Thought leaders earn respect. Sales professionals who distinguish themselves as being thought leaders are more likely to earn respect and get the deal closed. I believe this passionately and completely. Sales professionals as thought leaders? Is that an oxymoron? No! You heard it here first!
I think that it is common for people to think of a thought leader as someone who must be very highly educated, has won awards, or is a published author – perhaps a scientist or a famous writer. This might be true to a certain extent, but here is the rub: We are all capable of being thought leaders in our own right. Owning the title of thought leader means nothing more than making sure you are educated and passionate about something and being able to articulate that experience or expertise to a client or prospect. If you have expertise in selling your product and/or service, you can claim thought leader status.
As sales professionals, we must always be thinking about how to raise our profession and our sales community as a whole to new and unprecedented levels of respect. We can do that in many ways. For this article, I am talking about being known as someone who can speak with authority and intelligence about the field in which you sell. For example, if you are selling knowledge management systems to catalyze education, you need to know what is happening in the space, trends, and developments, the current thinking of the experts, the state of technology, and so on. You must be able to express an opinion and converse intelligently and authoritatively on your services beyond the clicks, bits, and bytes of the actual product. If you cannot have a discussion on theory and be able to hold your own with the experts, you are not a thought leader. You run the risk of being “just the salesperson” in the client’s eyes. Being a thought leader increases your value to the client. You get the appointments and the client’s time. That is money in the bank.
What Does It Take Be a Thought Leader?
Becoming a thought leader is not difficult. In fact, it is easy, and if you like to learn, it’s fun! Make it your business to educate yourself by reading, attending industry meetings, and networking! Know everything you can about your space. When I was selling online education, I made it my business to learn and understand how people learn and to know what the adult learning theory means. I talked to everyone I could and was able to really converse with the experts. My clients knew I took the time to learn and respected me for doing it. They trusted me to make sure I knew what was happening. The results were better relationships, fun sales calls, effective networking, and bigger deals.
Everything you absorb will help you know your space better; this empowers you to educate your clients and prospects. Elevate your sales calls to discussions on concepts, developments in the market, and futures. Take a dive into the cerebral pool with your clients. You will earn more respect, and this creates a more natural bridge to being a better sales professional. Being a thought leader shows you care about what you do and about your clients’ business and their passions! Being a thought leader in your own right means you can connect at a new and more exciting level.
So, go climb the knowledge mountain and claim your thought leader status.