Back in the early 90s when I was selling telecom related stuff, cold calling was a great way to get new business.
This was the dawn of telecom deregulation here in Canada. And generating appointments over the telephone was like shooting fish in a barrel. Any idiot with a little epidermal density could do it.
But as time went on… the market became increasingly sophisticated and saturated. And many sales reps started to crash and burn.
I made a point of listening to them on the phone and casually questioning them about what they were doing. And it was easy to see why they were struggling.
The market had changed. And they hadn’t. They were still delivering the same old one-size-fits-all sales pitch to anybody who’d listen.
And by dumb luck, should a prospect betray even the slightest flicker of interest, BAM, the rep would be all over them like a dirty shirt, pushing for an appointment — ready to make a mad dash across town to meet with them. These reps seemed oblivious to a simple concept I call — selling from strength.
Every company I worked for had different strengths…
My strategy was simply to target prospects that could potentially benefit from those strengths. Those were the companies I called. The rest I ignored.
Management sneered at this approach, but it soon made me one of the most successful salespeople in the entire region.
Stubborn refusal to waste time trying to jam square pegs into round holes allowed me to thrive …
Every sales pitch I made was relevant and custom tailored to the target. And my probing, searching-for-a-fit style was non-threatening and disarming.
Eventually cold calling went lame, and I started using lead generation letters and postcards to generate inquiries. But the “selling to strengths” strategy remained.
I still use it today, almost twenty years later — online. To me, it just seems wrong trying to sell something to someone if it’s not the very best fit for their needs.
Despite what you may have come to believe, money is not the strongest motivator your business has to offer you.
What really motivates you is the idea that you’re bringing something unique and important to people they can’t quite get anywhere else. This is what makes your values and ideals come alive. It’s what gives you a sense of usefulness, and worth, and purpose.
There’s no doubt that basing your business on unique strength and targeting your marketing only toward people who can benefit uniquely from that strength frees you to market much more aggressively — with a level of conviction and pride and passion that’s impossible to fake.
But what constitutes unique strength?
When looking for existing unique strengths that you can market… and in building new unique strengths into your business… there are essentially three broad areas for you to consider.
What your business does: There’s no such thing as a totally unique business. You have competitors who can more-or-less fulfill the same functions you do. The “more or less part” is sometimes significant.
When I was in telecom, there was a long laundry list of industry service offerings. Some were staples that every company offered. Others were specialties.
For some companies, their strength was the ability to offer a wider range of services and the convenience of one stop shopping.
And occasionally, some company would come up with a breakthrough. For a time, they were the only vendor to offer some capability or another.
How your business does what it does: Other companies I worked for offered superior performance or capabilities in one or two specific areas.
One company I remember specialized in providing and guaranteeing especially high up-time on high capacity circuits between specific city pairs.
Other companies claimed to have superior up-time, but this was the only one at the time that could show its prospective clients how its circuits were engineered with multiple redundant paths and 60-millisecond rerouting in the event of a failure.
Who your business does what it does for: Still other companies found themselves — for one reason or another — providing services primarily to one specific subset of the overall market.
This meant they could claim and demonstrate a superior understanding of the needs and challenges experienced by that market. It also meant they could create and deliver custom-tailored products and services to meet those needs.
Regardless of your differentiation, the key to success in selling is to stay true to the sweet spot where your uniqueness meets with the needs and wants of the market. And to continually develop new unique strengths that are highly relevant to the evolving needs and wants of the market.
And so, as you make your plans for the year ahead, keep this idea of unique strength in mind. How can you communicate your existing unique strengths more effectively to the market? How can you develop more of them?
Mark a day or two on your calendar as “think days” were you disconnect from everything. Vow not to turn on your computer that day. Swear you won’t set foot in your office. Leave the house with nothing but a thick scratch pad and lock yourself in a room somewhere without distraction — nothing but you and your thoughts.
Yes, it will be uncomfortable for the first little while without anything to entertain you. But that’s the point. As your mind stills, creativity is unleashed.
I am reminded of this famous Franz Kafka quote:
“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait: just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
When there is nothing but you and a pad of paper to record your thoughts, ideas will come. Not just creative inspiration, but the kind of crystal clarity that will inspire you to massive action.
Warm up by asking yourself a few key questions…
What assets are at my disposal… what do I have to work with here? And you make a list.
Prompt yourself with the question “what else” until you’ve pushed yourself to uncover all of your assets — your time, talent, relationships, money, products, clients, prospect databases, software, service providers, contractors, employees, and so on.
You may be surprised by the length of this list. Every business has under-utilized assets that can be put to work.
What does the market want that it’s not getting now? Put yourself in the shoes of the different people you serve.
What annoys them? What frustrates them? What could they accomplish if those irritations and limitations were removed?
And conversely, what’s on their wish list? What are they secretly dreaming about that you can help them achieve?
Don’t crap on any of your ideas at this stage. Just let your imagination run wild. Anything goes. Stretch your possibility-thinking muscles.
And finally, put the two lists together and search for synergies.
I guarantee you’ll see things in a different perspective.
Disconnecting from busy work… putting pen to paper in prolonged solitude… and demanding creative solutions never fails to lead to big ideas — breakthrough ideas!
There’s nothing better for rekindling your passion and excitement. And gaining the crucial confidence and clarity you need to spring your ideas into action.
Until next time, Good Selling!