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About This Episode
As you know, we recently launched our Women in Revenue series as part of The Sales Engagement podcast.
On our latest episode I was lucky enough to have Kristina McMillan from TOPO join us to talk about having executive presence. As VP of Research she spends every single day having exciting, interesting, and sometimes challenging conversations with revenue leaders across a lot of well-known organizations.
So, she’s the perfect person to dive into executive presence and unpack how salespeople can aim to develop it.
First Things First: What Is Executive Presence?
In every group, or every situation, there’s always a few people who really shine.
They stand out, separating themselves from the pack.
But what is it that really makes them stand out? And how can we learn to emulate that?
That thing that makes them stand out is executive presence.
We associate a lot of different words with this phrase. There’s confidence, experience, calm, poise, assertiveness — there’s so many different things.
But what does it all boil down to?
Harvard Business Review characterizes executive presence with four specific markers:
First, executive presence is the ability to project a mature self confidence.
That’s really important.
And there are different ways to project confidence.
There are ways that give people comfort and there are other ways that provide the opposite, especially if people feel you’re getting into the territory of arrogance.
Second, is an ability to take control of difficult or unpredictable situations.
Again, we’ve all been in a situation where something unpredictable happens.
When it does, our heads swivel. We usually look at a specific person, either for guidance, reaction, or whatever it might be.
Usually, we’re looking at the person who has the ability to take control.
Third is the ability to make tough decisions in a timely fashion.
People often have a nervousness about making decisions. We want more time to search for more data or more analysis.
But those that really have presence have the ability to find a path forward, regardless, instead of second guessing themselves.
The last marker of presence is an ability to hold your own.
When those who have presence are with other smart, talented, strong willed people, they don’t struggle to keep up.
They’ve got it.
So, How Do You Develop Executive Presence?
Some people say fake it til you make it. Others say to ask lots of questions.
But you really just have to find your own way of projecting that confidence.
And everybody has made mistakes or missteps along the way.
But it’s often these mistakes or hiccups that help you calibrate how to project yourself in a confident manner.
Even though some people make it look effortless, developing presence actually does take some effort.
Three Things You Can Control to Help Strengthen Your Presence
Even though you’ve got to develop it in your own way, as salespeople, there are some specific things we can control to try to affect change around our presence.
We know those markers of good sales communication: it’s engaging, it’s concise, and it’s relevant. Relevance is perhaps the most complex of the three — so here’s what you can do to make sure your communication is staying relevant.
Think about what sits on that person that you’re communicating with. Are you really touching on the core of the things your prospect worries about? Do they feel like you’re going to be a person that will help align them to their success?
Instead of talking about features A, B, and C, craft your messaging around the problems they’re dealing with every day and how you can remove those.
Sure, it may correlate back to a feature, but it should always be presented using language that matters to them.
When you present that way, your prospect will feel like you just get them, boosting your credibility and presence.
This word is so interesting because we all know what it means…sort of.
Gravitas is the weight of your presence in a situation.
Top sales leaders have confidence, but they also come across as being very experienced and having decisiveness.
So, don’t just think about answering your client’s questions or getting them to the next step. Think about how you can be a guide for them.
How can you get them to feel like you’ve been there before, numerous times, successfully?
That will help them to feel like you’re a partner in their success.
Lastly, you can control your appearance. And we’re not just talking about how you look.
It’s about how you make people feel based on the way you look.
The best sales leaders typically look polished and professional. But what’s even more important is what they communicate by that appearance.
When you’re dressed respectfully for a particularly situation, people start to feel comfortable. They start to understand that you’re a serious salesperson, that you take them seriously, and that you’re going to be a partner that makes good decisions with their best interest in mind.
Ensure you’re presenting yourself in a way that allows your prospect to see that you’re going to represent your company, and theirs, well throughout the partnership.
So, there you have it.
Developing executive presence will look a little different for each of us. But, by focusing on the things you can control — communication, gravitas, and appearance — you can start to set yourself apart from those around you.
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