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Selling in a digital world, the thought leader way

Karthik Nagendra, author of The Thought Leader Way, writes how showcasing thought leadership will be a key differentiator in the digital selling world

Karthik Nagendra

In an increasingly connected world, there has been a gradual shift from traditional selling methods to digital selling. This has been further accelerated by the current Covid situation. According to a  recent research by Mckinsey, covering B2B businesses across 11 countries in seven sectors, survey respondents see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions. Almost 90% of sales have gone digital and over 50% believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before Covid-19. As more and more businesses adapt to this new normal, it is important to understand that showcasing thought leadership will be a key differentiator in the digital selling world.

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Understanding digital selling

Today, we exist in a world that’s driven by technology. From the way we communicate to the way we go about our shopping — every minute task can be done at the click of a button. Furthermore, the advent of transparent marketplaces coupled with the proliferation of online content, digital communities, and social media is allowing buyers to increasingly self-educate when evaluating a product or service. So, as a result, rather than relying on cold calling, sales teams and leaders are now learning to become trusted guides in their area of expertise and build valuable relationships online.


With the massive adoption of digital mediums such as social media, and other digital tools and processes, these trusted leaders or ‘thought leaders’ have learned to listen and share their opinions with the intended target. They understand the challenges a buyer might face and support these buyers to find a solution. A huge part of digital sales is done via networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you work in sales, chances are you might ask, “Why should I learn to engage with my prospect via digital channels?” The simple answer is that digital selling works.

The B2B buyer attitude is very different today compared to the last decade. One crucial driver behind this change is the major increase in the level of competition and disruption in the digital marketplace along with the huge buzz around social media. Customers now have access to a much broader roster of products and services as a result of increasingly shorter product lifecycles and new entrants that entice customers with exciting alternatives to consider. This requires sales teams to work closely with marketing teams to showcase strong thought leadership that influences buyer decision-making.


Why embrace digital selling

It is imperative that digital selling is at the centre of your sales strategy for the following reasons:

  • Reach and engage more potential leads: As the core of digital selling is an online world, this allows you to reach and engage potential customer where they already are more effectively than in traditional world.
  • Increase lead to close ratio: According to Sales Benchmark Index, digital selling has higher lead-to-close ratio among other prospecting methods.
  • Fine-tune efforts more dynamically: Digital selling offers data and insights that help you fine tune your approach and strategies more quickly and thereby get better ROI for your efforts.

The key, however, lies in creating and promoting content that showcases strong thought leadership. According to a recent research by Endelman, over 42% B2B decision makers are willing to pay a premium to service providers who demonstrate strong thought leadership through their content.

Role of a thought leader in digital selling

The role of a thought leader is to make sure the selling goals are aligned with the overall strategy of the company, garner support with customers in the industry, and provide a sense of direction. Keeping this in mind, you need to ensure that your idea of a thought leader or the thought leader of your choice is not just respected in the organisation, but also has a certain level of influence and charisma with your customers as well. He/she needs to understand the goals and outcomes of your digital selling programme. A thought leader needs to be leveraged early in the selling process to gain support through practices such as an internal selling programme, industry data, and expert quotes. When you promote these facets along with other industry statistics, you establish the thought leader’s credibility and persuade customers with hard data and insights.

Having an established social footprint is key to be a successful thought leader in the digital selling landscape. Selecting the right digital channels that work best for you and your organisation is strategic — understand what areas of interest you would like to be associated with and how much expertise you have in these areas. Forging a partnership between the marketing and sales teams to accurately leverage thought leadership requires both teams to think like customers and walk this journey together.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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