To be able to challenge your own thinking, and as a result challenge other people's thinking, is what our buyers want today.
Having the confidence to back your ideas and create your own intellectual property provides enormous value and sets you apart.
Lead with your own thoughts:
The ability to lead with your own thoughts is crucial in order for a salesperson to build on what they know and to make sense of information that is floating around them. I have to make a huge admission here and admit that I used to subscribe to the Financial Review but it seriously meant nothing to me. I got no joy in reading it as I didn't know what to do with that information nor did I know how to effectively incorporate it into a commercial conversation. My understanding of the Dow Jones, acquisitions and a plethora of other business related articles was zero and like many salespeople this approach impacts your effectiveness in higher level conversations.
Be a Challenger:
Being able to read through different lenses by agreeing with what someone says and adding your own ideas to it, or taking a piece and challenging it, allows you to share what insights are relevant, helps you understand the context it could relate to with your customer and initiates a higher level conversation.
By doing so, you can then enter your customer's world at a very different and unique level. This will not only allow you greater rapport but shows that you care, and as a result you will more than likely elicit so much more information.
The ability to focus on the conversation by leveraging thought leadership builds superior relationships because they are based on business value. This is so far removed from the 'relationship builder' who is friends with everyone, playing golf and chatting over coffee hoping to move further toward success and not creating any type of disruptive thinking or bold tension.
Salespeople who have ticked the box and can exercise the ability to lead with their thinking are able to create a certain amount of tension or mild conflict by having customers think differently about their business and by initiating change through being authoritative. This does not mean being aggressive but does mean valuing your offering strongly and articulating that value.
Here are some ways you can become a thought leader in your role as a sales professional:
- Sell yourself on the value of you as an individual and authority in your field
- Become a writer and a speaker so that you can amplify your ideas and sell your thoughts
- Sell yourself on the value of what your offering provides to help your buyer grow their business
- Discover what your customer wants from a long term relationship as well as what they don't want and align yourself through strong case studies and stories
- Discover ways your customers can compete more effectively by helping them save money or make money and know the top three challenges someone in their role faces
- Identify two or three topics within your industry that you know as much, if not more about than your customer, and be able to represent it statistically and logically (left brain) or creatively and story based (right brain)
- Create a strong relationship with your customer first and then leverage it to deliver insights, distinctions and trends within the marketplace
- Don't be afraid to suggest strongly that your customer 'do this' or 'do that' ensuring you back it up with valid business reasons
- Know what makes you unique and the ecological benefit your solution offers
- Leverage social channels to amplify your message
- Don't water down your proposed solution by the use of your language. For example, I was with a salesperson who said, 'we can help by just changing this little thing'. It doesn't sound very disruptive but firstly the word 'just' will always negate the content and, secondly it also made the buyer think why bother changing? People are too busy to change the status quo for the sake of a tweak or a small change. Give them something to really change! Value the change you are proposing, ruffle some feathers if need be, create favourable tension by reframing the customer's map of the world, differentiate the sales experience and you will build a more loyal customer base.
Thought leadership is a combination of research, conviction in your abilities and the propensity to think differently and then share those thoughts to the world in a context that makes a difference.
The way you think, the way you language your thoughts and the way you act are the three key distinctions behind becoming a salesperson at the most masterful level.
Thinking is the key to the future. It has to be and whichever way you choose to view that comment cannot help but be one of your fundamental truths!
Bernadette McClelland is a sales leadership consultant based in Australia and an international keynote speaker who helps organisations, teams and leaders bridge corporate goals with revenue potential.
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