Are you filling your sales pipeline?

The ultimate goal of marketing is to generate leads to fill your sales pipeline. In a professional practice or advisory firm, traditionally, your pipeline has been based on referral business; relying on others to provide you with leads. In becoming a recognised thought leader, you can create opportunities for yourself. Thought leaders influence referral sources your firm has historically relied upon, create new referral sources, and generate leads directly from your target market.

Using influence to bring in the leads

We have seen first-hand how thought leadership has resulted in new business. A true thought leader has an innate ability to build rapport through empathy, sharing their understanding of the market, the opportunities and challenges to them. They are able to guide the market towards a future that they help to create. Naturally, when their market needs help in attaining this future, it is the thought leader that they ask.

Phil Hesketh, author ‘How to persuade and influence people’, rightly states “all people think about their own problems, pressures and selves”. Think about this statement for a moment. Think about how you approach your own buying decisions in business…you think about your needs, who has the capability to support them, who understands your business best, who you know has used a supplier before – what were their experiences? You think about your financial goals, your position in the business and your future. Eventually, you make a choice, largely based on what you want (as opposed to need).

‘Subjectivity’ still plays a big part in business decisions. In fact, in a survey on emotion in business decision-making, released by The Fortune Knowledge Group and Gyro in June 2014, 70% of respondents cited company reputation as the most influential factor. They found that executive experiences, perceptions and emotions, over analytics, are relied upon when selecting business partners. If you think of this research in the context of a thought leader, then their reputation also has the potential to exert influence over the purchase decision.

So, the key to developing a profile as a thought leader is not to ‘persuade’ your market; it is to influence them. Thought leadership will enable you to build rapport; key to developing the empathy and trust you need to influence.

Build an understanding and show your empathy

To do this, you need to take time to understand your market. By understanding what is important, and why it is important; you will be able to empathise with your target market. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Never underestimate the power of building this form of connection. It is imperative, if you want them to listen and ultimately buy from you, to understand their motivations.

Generating leads is completely different to making the sale

It is important to remember that thought leadership will not make the sale for you; the conversion is still up to you.

In a service based, business-to-business environment, there are a number of stages in attracting, nurturing and winning new business. You will need to think how each stage relates to your firm and ensure that you produce a range of communications, materials, connections and events to profile your ideas, illustrate your credentials and reach your audience.

You will need to think about how your thought leadership strategy can complement and leverage your current marketing program, and how to capture leads and draw each prospect into the next stage of your sales pipeline. This is a combination of marketing and people power, as your people are the ones who will ultimately convert the prospect into a client.

With thought leadership, you have the opportunity to develop and nurture relationships, build trust and gain endorsement; all essential stages in building the rapport and trust needed to support your prospect to become buyer ready.

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