The Power of Being an Insider: Thought Leadership
By Colleen Francis
Whether you are a selling professional or the head of a team of sales reps, if you want to consistently meet and exceed sales targets in your organization, there are fundamental business habits that you need to emulate every day. As a seasoned sales trainer and coach, I would like to share with you today one of those key habits, and show you how you can implement it right away in your work.
Get inside the head of your buyer
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” That’s how my old friend and mentor, Zig Ziglar, sums up the secret to sales success. This isn’t a tactic, he explains. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of looking at the world that is rooted in doing what’s right.
Sales is about mastering the art of being persuasive. You don’t achieve that by being pushy or domineering. You achieve it by getting inside the head of your buyer, learning what matters to them and persistently finding great solutions to the problems they have.
This is an approach in which the outcome of your efforts also happens to reap important benefits for you. By being passionate about what you know and sharing it with others, you stay on your buyer’s radar, leapfrogging the competition and becoming entrenched as to number-one go-to person for your product or service.
This is especially important in large enterprise selling. By showing an understanding of others’ problems, you demonstrate that you are a valuable resource who communicates with empathy. You create a base of thought leadership, which transcends what you are selling and becomes something that is unique and greatly sought-after by customers of all kinds.
Work hard enough at building your base of thought leadership and you (along with what you have to say) become ideally positioned to take the express elevator to the top of your buyer’s organization. Let’s look at the steps you can implement in your own organization today to make that happen.
Leverage your expertise. Invest in developing think pieces that look at business problems in-depth, including white papers, research papers and statistical surveys. Associating your name with these products helps deepen the value of your brand and gives your audience something useful that they can bring back to the office and implement.
Solid research has value—not just in terms of the insights that data can provide, but also in how it shows what others are doing in a market. A recent study by DemandGen shows that almost half (44%) of executives determine the impact of a solution through other adopters. They also found that nearly 95% of recent buyers said their choice was guided in part by those who “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”
Just as you are shaped by your surroundings, you also can influence people by the places you choose to be. Invest your time in attending networking events in your area, be a guest speaker or even become a corporate sponsor in support of something you are passionate about.
By doing this, you match your talk with action. You demonstrate that in addition to your knowledge on a subject, you care enough to share it with others. What you know and what you have to say has immense value.
Don’t just stop there! Consider doing a co-presentation with one of your existing clients, showcasing a live case study for others to learn from. It’s a great way to tell a story in a memorable way.
Real-life case studies
Promises can be compelling, but there is no substitute for proof of results. That’s what case studies deliver to your prospect or buyer. They showcase what someone can expect when doing business with you. Just as important, they provide tangible solutions to problems that your audience may also be encountering.
There’s one more important benefit: case studies are highly useful in situations where you can’t name the customer (for legal or other reasons). Such cases can actually work to your advantage, because then the story isn’t at all about name-dropping, but purely about problem solving.
A great case study should identify three things. First, it should succinctly identify a key challenge that your customer was facing. It also should show the solutions you provided, and third, it should provide meaningful, measurable results that you helped a customer achieve.
Testimonials are uniquely powerful thought leadership tools, because they prove to others what you already know is true about your product or service. However, you need to implement them properly to be effective. They must adhere to the three Cs: they need to be current, compelling and credible. The quotation needs to say something more than “wow, great service, thanks.”
As with case studies, a testimonial should identify a problem and provide a solution. In other words: don’t let yourself get all caught up in testimonials that just says nice things about you. It’s really not about you. It needs to be about how you can help that new prospect or buyer solve their problem. Automated services, such as TestimonialDirector.com are a great way to make full use of this powerful selling tool.
Make thought leadership part of your business culture
Implementing these activities will go a long way to positioning yourself and your product or service as top-of-mind among your buyers. It all starts by looking at things as an insider and be keen to share what you know. Remember, it’s a team effort. When you are part of a large organization, you can’t do all of this yourself. That’s why you need to project thought leadership at a corporate level and make it part of your business culture.
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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