Business Operations

Olsen on Sales: Command Presence

Command presence is a term developed by the armed forces to speak about those who lead, especially others, into battle.

Command presence is a term developed by the armed forces to speak about those who lead, especially others, into battle. Like salesmanship, many believe we either “have it” or we don’t. The armed forces, the police and Reality Sales Training believe we can train ourselves to be leaders, to have command presence.

Sales = Leadership
Once we start asking people to give us their money, we are in a leadership position. In many circumstances we are giving expert advice about our product or market. We are asking our customer to put their job or business on the line based on our opinion.

One of the biggest mistakes in sales is acting like a servant. We cannot service our way to the top of a sales business. The problem with servant-selling is that it works. Just not enough. We can get some business from time to time being a lick-boot, but we are fighting over the scraps left by the master sellers who are leading their customers in the sales process.

Leadership Sales
There are several ways that we can show command presence and lead our customers.

Be prepared to close. Sellers tell me that it is more and more difficult to get buyers on the phone (or in person). I agree. Since it is true we need to be ready to close at all times.

Too many sellers call (on) a customer and are not prepared to sell/close them. They might be able to get close to an order, but have to “check on one more thing” before they can take the order. This is the opposite of command presence. This tells the customer that the seller doesn’t care enough to do the work ahead of time. Many sellers have the attitude, “Why do all that work when they might not buy?” That’s like a cop saying he will put bullets in his gun when he needs to. These sellers are correct but poor. A lot of customers do say no. The master seller ignores the no’s and prepares every call like it is THE call.

Master sellers are ready with all the details necessary to close. The master seller has more than one idea or product to promote. This readiness is sensed immediately by all customers. Whether the customer buys or not they feel the preparedness of the master seller and remember it.

When the seller with command presence calls the second time the customer knows before the meeting that they will be expected to buy. The master seller makes selling look easier because it is easier when customers know what is expected of them.

The opposite is also true. When a salesperson is not prepared the customer senses it—also immediately. These sellers invite poor treatment and receive it.

Stop asking “What do you think?” This is a weak and subservient question. We have prepared our offering. We are calling the customer because we think it is a good deal for them. We present it as such and say, “So how many of those can you use?” This positively assumptive phrase shows command presence and demands a business response (which puts us ahead of 90% of the salespeople who don’t even ask for the order!). We will find out what our customer thinks when they say yes or no.

Be confident when giving the price. Many sellers stiffen up when they give the price. Some cough or ahem right before they give the price. This nervousness is sensed by the customer and makes them hesitant to buy. Practice giving the price with a smile. Relax and assume you have the best deal and act like it.

Stand up for yourself… by asking for the order. The paradigm in many industries is, “Give me your number and I’ll get back to you.” Too many sellers go along. “Why make waves? If I’m nice and do it their way, they’ll like me better and they buy from me.” This is not true. The salesperson who “goes along” is easy to say no to. This is our “command presence” moment. It is as simple as saying, “Hang on a second, Sara. Why don’t you buy it from me this time?”
Humans want and need leadership. In sales, as in life, when we lead, some will follow.

James Olsen

James Olsen is the founder of Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or. After 20 years in sales with Nike, North Pacific Lumber, and Forest City Trading, in 2001 James started his own sales training business, devoted to helping companies and individuals achieve rapid sales growth. Contact him at (503) 544-3572 or

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