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Let’s Talk about You (and Not Me)

Many thought leaders simply don’t know how to talk about their content. It becomes obvious in formal sales conversations as well as less-formal social settings.

We’ve all been at social events where we run into that person – someone so passionate about themselves that they dominate the conversation. You try to shift the topic subtly and add your insights, but they’re so deep in their own world that they can only hear their own voice.

After a couple minutes, you’re looking for a way to gracefully exit the conversation. After ten minutes, you’ll invent family emergencies—a sick aunt or a rabid pet hamster—so that you can get away.

Thought leaders seem particularly at-risk for becoming that person. And if you think about it for a moment, it’s almost predictable.

People become thought leaders, experts with a unique point of view, because they’re passionate about a topic. They actually like to think about it deeply. And they’re eager to talk about their thought leadership insights.

It’s okay to show a little enthusiasm! A little bit makes someone interesting, but too much enthusiasm becomes a bore.

When many thought leaders build their sales and marketing narratives, they make a critical mistake. They begin the narrative by talking about “me, my content, and I.” That’s a great way to encourage people to hit the back button or look for a quick exit from the conversation.

If you want to become more effective in the business of thought leadership, you need to become a better conversationalist. You need to create room for others to join the conversation. Even better, you need to focus your attention on the other people in the room. Listen, and build a bridge between their pain points and your content. Don’t assume that connections which are obvious to you will be obvious (or even remotely interesting) to your buyer.

Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions about how you engage others:

  • How do your websites and marketing collateral create room for your buyer in the conversation?
  • Do your presentation decks and proposals focus on your expertise or your buyer’s needs?
  • What’s your ratio of talking-to-listening in sales presentations?

Just because you’re passionate doesn’t mean that buyers will be interested in your topic. You’ve spent years thinking deeply about your content and mastering its nuances. But, if you want your ideas to spread and make an impact on the world, you need to turn the spotlight away from you — and even away from your topic. You need to focus the attention on others.

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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