The sales pitch is dead

In a paper entitled "Thought Leadership is the New Sales Pitch", Chad and Linda Nelson from The Basis Group point out that consumers no longer passively accept marketing information. Instead, they actively seek experts who have answers or insights into their world and who through these insights help them manage better this world and the issues and challenges they face.

They say that consumers today crave relationships and resources in the form of knowledge and insights. And herein, I believe, lies the opportunity for selling differently and in particular using thought leadership to pave the way for sales.

In my all my research on the topic I have come across only a handful of people who can articulate so succinctly the impact thought leadership has on selling a brand, product or service . Dana vandenHeuvel and David Meerman Scott are two others who spring to mind.

While traditional marketing is still the bread and butter of many sales efforts, as the Nelsons point out: "When you begin your marketing efforts by establishing trust and demonstrating thought leadership, you create a new more effective entry point for your brand message."

Very true. But before this happens, companies need to unlearn current habits of pushing products and services down their customers' throats. Instead they should start demonstrating their insights, knowledge and expertise in their sector and in particular the issues and challenges facing their consumers.

Underpinning this approach is thought leadership. There are many positive outcomes of thought leadership but the ultimate outcome should always be that your customers seek you out because they trust you based on the knowledge and insights you have shared so openly with them.

While thought leadership may not result in a quick sell, what it will do is truly cement your brand with your publics in a way that has a far deeper 'stickability' factor. But this is what most marketers and salespeople have difficulty getting their heads around - thought leadership does not primarily drive sales. Rather it builds trust, takes your conversations with customers to another level so that when the time comes to present your offering they are so vested in your brand that the sale is as good as done.

As the Nelsons point out: "you need to be out in your marketplace talking to people, learning what they know, discussing ideas, taking the pulse of the industry to see where it's going, responding to concerns and expanding your understanding of what is needed. This is the best kind of leadership because it demonstrates your intimacy with your audience and your industry."

While there is nothing new in this and the best sales people will tell you that the best selling is all about listening, the difference is how you interpret, articulate and then package and share your insights and information.

Thought leaders have an abundance mentality. They share openly and freely and understand that it is not first and foremost about the sale but rather it is first and foremost about being available and being generous with your knowledge.

Only this way will take your place at the head of your industry's table. The sales will follow.


Craig Badings has spent the past 21 years consulting to small and large brands about their public relations challenges. He is a director of leading Sydney-based financial and corporate communications consultancy, Cannings. Cannings is a member of the ASX-listed, STW Group Ltd, Australias largest communications services group. In 2009 Craig published a book on thought leadership 'Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership'. He believes that thought leadership is an incredibly powerful yet...

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