In today’s dynamic and highly competitive marketplace, sales leaders don’t just face the challenge of ensuring targets are hit but also in driving innovation and inspiring their teams. As a sales leader, your success hinges on more than just numbers—it’s about influence, insight, and impact. This is where Thought Leadership can be a critical asset.

By developing a clear Thought Leadership strategy, you and your team can enhance your status as Trusted Advisors, shape market trends and set the pace for others to follow. Through sharing your unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise with prospective and existing customers, you can inspire confidence and foster a deeper connection with your audience.

In embracing Thought Leadership, you are not simply selling products and/or services; ultimately you are selling trust and credibility. According to the 2022 LinkedIn State of Sales Report:

“87% of buyers say they are more likely to consider a product or service if the salesperson changes how they think. However, only half of buyers say this happens often. Challenging buyers’ perspectives remains one of the biggest missed opportunities in sales. It’s telling that only one-third of salespeople choose it as one of their top three factors for helping close a deal.”

In this blog, we’ll delve into the compelling reasons why Thought Leadership matters for sales leaders. From establishing credibility in your field to building stronger relationships with customers and empowering your team, Thought Leadership is a powerful tool that can transform your sales approach. Join us as we explore how you can elevate your influence, enhance your reputation, and ultimately drive your success as a team.

The Power of Knowledge Sharing

Many organizations don’t appreciate and/or understand the power of knowledge sharing. This therefore represents a unique opportunity for businesses and their leaders to cross-pollinate knowledge with clients and strategic partners to enable growth and innovation through the power of Thought Leadership.

It is critical that we are strategic and collaborative in how we engage with prospective customers in the process of change and the role that knowledge sharing plays.

Thought Leadership as a Growth Strategy

Thought Leadership takes a systematic approach to delivering new ideas, relevant advice and compelling solutions. It provides sales and account management teams with a stream of educational and advisory content that helps to open doors, make more effective sales calls, differentiate themselves and deliver trusted advice.

It is a different type of growth strategy for some organizations. Take consulting and professional service companies such as McKinsey, PwC, Deloitte, IBM, etc – all have been at the forefront of Thought Leadership. Companies now need to assess, package and share their own best practices, knowledge-sets, case studies and highly skilled and talented leaders to serve as value-added resources to fuel business growth.

Sellers are the key point of differentiation

In today’s world, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate purely on product features. Buyers are looking for sellers who bring new ideas and insights. If you want to win business, you need to educate and inspire buyers in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Organizations that are able to generate their own insights are better able to differentiate themselves from their competitors and capture their customers’ attention.

Our customers and partners will certainly notice if we do. Within each industry, there may be a handful of trusted companies that buyers automatically turn to for new perspectives and expert advice on the challenges they face. By sharing insights into the topics our customers and partners care about, we can build our reputation as industry leaders. This strengthens our brand and leads to positive commercial outcomes.

The Business Case for Thought Leadership

There is clear evidence that overall, buyers value quality and timely Thought Leadership, and they are consuming more of it.

According to recent research:

  • 60% of senior executives say their need for Thought Leadership has increased over the past 12 months  – Momentum Itsma (2023)

So, what is driving this increased demand? Why does Thought Leadership matter to our customers and partners? More than ever, they need practical support to help them make better decisions. The same research highlighted just how important Thought Leadership is to buyers:

  • 100% of buyers say they will take some action when Thought Leadership hits the mark
  • 87% say Thought Leadership is important or critical when assessing a new advisor.

If you are able to achieve Thought Leader status, chances are you are well on your way to establishing yourself as a Trusted Advisor. After all, decision makers consume Thought Leadership in order to make better decisions, to help evaluate the expertise and insight of potential advisors and partners, and to understand best practice.

The Challenges

However, there are a number of challenges to consider:

1. Sellers and Marketers often undervalue Thought Leadership in driving purchasing decisions and building brand awareness. There is a common misconception amongst sales teams that Thought Leadership is all about writing white papers, conducting proprietary research or speaking at a conference. Irrespective of our individual role, there are many ways you and your sales teams can improve Thought Leadership capability… Simply by sharing relevant articles on social media, educating yourselves on what is going on in your industry or within your customers’ and partners’ industries. All of these contribute to enhancing your status as a Thought Leader.

 2. Even though a sizeable amount of Thought Leadership is being created in the B2B space, the majority of Decision-Makers consuming it are disappointed in its overall quality. This can pose a risk to the reputation of those sharing it. We need to ensure we share only high-quality insights that are relevant for our audience group.

3. Most organizations don’t measure the effectiveness of their Thought Leadership and as such are unable to assess business impact, including how shared content is impacting customer behaviour. For example, a recent Edelman/LinkedIn survey found that only 23% of marketers can tie the Thought Leadership they produce to sales and business wins. This can lead to a negative cycle of inadequate investment, poor quality content and an underestimation of Thought Leadership’s impact — both positive and negative.

Thought Leadership as an Enabler

What Thought Leadership looks like may differ depending on your team. However, regardless of team or even role, being seen as a Thought Leader is the ultimate aim for the successful seller or account manager. We can use Thought Leadership to increase our reputation in the marketplace, to increase our personal credibility, to build trust with our customers and to help market new products and services…

Understandably though, when there’s such a huge volume of information out there, it can be overwhelming for our teams…

“Where can I access the latest developments in my customer’s industry or marketplace?”

“How do I convert that information into a powerful sales tool?”

“How is any of this relevant to me in Telesales, or even Account Management?”

“Surely Thought Leadership is Marketing’s job?“

With so much information available for almost every purchasing decision, an effective Thought Leader cuts through the clutter and the noise that often accompanies the buying process. They help educate their customers either by highlighting things they weren’t previously aware of or by helping them think differently around a certain topic or issue.  

Furthermore, well executed Thought Leadership can achieve a whole host of sales enablement purposes. It can allow your team to:

  • Demonstrate competitive differentiation. Just having an opinion, or sharing insights can be how you differentiate from your competition!
  • Help clients discover solutions – and accept your solutions as their solution
  • Keep in touch with clients and prospects. It gives them a great excuse to reconnect
  • Drive lead generation
  • Support the pitch process
  • Deepen existing relationships
  • Align multiple stakeholders within the customer

Thought Leadership helps your team to provide prospective and existing customers with the answers to their biggest questions. Of course, those questions (and the corresponding insights) may well vary depending on the size and type of customer.

Whatever the situation, effective Thought Leadership:

  • Is relevant
  • Explores new/different perspectives
  • Includes clear guidance
  • Is action-oriented
  • Is forward-looking, backed by evidence-based data
  • Is distributed effectively
  • Is timely and concise

In conclusion

Establishing yourself as a Thought Leader is a powerful way for you and your teams to connect with B2B Decision Makers. However for Thought Leadership to be a differentiator, it must go beyond presenting an idea. Given the choice, B2B Decision Makers want to receive insights that are tailored to their needs and their sector.

As we are all well aware, the world of B2B sales is a turbulent place. Those sales and account management teams that can demonstrate they genuinely understand customer needs, who can educate those customers with high quality tailored Thought Leadership, that sparks new and different ways of thinking will have the greatest success.

As we have explored, strong Thought Leadership content not only strengthens our reputation but can ultimately positively impact RFP invitations, wins, and pricing structures.

If you can take conscious steps to improve your team’s Thought Leadership capability, you can expect to improve credibility, leading to increased opportunities and sales.

And that is why Thought Leadership Matters!

If you would like any help developing your team or organization’s Thought Leadership capability, get in touch!