The sales community generally views thought leadership as a fancy name for marketing and something that is outside the purview of the sales function.
Thought leadership is indeed a fancy name, but it’s not the name that makes it important. It’s the idea of going beyond business as usual and defining your organization as innovative leader and trusted advisor. So much business advice is blah, blah, blah. Sales people can sell “the sizzle” as a thought leader but does that make it true? Promoting a personal brand as an expert can be easier than creating the actual track record of accomplishments.
Trust-based, successful professionals become known for what they know. They are the go-to individual in their industry and have the ability to work with and profit from their target markets.
On a company level this means speaking, blogging and writing, but that does not make the company a thought leader. A thought leader demonstrates new thinking and initiates new directions. With unique insights and actionable strategies you can organically grow your client base and business.
How does this impact the sales rep? Customers want to buy from reps who are smart and not simply regurgitating what the marketing department is publishing. In a world with ever sophisticated buyers, your sales reps to be more knowledgeable than your customer on your product and your market and at least as knowledgeable on the customer’s business.
Thought leadership is about having followers. With out followers you’re not a leader; you’re just someone taking a walk.
Don’t leave thought leadership to the marketing department. Leverage insight from your marketing function to increase your reps product, market and customer knowledge. Demand that your reps be engaged in their thinking. Condition them to have informed opinions and seek opportunities for all members of your sales team to showcase opinions publicly so that they are seen as innovative leaders and trusted advisors.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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The selling game has changed irreversibly. The sheer weight of information available to buyers these days means the buyer is in control. They are less reliant on sales people and they build trust in the brand long before they come into physical contact with it. How? Through the content they consume about the issues important to them. I call them ‘contsumers’. These ‘contsumers’ are hungry for information – information that helps them come to a decision or helps them solve a problem. The brand that best understands its customer, their issues, their challenges and then provides them with useful, insightful… Read more »
Great point Craig. Bang on about customers not wanting to be sold.
A successful sales function creates conditions under which the buyer chooses to buy. This is a massive shift.
Thanks for contributing!
Thanks for sharing this thought provoking article. I guess your “though leadership” abilities lead me to follow your points and align my thoughts with you!!!
-Thx for the quick read