In uncertain times, prospects and clients conduct even more online research before working with a vendor or purchasing a product. Thought leadership is vital to brand differentiation, but when done right, it greatly improves sales performance.
The thought leadership position is certainly an advantageous position to have, as it helps with generating sales, lead generation, recruitment and retention, and new business opportunities. Sometimes this thought leadership position comes completely organically, but many times it's part of an overall sales strategy.
Why Is Thought Leadership Important to the Sales Profession?
For years, sales professionals has viewed thought leadership as nothing more than a fancy marketing term. Indeed, it is a fancy term — but it's not the name that makes it important, it's the idea behind it.
Buyers want to buy from real people. They want a sales rep that is smart and trustworthy, someone with unique insights and actionable strategies. Yes, thought leadership helps to generate sales, contributes to lead generation efforts, assists in recruitment and retention, and garners new business opportunities, and it works because of the following:
1. More Buzz + More Respect = More Referrals
2. Gain Trust and Value by Prospects Quicker
3. Have Better Information to Share in the Sales Process
4. Prospects More Readily Open to Proposals
How to Get Started as a Thought Leader
Now that you know the overall benefits of thought leadership, how do you get started as a thought leader? Here are four things you can implement in your sales strategy today:
- Start a Blog (or contribute to your company blog)
- Get Your Articles Published By Others
- Publish an eBook With Content Compelling To Your Prospects
- Create a SlideShare to Compliment Your Blog and Other Content
- Send a Newsletter to Clients and Prospects with Industry Updates or Related Content
- Write a Book
- Be Active on Social Channels
- Join a Conversation or Group on Social Media Related to Your Expertise
- Curate Timely Content Related To Your Industry and Expertise
- Maximize LinkedIn To Your Benefit
- Search for Speaking Opportunities to Share Your Expertise
- Offer Presentations at Your Local Chamber or Community Groups
- Speak to Local University Classes
- Host Webinars with Substantive Content
- Help Organize, Present, or Facilitate Local Networking Events
- Produce a Podcast Series
- Build Credibility by Documenting Your Success Stories From Clients
- Collect Testimonials From Clients and Colleagues
- Specialize in a Specific Area of Expertise
- Serve on a Non-Profit Board
- Volunteer and Mentor
- Ask for Referrals
This a hefty list of ways to start building thought leadership in your sales role, but it doesn't mean you have to do them all. Pick a few from this list that feel the most like you, and relate best to your prospects, and get started. Once you feel confident in these efforts, you can continue to build on your list using the list of ideas above!
Over time, you'll become a sales professional that gets more buzz, more respect, and more referrals! You'll become more trusted and valued by prospects, provide informative information to share in your sales process, and find that your proposals become accepted more readily.
*Editor's note: this blog was originally published in September 2018 and has since been updated.