What makes people want to listen to you or see you as a resource? It seems that if you can answer this, you have the potential to be a thought leader. There are some pretty elementary tips that we should have down pat by now, such as “listen to them” and “challenge traditional thinking”.
But plenty of people have mastered these tips and still aren’t thought leaders. This doesn’t mean that there is a magic “secret” to becoming a thought leader. Rather, it’s an act of balancing multiple factors in a consistent manner over a long period of time. Let’s break this down below so we can understand the 3 essential qualities that make a thought leader in the sales realm:
Be in the Discussion
Before you can be the owner of a popular, well-respected blog, you have to immerse yourself in the communities that you want to be part of. Whether this is in the form of a Linkedin discussion group or an annual sales conference, your face and name need to be making consistent appearances. You are solely your reputation to the majority of the world, and it’s hard to build a good reputation if no one knows who you are…
I started this section with the assumption that you want to be the owner of a popular, well-respected blog (because if you want to be a sales thought leader, you should want that). Part of being a sales thought leader is thinking outside the box, going above what’s expected of more traditional sales roles. As CEO of Plazabridge Group, Teresa Spangler, writes “Think in blog posts. Learn the art of “Top Ten”, “Key Ideas”, “Next Big Things” thinking to enhance your unique perspective. Being able to rattle off a list of creative perspectives around a prospect’s needs and interests is the equivalent to the Rule of 3 in Toastmasters.” (Don’t know the Rule of 3? Click here.)
Know What You’re Talking About
Being a sales thought leader is more than just staying up to date on the latest sales technologies and sales methods. Of course, this is an important piece, but a thought leader pulls from the past, present and future to get a more multi-dimensional view of what they’re talking about. Even more, they pull from their personal experiences and others’ perspectives to help create a discussion. Discussions are where new ideas are born.
For example, Consensus has an infographic on “The History of Selling” because we realized that if we’re talking about sales methodologies, we should first elaborate on how sales started. Taking a concept like “social selling” and discussing how it started, where it is today and where it’s going, help gives people a clean outline and way of thinking about a concept that might be new to them.
Who doesn’t want to sound like an expert? But you’ll hurt yourself more by rushing the process of learning and trying to share it with everyone if you’re not delivering reliable, insightful content.
Becoming a thought leader can take a long time. Building credibility and a strong following, all while theoretically keeping up with your “regular” sales job, does not happen overnight.
The simple act of keeping up with posting content, generating discussions and reaching out to people is a full-time job itself. Developing a plan on how, when and what type of content to deliver, will really help you stay focused and motivated.
It’s easy to start off with grand intentions and hit the ground running; it’s harder weeks or months down the line when other aspects of work or life are filling your time and your blog or discussions get put on the back-burner. Particularly during the initial stages of building a following, you must develop a level of consistency. Your following wants to know that they hold more than just “back-burner” spot in your life.
Maybe There is One Secret to Being a Thought Leader…
But It’s Not Very Learnable…
The quality that all top sales thought leaders have is a genuine hunger to learn more about sales and a persistent desire to share it with the world. They have a clearly defined personal philosophy on sales that can be seen throughout their work and discussions.
Their goal isn’t to become a thought leader per say, but to simply continue improving at what they love doing – and to share it with others in the process. These days, there is so much online content available that the ratio of fluffy, wanna-be content significantly outweighs any content of value. But every once in a while, you come across a post that you can relate with – even if it’s on a topic that you know nothing about!
For example, our CEO Garin made a blog post about his experience going through fundraising for our startup, Consensus. I’ve definitely never gone through the fundraising process and this is my first experience at a startup company. Yet I could relate to the types of obstacles and issues he and his team faced during that process because the focus was about how to work together, not just on how fundraising works – and way more people can relate with the obstacles of working together over fundraising.
So if your sole goal is to become a thought leader, at least focus on pulling from personal experiences to add a relatable factor. People remember that.
Check out some of our other blog posts: