Tap into Your Moral Authority
It never occurs to most leaders to tap into moral authority. But the effective manager and leader knows that their job isn’t about getting stuff done, it’s about doing it through other people. But before those other people will follow you, they need to know you care, can be trusted and that you have a true desire for their success. Plus, the successful leader gets really clear on the role of sales in all of this. Listen to this episode of the Manager Mojo podcast if you want a big dose of insight and motivation into becoming a great leader – the leader that others will want to follow. You can learn more about Anthony Iannarino by going to www.TheSalesBlog.com. Share this podcast with others by clicking
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READ THE TRANSCRIPT HERE: How to determine your moral authority
Steve: Hello and welcome everyone to the Manager Mojo podcast. Today I’m very thrilled to introduce Anthony Iannarino to you. Anthony is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach and Consultancy. He’s a sales coach and consulting firm located in Westerville, Ohio which I believe is in the Columbus area. Isn’t that right Anthony?
Anthony: That’s right.
Steve: Anthony is quite an accomplished person, and you’re going to get to hear his wisdom today. Anthony has worked with all types of organizations, both small and large, and including Fortune 500 sales organizations like Accenture, Abbott Laboratories, CH Robinson, IDEXX, and many, many more. The thing that I love so much about Anthony is he’s a prolific writer. He posts daily to his personal blog called “The Sales Blog.” I want to make sure if you’re in sales that you are following Anthony’s blog. It’s TheSalesBlog.com, and it receives an average of 45,000 views a month. I absolutely want you to participate in that because I know it will help you in your business as well as in management.
He also writes a bi-monthly column for Think Sales journal and is a contributing editor at SUCCESS Magazine. I am a proud subscriber of SUCCESS and recommend SUCCESS to all of our listeners, Anthony, and really appreciate the contributions you’ve made to SUCCESS.
Anthony: Are you going to send this to my mom when we’re done? That’d be great.
Steve: Absolutely, I want to make sure she gets to know how great you really are. Anthony is married and has three children. He has a great academic record and really I have to ask you a little bit about this today, Anthony because it happens more often in sales and sales professions than people think. Anthony actually graduated summa cum laude from Capital University in 1997. He had a dual major in political science and English. And he’s really become an accomplished sales master and sales guru. He has done a lot of study at other places as well including the Harvard business school. Anthony, welcome to the Manager Mojo podcast.
Anthony: Thanks Steve. That was a long introduction!
Steve: I want to make sure everybody understands where your perspective comes from and if you don’t mind, why don’t you tell us a little bit of the cool things you’re doing these days.
Anthony: Well I’m still an entrepreneur and I still own businesses. So I am still a sales leader at a staffing company that was the family business. I lead a sales force there. I also have B2B Sales Coach and Consultancy which is a boutique. I work with clients that are focused on one thing and that’s how to move from transactional to a greater level of value creation where they’re trying to be different and better rather than cheaper. And that’s where what I teach generally becomes most valuable.
And I love doing a couple of things, as you already mentioned. I’m a speaker and I’ve been around the world a couple of times during the last couple of years speaking to sales organizations and running workshops which I absolutely love to do. And we have a lot of fun doing those. I’m an author so I do love to write. I write every single day and I’ve written at the Sales Blog for four and a half years now, a little more than four and a half years, everyday minus 10 days when I went to Tibet and I thought it was just really poor form to go to basecamp on Mt. Everest and spend your time blogging. So I just took it in and then wrote about it when I got back but that’s the only 10 days I missed. Other than that it’s everyday.
I think I’m a little bit past 1850 posts just sharing my observations my experiences, other people’s experiences and insights that I think will help a couple groups of people: salespeople, business people, general managers, entrepreneurs, and success-minded people. People who are trying to get somewhere, they’ve got a goal of they want to go and I try to write for that group of people.
Steve: Well I think that’s a great transition that leads us to my first question for you today, and that is that so many people, whether they’re in entry-level or mid-level management or whether an entrepreneur, they have ambition, they have goals and yet I think a lot of times that they struggle with this idea of salesmanship and how does that fit in with what they do. And so if you don’t mind, I’d like for you to share your perspective on that.
Anthony: It’s a great question and I speak a lot of times to sales organizations where the group of people who are responsible for selling would never call themselves a salesperson. And that’s an interesting challenge for me because I have two audiences. When I speak to pure salespeople, I can say anything around sales and they get it immediately. There’s no resistance from them about what we’re doing and why we do it. But when I speak to civilians, people who don’t think—they never got into some line of business because they wanted to be a salesperson. I have to frame things differently for them to get it and then once I explain to them that selling is really about creating value for someone else. It’s about helping someone get an outcome that they can’t get without you. It’s about trust. It’s about caring. It’s about having difficult conversations. It’s about leading and managing change.
When I start framing it that way, people say, “That’s all I do all day everyday. I’m always trying to get somebody to come along with some idea. I’m always trying to convince my employees to do the right thing in these situations. I have to ask for commitments that are hard to get and I don’t have the words for it or I don’t have the framework or the structure.” And when I explain to them selling isn’t what it used to be. It isn’t the stereotype of the connotation that sometimes still lives around that word. It’s not about manipulating people. It’s not about persuading people to do something that they don’t want to do. It’s not about wrenching anybody’s arm behind their back and saying, “Press hard, I need these to go through three copies.” And anybody who does that isn’t very effective in at least B2B sales and I would say in B2C sales now too.
But selling is really about helping someone get another outcome. And so if you’re a manager, and you’re listening to this and you think, “Well I’m not in sales.” All you do is sell. All you do is try to get people to do the right thing. All you do is try to get the right resources applied to the right problem. You’re always problem-solving and always trying to convince people to come along with change. That’s the nature of leadership and management.
Steve: Anthony I couldn’t agree with you more. I see this over and over that people really—they just have this idea, this negative connotation with the word sales, I think that they think it’s all about making people do things that they wouldn’t normally do. And yet you can’t lead anybody with that kind of attitude can you?
Anthony: No and you know one thing, and I’ve written about this a number of times—it’s a topic that comes up in different ways and I’ve seen different views of the same problem. Your formal authority, your organizational chart authority, that box that you occupy that’s above the other little-er boxes beneath you, is the weakest form of authority that you will ever have. It means nothing except that you’re sitting in a box and you’ve got a job with a title. The real authority that most managers and leaders rely on, anyway if they’re effective they rely on it, is moral authority. And that moral authority derives from “I care about you. I have your trust. You know I have your interests at heart. I’m giving you meaningful projects. I’m helping you grow. I’m not treating you like a transaction. I’m treating you like an important, integral part of my team.” And managers and leaders who lead from that place have people who choose to follow them.
The other type of manager, who’s an O-chart manager—somebody with formal authority—they don’t have followers. They might have people who do what they’re told to do. They might have people who follow directions because they’re under some sort of threat. But they never are really a leader when that’s the part of leadership that they rely on.
Steve: No they never actually get there at all. I’m going to play the adversarial role here because I know a lot of people say—they’ll tell me, because I think the same way that you do but they’ll tell me, “But wait a minute. I’m the boss here and people should be listening to me because I’m the boss.” And how do you respond to people who have that kind of attitude?
Anthony: How’s that going for you so far? It’s a great question and we can play with that for a minute. That said, you’re not my follower. You haven’t chosen to step onto this path with me, I’m making you do it. I’m doing it by force and force is the least effective tool that you have in your arsenal. If you have to get to force, then you’ve done something terribly wrong as a manager or leader. You want to get to persuasion. All the time it’s about persuasion and how do we help people. We help them see what’s in it for them. We help them understand, “I’m not asking you to do this because it’s difficult and I’m trying to hurt you. This is our mission and it provides meaning to our job. It helps us help our customers in a unique way that only we can.”
And until you give vision and meaning and mission and values, people aren’t going to choose to follow you. I mean that’s what they choose to follow. They choose to follow a leader who says, “This is who we can be,” not “This is who I need you to be or who I want you to be,” or “You have to do it or I’m going to fire you or something worse.”
Steve: Yeah, great point. Anthony if you don’t mind I’d like for you to go a little deeper into your thoughts on moral authority. You know give us a couple examples of what you would be referring to when you use that term.
Anthony: Oh okay. Moral authority, when I say moral authority I mean people are choosing to follow you because there’s something underneath that. And when you think about great leaders that you’ve had in your life—and I can tell you I’ve had many—the way that they led was never from the O-chart. It was never, “I have power over you.” It was, “I am empowering you.” And that moral authority says, “You can be bigger than you are right now. I have a bigger vision of you than you do.” We have a bigger mission than anybody else and what we’re doing is good and right and true and it’s coming from a place where we can really make a difference for people.”
It’s value-driven. It’s about integrity and trust and having the difficult conversations and telling the truth which you know in the world of sales, sometimes, is a difficult thing to do. A lot of people would rather tell the client what they want to hear in order to win the business than tell them the truth and potentially lose the business. But in that situation when you tell the truth you become a trusted advisor and consultative and you gain credibility and trust. And when you don’t tell the truth you destroy all those things. And especially because clients know when you’re telling the truth.
But I’ve had leaders who had that moral authority and who were not afraid to use it. And by that I’ll give you a couple of examples if I can. I’ll give you an example from my own life where I had to exercise this. I had a salesperson who worked for me who was beating her number every year consistently. And she was a really good salesperson. She was very good at driving the numbers. But she was not nice to anybody else and she destroyed every team that we built around her. And team after team was destroyed and the incidents that caused their destruction continued to get worse and worse. And I went to my superiors at the time and said, “I’m going to let her go.” And they said, “You can’t let her go. She’s making the numbers. She’s doing so well.” And I said, “I know but we’ll never grow any further than we are right now. And we’re hurting the people that are underneath her because she’s mean, belligerent, nasty and she really doesn’t look out for them. She strictly tries to hurt them.” My CEO at the time said, “I support your decision.” And I made the decision to do that because how we treat people is more important than making the number. And I know at the time there was a lot of wringing of hands like how do we get back to making the number when she’s gone. Well it didn’t take long for that to happen because the team there picked up the slack and stepped forward when they knew somebody cared about them.
But those are the kinds of decisions that establish your moral authority. You have to say, “I’m putting people before money,” and that’s when you really know what kind of a leader you have. As soon as money’s an issue, you know you’ve got a leader who has moral authority when they’re willing to set the money aside to do what’s right by people.
Steve: That is awesome. What a great example and I would bet that nearly every person listening can relate to that because they’ve had somebody that they had to work for that really didn’t care about them or their well-being. And yet they had to stay for awhile simply because of the paycheck. Very, very good example. Have you got another example that you were thinking about that you’d like to share?
Anthony: I can share another of my own personal experience. When the economic downturn occurred in 2008, my team decided not to close any offices and not to lay anybody off but rather to reduce all of our hours to a point where we could stay in business even having dropped by 40% in revenue in the course of a week. That’s how deep the recession was for us. And that was a tough decision to make but it was putting people before money. And you know ultimately, people were very unhappy until they realized that their friends and family members didn’t go back to work.
I’ve got dozens of examples. I have a client who has a very, very strong opinion about right and wrong and in his industry, not everybody shares his opinion. Some of them take money from vendors and they don’t share with their clients that they’re actually getting paid by the vendors that they use. And he refuses to take the vendor’s money and that’s a form of moral leadership. So now everyone on his team knows, “We won’t make a deal where we’re going to put our honesty and our trust and our integrity at risk with our clients for money. We’d rather not have the money.” And there are people who are new who see this and say, “You know how we could make more money? We could start taking money from the vendors like everybody else.” And he’ll tell them very strongly, “That is not going to happen here on my watch.” Because anything that we do with a client is 100% transparent. We act in their best interest. And it serves him well, it makes it tougher for him to sell because he can’t present it the same way that they do. But he has a 99.8% retention rate once people understand that they can count on him to tell the truth.
There’s a lot of stories like that and I think anyone listening to this knows what we’re talking about here. They’ve had a leader that they chose to follow because of who that person was. And they’ve had a leader that they served only because they had the formal authority and that was never really someone they followed.
Steve: Absolutely and you know that’s one of the things that I want to make sure that people understand is that this idea of moral authority and putting—I kind of describe it as putting the needs of others before your own. And I think that this is one of the things that will really help accelerate people in their career. It’s just that so few people are actually seeing that demonstrated. That’s why I asked you to give those two examples because I think that will be two really good things for people to hang their hat on, begin to think about and say, “Hey it’s okay for me as well to exercise my own moral authority.”
Anthony: It takes courage.
Anthony: It takes courage and it’s not going to be accepted easily by some people. But that’s what it takes to truly be a leader is to step out on your own and say, “This is where I draw a line in the sand. This is who I am and this is what I stand for.” And ultimately it earns the respect of the people even that disagree with you over time. But you do have to have the courage to stand and take the fire.
Steve: Right. Very cool, great example and thank you for sharing that. I want to change just a little bit here and really go more towards the fact that many entrepreneurs today, I believe, are confused about sales and marketing. And if you don’t mind, would you give us your take on sales and marketing?
Anthony: I have no idea where entrepreneurs get the idea that it’s about getting money from investors. And nothing about starting a business has anything to do with getting money from investors. It just doesn’t. And I’ll go to Drucker because Peter Drucker is the guru for all management gurus and the grandfather of the industry. I mean the answer is you start a business to create a customer. That’s what you do. If you’re not starting the business with the intention of serving people and gaining customers and solving a problem, it doesn’t matter what your technology is. It doesn’t matter what kind of a mouse trap you have or what you found out that you could do.
The big thing right now that I see, tons of people have discovered that now that we have these technologies, we can count things. We can count how many times somebody clicks something. We can count how often the interactions occur. And to them they think counting—because we can count something, that we should count something and that automatically means we gain insight. And it’s not true but they’re building whole businesses and taking investor money about clicks. Not thinking about what’s the value for the end user. What are we really trying to create?
So if that’s true, if a business exists to create a customer, how do we create customers? Sales and marketing. So many entrepreneurs worry about where do we get the money and they don’t worry enough about how do we create a client. And by the time it gets to that point that they need the customers and they can’t go on and they run out of money. They’re so far behind, they can’t catch up.
And I’ll give you a quick personal story. I was an angel investor in a nanotechnology firm, and they clearly had the better mousetrap. They did something no one’s been able to do with nanotechnologies and nanofibers and it was exciting and it was interesting and money flooded in. A million dollars in a very short period of time. They had enough money to build the equipment and get started. But they were young and they picked a CEO who was also young and they decided to pay themselves salaries and they decided to go around and talk to people without any real plan to create a customer. And I went to the first board meeting where they did the review with everybody about where they were and I asked one question. I said, “What is our client gaining strategy? How are we going to get clients?” And they laughed at me and said, “Clients? We’ve got a million dollars. We’ve got money pouring in. We don’t have to worry about clients for a long time. We’ve got to work right now to get this piece done and that piece done.” And I said, “Well when those pieces are done, what’s our strategy for getting clients? What’s our go-to-market strategy? How are we going to sell this?” And there wasn’t a good answer and no one took my question seriously.
Until 18 months later they ran out of money and then I was the most interesting man in the world at that point. They said, “That thing about clients and money…we’d like you to talk about that.” But enough time had gone by and bad decisions had been made and it was impossible to save at that point. But that’s what the entrepreneur story is. You’re focused on the product, you’re focused on the money and investors and where we’re going to get the next round. You’ve got to focus on where we’re going to get the clients. And your business is only going to be sustained, it’s only going to be a business that grows and succeeds if you spend your time and your focus and your energy and the money that you do have on how do I get new customers. And if you put your time and energy there, you can grow with or without investor money. And if you’re only on investor money, you have a short runway and you’re really not going to be an entrepreneur for very long.
Steve: Absolutely, it’s all about getting those clients isn’t it? You know I know that you’re a fan of the late, great Jim Rohn as well as I am. I know that you’re familiar with how he used to describe that process. Could you share that with our leaders?
Anthony: I mean if Rohn is known for anything, and he is with me, you plant in the spring and you harvest in the fall and no planting in the spring means no harvest in the fall. And there’s no way to plant in the fall and harvest in the fall and so many people make that mistake. They think, “I can put this off. I can do it later,” but that’s not the way the laws of the universe were written. They were written by an entity or a force that has decided you have to pay in advance for what you want and Rohn knew that very well. You can have anything you want, you just have to pay for it advance. You can’t have it and then pay for it which so many people are confused about.
Steve: Right, right. No question about that is it? What would your advice be to—maybe we’ve got listeners here that are really not outgoing and they’re a little more private, they really have never seen themselves in any type of sales position. What would be your advice to them in terms of how can they think about themselves and how could they present themselves more effectively?
Anthony: If you want to present yourself more effectively and you’re a young person or somebody who’s naturally an introvert. And believe it or not, I am right on the line between introvert and extrovert. I’m not an extrovert. I can stand onstage and speak to 2000 people but that doesn’t make me an extrovert. It makes me a performer at some level but I’m as happy being alone in a room with a book as I am being in a crowed and sometimes happier.
Toast Master’s is the first recommendation. If you need to be comfortable speaking in front of other people, there is not a better investment of your time and money than Toast Master’s. You show up, you go through the first manual which is ten speeches plus one and that sort of caps it off, your persuasive speech. By the end of 11 speeches, you’re cured of whatever fear you had of speaking in public and probably you’re not only cured, you’re a little bit confident and maybe a tiny bit cocky because you’ve done this so many times in a crowd that was reviewing you intentionally that you know you’ve got the chops to stand in front and talk to people and you know how to prepare for these things. That’s number one so that’s the part about how you get comfortable.
Let’s talk about the second piece and think about selling. Selling is about your intentions. What are you trying to do when you have that interaction with your client or your prospective client? That interaction is about how do you create value for that other person in the interaction. How do you help them think about their challenge? How do you help them understand their needs? How do you help them explore all of the options that are available to them? How do you help them deal with their fear? What if it doesn’t work? What if it costs too much money? Whose help are we going to need if we want this to happen?
That’s what you’re there for. You’re there to serve and to help other people and people who have—I don’t want to say introvert but let’s say they’re not totally outgoing and gregarious in that old model of salesperson that we think about when we think about the old stereotypes. Those people do terrific in sales and the reason is they can listen. They’ve got high emotional intelligence. They make space for other people and they’re able to sit quietly and listen to somebody speak. Those are tremendous attributes.
So go get the confidence to speak and to speak in public so you can talk to customers and their teams. But then focus on your intentions and if your intentions are to serve and to help people, selling is really an easy game. People want to work with people that care about them and that are going to really help them with their challenges.
Steve: No question about it. When people care, they know it. And I think the ultimate—I don’t know about you, but I believe the ultimate compliment to the other person is to listen to what they have to say.
Anthony: There’s no greater form of caring than listening and if you really stop and listen to somebody. I mean really stop, don’t think about what your next statement is going to be. Don’t think about what you want to say at all. Just listen. Acknowledge that you heard something and then leave a gap of about. Try six seconds. That will seem like forever for you to do a count in your head. But wait six seconds, and then as soon as they’re done talking they’re going to say something else that reveals deeper thoughts like, “You know what. This is probably my fault and I probably should try to do something about it.” They’re going to reveal something because they know they’re being listened to. That’s the ultimate form of caring. Everybody on Earth has in-born need and desire to be significant, for somebody to think they’re important. And listening is the greatest, fastest, most effective way that you can give that gift to somebody.
And honestly if you think about this you love the gift to. When somebody truly listens to you.
Steve: No question. I think it’s the ultimate compliment myself. But I find most people are struggling with the fact that they’re so uncomfortable with silence. I loved your six second example. A little silence is not a bad thing is it?
(Six seconds of silence) 1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6….
Anthony: That was six seconds.
Steve: How cool was that?
Anthony: That felt like a long time. But it’s not a long time.
Steve: And I’ll bet that a lot of our listeners were thinking that we totally went off the air.
Anthony: I know that happened. I know they thought uh oh they lost their connection. But we didn’t, and if you pause and give people time they’ll say more. And what they say will be deeper, especially if they know you’re paying attention and not trying to come up with what you want to say next.
Steve: Yeah my opinion, Anthony, is that so many of our greatest leaders are those that are not extroverts, that are not speaking all the time. They are really good, active listeners. And I believe that we all can learn more about practicing that art of listening.
Anthony: I do too and it’s really a difficult thing to practice and I don’t know if we’d give it enough credit for the challenge that it is to listen especially if you have ideas. And I spend a lot of my time in the world of sales, and we have a great product, we have a great solution, we want to tell people about it. We’re excited about it, we’re passionate, we believe. So stepping back and saying, “Hey I’m just going to let them talk for a while before I say anything about us.” When you’re excited it’s not all that easy to do.
Steve: It’s not is it? It’s like it’s your birthday and you’re excited and you can’t wait for them to sing Happy Birthday so you can open your presents.
Anthony: Not any birthday that I’m having in the future. I’m not at excited about them anymore. They were a lot more exciting in the past.
Steve: You sound like me. That’s awesome. Well Anthony this has just been very, very helpful and I appreciate your thoughts. Are there a couple of parting comments that you would like to make towards people today that you would really want them to put their arms around and just think about it?
Anthony: Based on our conversation here I mean the big takeaways I think if you’re listening to this, first I commend you for showing up and listening to a podcast like this. This is real content. These are questions that are really—they’re hard hitting questions and they get to the root of big issues. And all big issues eventually you discover are people issues. So talking about moral authority is really important. Talking about selling and that really being about serving and creating value for other people, that’s a big idea and there are a lot of people who still don’t agree that that’s the idea and they think, “I got to make my number, I’ve got to do this other thing.” The fastest path to improving your sales number is to care about other people enough to try and help them. And then I think our big takeaway here at the end of our conversation is it’s really important to care about people and if you want to do a really good work at that, listen to them and that’s a great gift that you can give people. If you can do all three of those things, you’ve got enough work right there to practice for the rest of your life.
Steve: Amen! That’s so true, so true. Well Anthony it’s been delightful today to chat with you. What would be the best way for our listeners to connect with you?
Anthony: I write everyday at TheSalesBlog.com. I would recommend going to TheSalesBlog.com and going to /newsletter. And if you go to /newsletter, you’re going to get a form and you’ll be on my Sunday newsletter. And I believe, and a lot of other people do too, that’s the best content I produce each week. It shows up Sunday morning and it will give you a really good kick start to your week on Monday. You’ll have a little chance to reflect on it Sunday and to think about, “How do I build that into my week.” That’s where I’d send you first.
Steve: Well I’ll make sure that when we post the notes, the show notes as well, that we put a link to The Sales Blog for people to connect to. And Anthony, on behalf of our listeners today, I just want to thank you very much for taking time out of your day to share your wisdom with us. We thank you and wish you prosperity and success in all that you do.
Anthony: All right, thanks Steve. Thanks for having me.
Steve: My pleasure.