamics.

Need To Clear Your Head?

Ready for a winter detox? If you are working on clearing out confusion and patterns that are impacting your leadership or relationships, talk to Brian about a personal two-day Mini-Retreat. This is a catalyst coaching experience and includes a handful of follow-up coaching sessions to keep the momentum going. Contact Brian.