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Thought leadership for sales enablement: Five ways content can boost sales

Gareth Lofthouse

It’s official: thought leadership and the ability to produce high-quality thinking really does win business.

We know this because FT Longitude asked more than 2,600 senior executives to rank the factors that are most important to them when they choose who to do business with.

And top of the list was “quality of a firm’s ideas and their thought leadership” – ahead of more commonplace competitive tactics such as attractive pricing, the strength of the product and a brand’s global reach, demonstrating that high-value content strengthens sales enablement.

Source: Survey of 2600 senior executives, ranked in order of most popular answer. “Thought leadership and quality of ideas” came out on top.

This is a powerful reminder that, at a time when new products are quickly commoditised, it is ideas and insight that can put your company in pole position to win business.

How thought leadership for sales enablement accelerates your business

But to really benefit from the business-generative power of thought leadership, we need to understand how that works in today’s complex and multi-stakeholder buying cycles. What exactly does it do?

  1. It helps your customer to understand and define their needs
    This stage is about engaging your customer even before they realise they have a need that you can help with. Good thought leadership identifies your customers’ emerging pain points and challenges – often articulating these in ways that surprise the audience and make them think more deeply about what kind of solution they need.
  2. It creates urgency to act on those needs
    A good thought leadership campaign includes research and evidence that underpins the need for change and innovation. But it also tells stories around this data, providing real-world examples that the customer can identify with. This left-brain/right-brain combination creates a powerful impetus to act on the recommendations you are making.
  3. It primes a preference for your brand
    Once your audience realises they have a problem, they start searching for solutions. If you can demonstrate a deep understanding of their problem and provide the expertise that addresses it, you are much more likely to come to mind when they decide to look for help.
  4. It provides ideas that resonate across the buyer group
    The days when large-scale B2B deals could be agreed with a handshake over lunch are over. Winning an enterprise-level sale nearly always requires you to impress and inform a wide range of buyers and influencers at the target customer. A software provider, for instance, typically has to have valuable insights and arguments to engage CFOs, CEOs and procurement as well as the CTO and CIO. A well-designed thought leadership programme will deliver targeted insights for each of these groups.
  5. It transcends the transactional sale to create long-term value
    Thought leadership provides your sales team with the data and evidence that helps customers to make their decisions. This means it can also help them to seal the deal. But crucially, it starts a longer-term relationship with the client that goes far beyond transactional selling. The customer’s engagement with your brand allows for ongoing consultation and the sharing of further ideas and expertise – so thought leadership becomes a sales enablement tool that builds more value and ROI into the relationship over time.


Two of our campaigns that have won business

1. Sales enablement for Radisson Hotel Group

2. Sales enablement for DNV

To see more examples of our work, explore our case studies here.

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About the author: Gareth Lofthouse

Gareth manages FT Longitude’s growing commercial team as they continue to advise some of the biggest B2B companies in the world on their thought leadership strategy. He works with clients to design thought leadership that delivers maximum commercial impact, both in terms of building client relationships and improving brand visibility.

Before joining FT Longitude, he spent nine years as editorial director for EMEA at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Gareth was instrumental in building the EIU’s thought leadership and survey business, and he has overseen hundreds of custom projects for the Economist’s clients across a range of industries and subject areas. Before that, Gareth led an editorial and creative team for a PR and marketing agency. He has also held several senior editorial positions in business and technology publishing.

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Influence and impact: The true measures of successful content

The best B2B content and messaging doesn’t just inform its audience or impress them with its thinking – it influences and inspires them, too.

What does it really mean when we say we have influenced an audience, and what do we want the outcome to be? How do we do it, and how do we know it has worked?

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