When Basketball Hall-of-Famer Chuck Daly was head coach of the Orlando Magic, he'd sometimes come to me looking flustered. "Pat," he'd growl, "I'm not a coach—I'm a salesman! All I do is sell. I'm selling these ballplayers on my game plans and strategies. I'm selling the front office on improving our facilities and personnel. Every time I talk to the media, I'm selling them. And I'm constantly selling to the fans. All I do is sell!"
Chuck was right—and former NBA coach Phil Jackson agrees. Jackson, who won eleven NBA titles as head coach of the Bulls and Lakers, once observed, "Coaching is salesmanship. Coaching is winning players over and convincing them that they have to play together."
What Daly and Jackson say about coaches is true of all leaders in every arena. Leadership is selling. Turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, and what do you see? The president of the United States is selling his domestic policy agenda, his foreign policy agenda, his health care agenda, or his tax policy. Every time the president makes a public appearance, whether he's giving the State of the Union address or pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, he's selling. If the leader of the free world is always selling, shouldn't you and I become competent salespeople as well?
In our Orlando Magic organization, people sometimes come to me for advice. They say, "I'm in sales, and I really want to get out of sales and into management." I bet I've heard a hundred variations on that statement. I always say, "Oh, you want to get into management. Well, then you'll really be in sales. Even if you reach the pinnacle of the organization, you will never leave sales—because leadership is all about selling."