Since my layoff two weeks ago, I’ve gotten a refresher in some fundamental marketing basics. I caught myself–or rather other people caught me–falling into an old pattern: talking about what I do instead of talking about what makes me different. I’ve also seen a lot of other people doing the same thing, not realizing the disservice they are doing themselves in the marketplace.
I started off in my job search talking about how I know how to write web copy, press releases, blogs, e-mail newsletters, and a number of other things. Here’s the problem with that approach: there are plenty of writers out there who know how to do those same things, and many of them can do these things quite well. I also found that a number of employers were looking to hire writers in highly specialized fields (such as medical and technical writing), and that they were looking for a writer who had specialized in those particular areas for at least five years. I quickly came to the conclusion that if I was going to get myself employed in a timely manner, I needed to leverage my unique competitive advantages, rather than just saying that I could write.
Consider the following:
- Do you sell real estate? Lots of people know how to help home buyers and sellers. What makes you different?
- Do you sell insurance? Plenty of other insurance agents can give a rate quote and help people save money on their auto/homeowners policy. Why should someone call you instead of another agent?
- Do you sell a line of products? There are plenty of places where people can buy the same or similar products. Why should they buy it from you?
When I came to Raleigh in 2007, the first thing I did was start to visit a number of different groups and events. I noticed that in three short months, people were starting to say, “Dave knows everybody!” If you know the right people–and if the right people know and trust you–you are a huge asset to any client or employer. A quality network makes it possible for you to help just about anybody by way of making introductions. See my earlier post about being a connector for more detail about this.
Your attitude and energy.
Back in 2001, I was 285 pounds and wore a full-length black leather trench coat. My face always had a frown on it. One day, a friend was considerate enough to be brutally honest with me. She said, “Dave, people don’t talk to you because you’re unapproachable.” I knew then that my attitude needed to change. It took me the next six years to lose the weight and the attitude, but it was well-worth the effort. There is never a good time to have a bad attitude. Do you bring positive energy to a room everywhere you go? Are you the kind of person who can have a great day no matter what happens that day? (If not, make a decision to change that immediately!)
Your geographic proximity.
Being hyper-local is a big differentiator these days, especially given the escalating cost of gas. When you live and work close to the people you serve, they are more likely to be confident about working with you. Face-to-face connection builds far better trust than anything you can do over the phone or via social media. Think about who you could serve within a 5-mile radius of your home and/or office.
Your ability to solve problems without doing the work.
General contractors don’t pound nails, run wires, install pipes, or hang drywall–but they get all of these things done. What problems could you solve if you had the right people on your team? Think about this from a client or employer’s point of view. They don’t care if you do it; they only care if you can get it done. You may be able to increase the effectiveness of your marketing messages by describing the problems you can solve. (As I write this, I realize that I need to update my profile page!)
Your consistency in showing up.
Do people know where they can consistently find you? Since 2007, though, I have been attending Toastmasters every Thursday morning. I have rarely ever missed meetings. For this reason, Toastmasters has consistently provided value for me. There are a number of networking groups that I attended sporadically, and I rarely got any value from these at all. Over time, I realized that people notice when I show up consistently–and when I don’t.
The people you can serve best.
Whose situation and needs do you understand particularly well? Look at the people who have hired you in the past, particularly those who were exceptionally happy with the service you provided. What do those people have in common, and what did they say they appreciated about you? Don’t say that you can help “anybody who needs _________.” Focus on who you can “wow” with your value.
Your listening and observation skills.
You know the old saying: we have two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion. If you listen more than you talk, people take notice and appreciate it. When a client or employer is deciding who to hire, this can be enough to tip the scales. Talking too much makes you look like a know-it-all. When you make the effort to understand the other person and stand in their shoes, they quickly begin to trust you.
Where did you come from? What brought you to where you are? A number of people know that I originally came from Pennsylvania and got my first taste of sales in 2002, when I took a summer job selling kitchen knives. Those who knew me in 2007 remember when I used to go by my old handle, “The Introverted Entrepreneur.” The events in your life form a story. People like to follow stories and see where they go. Your story helps people to understand where you fit. The next time you have a chance to talk about what you do, think about how you can include a small tidbit about what led you to choose your current path instead of something else.
One final note: If you work in sales for a company that also employs other reps, don’t focus 100% of your efforts on talking about what makes your company or your company’s products different. Focus on what makes you different from the other reps who work for the same company.
Your value is like your DNA. There are things about you that no one will ever be able to come close to duplication. People have short attention spans; when you start talking, most people decide in the first 3-5 seconds whether to continue listening or whether to just tune out and nod their heads. Don’t waste your valuable airtime saying things that sound generic or typical. Talk about what makes you unique!
I believe that this is a crucial conversation and I would like to see more people engaging it. Do you think I left something important off of this list? Chime in here.
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