This topic of executive presence has been front and center with me lately, and has come up in a wide variety of contexts. If your sales force sells to consumers or sells products and services to lower level end users in a B2B environment, then executive presence may not be necessary, but it certainly would not hurt. If your team sells to the C-suite, or has to gain the trust of high level influencers in a complex selling situation, then the concept of executive presence is key.
I was approached recently with the question about teaching executive presence. As I thought about this concept, I wondered whether someone could even be taught executive presence, so I did some digging. Different consultants have their differing views on what makes up executive presence. I believe it is a combination of confidence (or the ability to project confidence), and effective communication, including a heavy dose of professional vocabulary and articulation, while exhibiting strong emotional intelligence. It is not talking like a snob or above others’ heads, but it is using proper grammar, appropriate vocabulary, and enunciating, as opposed to mumbling, while connecting with your target. Speaking clearly, concisely and with authority project confidence and, in turn, may cause the party with whom one is communicating with, to trust the messenger. This is really the holy grail. Those that project executive presence, not only portray a high level of intellect, but because of the way they deliver the message, cause others to trust them. This is really the essence of beneficial executive presence for salespeople.
Possessing executive presence is critical for most working in professional services firms, as well as those selling directly to the C-suite. Those lacking executive presence can experience success selling in these situations, but they could be considerably more successful if they develop these skills, and will likely have to work less to accomplish more.
To help those on your team lacking these skills, it will take time and energy to improve communication skills, both written and oral, and to help them develop the skill to project confidence, while maintaining an acute connection with their communication partners. It can be done if the individual salesperson has the desire and commitment to doing whatever is necessary to being successful in their role, but it will take some time.
Here is an interesting take on the same concept if you want to read more.