Are You an SMB Thought Leader & Trusted Advisor?
In the best-selling book “The Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell introduced the 10,000-hour rule, whereby he estimates that it takes 10,000 hours of experience in a field to become world-class in that pursuit.
The Rule is somewhat controversial, but Gladwell’s point is well taken: Dedication and experience are the keys to becoming an expert, in whatever field you choose. By that measurement, many of my colleagues are “experts.”
And I don’t say that lightly. They know their stuff, and could easily become a trusted advisor and thought leader if they wanted. Are you one of them? If so, your customers need you.
Most people, about 80% of customers, go to trusted advisors before making a buying decision. They’d rather get information from a trusted advisor than from an unknown salesperson who doesn’t have expertise and may not have their best interests at heart.
While that’s especially true in the consumer market, the same goes in the small- and midsize-business market, where channel partners can be the trusted go-to source and grow their business and influence by becoming savvy “thought leaders.”
But let me stress: This isn’t about becoming a walking commercial for solutions that you sell and implement. It’s about delivering expertise and leadership in areas that your company is focused on–whether it’s a broad topic like security or an industry-specific area like SAAS in manufacturing.
When you deliver your views in a thoughtful format–on social media, on the Web, at events, or radio or TV–it can help you stand out in the marketplace. You are delivering valuable information, not a sales pitch. Prospects respect that. SMBs looking to harness technology to help vault them ahead of the competition are thirsty for this type of knowledge.
So How Do You Become a Thought Leader?
It might be easier than you think. After all, as Gladwell implies, you already have the knowledge; you just need to figure out how to put it on display. There are three areas I would recommend you focus on to start building your thought-leader reputation:
2. Get the data
3. Lean on your vendors
There is a reason why used-car salesmen have a stereotypical reputation. As soon as you walk on the lot, they start telling you how great a beat-up, old junker is. You know it’s a lie. They know it’s a lie. And everybody feels a bit greasy. We are not used-car salesmen.
Authenticity is key in every relationship. As SAP CEO Bill McDermott often says, “Trust is the ultimate human currency.” Don’t try to sell anyone on what you do or how good your company is at implementing a certain solution. Give good information in a concise and thoughtful way. It’s that simple!
Let me take it a step further: Authenticity needs to permeate every format you use–in-person, live and recorded webinars, email newsletter, tweets, LinkedIn posts, etc.
The Data Speaks Volumes
Whenever you can, incorporate relevant data that fits your story in a cohesive way to make the most impact. Stories, examples and concrete information is the best way to authenticate your expertise.
You can find data points anywhere. From your own analytics and business intelligence where you are gleaning interesting trends; from speeches you hear at conferences; or even industry and research analyst reports.
A report’s findings can be powerful data points that you can use to support most any topic.
Lean On Your Vendors
You don’t have to do all the work yourself. Look to leverage the treasure trove of research studies your vendors produce. Then use that information to help craft your own story.
Information, Not Pitches, Win the Day
In a world where SMBs get bombarded everyday with sales pitches, it’s the savvy channel partners who deliver clear and powerful thought leadership–i.e, expertise–who will win the long game. Thought leadership will help you evolve into a trusted advisor for your customers, and that’s the ultimate goal.