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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.

Connect:

Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

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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