Thought leadership - sales new Trojan Horse

Customers no longer want to be sold to. Instead they gather their own information through the web, social media and talking to friends and family - an approach that has fundamentally changed the way we sell.

As a result, our job as sales people should be focused on helping these customers and prospects find us when they search and then to engage them along the way with insightful, useful content that helps them manage their world and their business challenges better. Done properly, when you do present your product or service, these customers or prospects are so vested in your brand that the sale is as good as done.

To achieve this, you first need to establish the customer at the centre of your universe. As a starting point, you should establish a deep understanding of their needs and map out their buying personas. Only then should you deliver the relevant insights and information this understanding has given you.

Do it properly and you will develop an intimacy with your prospects that goes well beyond the traditional sales conversations. How? Thought leadership is the way to achieve this.

But critically thought leadership is not about delivering your sales or marketing messages. We all know how cold that turns us.

It's the customer that matters not your product or service.

It is important to do everything possible to communicate your ideas in your customers' language. This means learning their language, their issues, their fears and their priorities. Once you understand these you have a much better chance of delivering insights and knowledge that intersects your desire to sell with their desire to grow or find solutions to their business challenges.

And thought leadership is the vehicle to achieve this.

Thought leadership needs to take the sales lead

To differentiate yourself from your competition and to underpin your future sales, thought leadership needs to take the lead in positioning the company as the go to source of expert information - and ultimately position you as the trusted advisor in your field.

In a paper entitled: "Thought Leadership is the New Sales Pitch", Chad and Linda Nelson from The Basis Group point out that consumers actively seek experts who have answers or insights into their world and who, through these insights, help them manage better the world and issues they face.

Nelson says: "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."

Thought leadership builds trust

The premise of thought leadership driving the sales lead is that customers eventually start seeking you out because of the trust they place in you based on the knowledge and insights you have shared which position you as a clear authority/trusted advisor in your field.

It is very difficult for sales people to generate a steady stream of qualified leads week in and week out but if your company or your service has been positioned as the expert in that field it becomes a lot easier to attract and nurture these leads.

It is at this point, however, that the sales person plays a critical role - converting that trust and interest in your brand or service into a sale.


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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