There are three methods that you can choose from to emulate stand-out sellers—even in crowded markets where products or services are hard to distinguish from each other.
First, you can focus on your product: creating new premium lines, being choosy about your customers and making the decision to either be a niche provider or a generalist. Second, you can focus on process. That means leveraging technology properly, being deliberate in your choices of how you work, applying valuable lessons from the B2C world, and finding better ways to connect personally in ways that are meaningful to your customers.
The third and final method involves focusing on people.
We all like to talk about how people are our #1 resource. They are. And, like any resource, we also have to recognize that the way we use our people as resources has to change: consistent with the ways our buyers have changed. If we don’t, we’ll soon find our most valuable resources are obsolete and irrelevant.
Let’s talk specifically about what you as an individual sales rep or as a sales leader can do to bring changes to the way you think about managing people so you can grow your business in any marketplace—even a crowded one.
Hybrids eclipse purebreds
Stop treating salespeople—whether we’re talking about your staff or talking about yourself—as purebred performers. It’s just not enough anymore to be good at just prospecting or closing. Or worse yet, farming or hunting. Your best people in today’s market need to be skilled in all selling skills
Hybrids are eclipsing the purebreds, and you need to differentiate yourself and your team by enhancing your brand with mixed skills. Bring in more people who have deep technical knowledge, and boost their selling skills. Or hire strong marketers who can sell, teach your sellers to become product experts. It’s your responsibility to be the best resource that your customer has in that marketplace. Period.
Be a force that brings people together
It’s not enough to just network anymore. Be a resource to others. Connect your customers with referrals to help them grow their business. Offer them seats on your customer advisory panel and listen to them. By doing this, you bring your customers together not just for feedback on how you’re doing. You also share best practices and insights and benchmark them against how they’re doing in the marketplace. When you become that go-to person in the eyes of your customer, you give them reason to stick with you.
Be everywhere, but be smart about it
I cover this is detail in my book Non-Stop Sales Boom. Being everywhere for your customer means that you make full use of a wide range of media channels available to you. This is crucial. Especially in a crowded, noisy marketplace. Doing so is how you achieve a state of—to borrow a title from my good friend Linda Popkey—"Being Heard Above the Noise.”
Insert yourself into the conversations that your customers are having. But be smart about your social media choices. Don’t just show up and start talking. Listen first. Be strategic about how you use each one. And check your biases at the door. Don’t just assume that LinkedIn, for example, is nothing but a job seeker’s platform. Nearly 75% of your customers are on there. Understand why they are there, and then meet that need.
Summing up: You are the biggest differentiator
Whether you choose the product, process or people method of becoming a stand-out seller, the differentiation effect has one common denominator: you. That means that no matter which of these methods you choose, each one reflects how your customer is going to see you and how they are going to feel about doing business with you. Just as important, you have a responsibility in deciding for yourself to see your role as a resource to your customer and as a profit center for your business. That mindset starts with you.