7 Sep 2010
This is the third in a series of articles on how thought leadership underpins the news sales approach.
Over the past few years, there has been an understandable spotlight on the sales pipeline. Companies the world over have sent their employees on refresher and extra training courses while executives have focused intently on the health of the pipeline.
The same questions have been asked over and over: “What is the best way to fill our pipeline?”; “How do we interest our target publics in our product/service during these tough times?”; “How do we get in front of our clients and prospects and have conversations with them?”; and so on.
None of this is new. Filling the new business pipeline is one of a company’s biggest challenges.
Most of us are aware of the 20-4-1 rule – for every 20 prospects you call, four will entertain your proposals and only one will bite. When it comes to pipeline, we all know the drill – keep one step ahead, know your audience, have conversations, know the sector, find solutions, listen to the client, etc, etc.
The problem is that there is a new marketing and sales malaise – people are tired of being marketed and sold to in the traditional manner.
Thought leadership will position you as the expert
What price then to have your prospects already vested in your brand because they recognise your company as the expert or ‘go to’ source for information in their sector? This is probably not going to happen through traditional sales or marketing channels. Rather to achieve this outcome you need thought leadership.
Thought leadership is about arming your team with the relevant insights about your or your prospect’s sector so that you can hold in-depth conversations with them about the most important challenges they face. These conversations should be backed by a feast of interesting and relevant content backed up by supporting collateral as well as presentations, one-on-one meetings, roundtables, forums, etc.
Thought leadership is about valuable insights
What better way to drive your pipeline than by offering your prospects something they really value – information and insights about their sector, their issues, their challenges. How refreshing to them and to your team to be able to drop the ‘hard sell’ and to have conversations that you know really matter to them and that develop even deeper insights of their business.
This is thought leadership in its truest form.
For 10 years or more, management consultancies have filled their pipelines and generated interest from their target publics through clever thought leadership. I’m not talking about putting out a bit of content here and there but rather through targeted thought leadership strategies that receive the right amount of senior management input as well as resources and budget.
Thought leadership delivers six key things
A good thought leadership campaign can deliver the following to your business:
1. An alignment of your interests with your prospects showing your deep understanding of their issues
2. Differentiation from the competition
3. Increased credibility and an enviable position as a trusted advisor
4. Less resistance to pricing and a vindication of their purchasing decision
5. Creates brand evangelists from within your own customer ranks
6. Delivers a longer-term, thought leadership conversation platform beyond the sale
Any business looking to fill its pipeline should think about taking the time and effort to invest properly into a long-term, strategic, thought leadership campaign.
A well-packaged, well-presented thought leadership campaign will deliver a refreshed and more relevant way of engaging with your clients as well as your prospects. More importantly it will deliver a more sustainable and authentic way of filling your pipeline pre and post the sale.
Let me know if you have had any success changing from a traditional sales and marketing approach to one which is thought leadership led. I’d love to hear from you.
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