The Importance Of Contrast

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(By Bob McCurdy) The definition of contrast is “to exhibit unlikeness on comparison with something else.” Contrast is important in art, where it is king, as the more different anything is in comparison with something else determines the focus and attention it receives. In the art world, black ink against a white background provides the ultimate in contrast. Low contrast on the other hand is something similar, such as light gray against a white background. Contrast commands attention by sheer force of its differences. Contrast also happens to be king when it comes to selling.

Contrast for the sake of contrast is not the end game, as simply being different is not always better. It’s how you are different that matters. But being the same is never better as you’re now commoditized. You are the Chief Marketing Officer of your personal brand, so it is to your extreme benefit to create a boatload of contrast in what’s become largely a sea of sales rep sameness.

It’s not as difficult as you might expect. If you are committed and determined to make a difference for your clients, you will identify ways to create this contrast. Advertising legend David Ogilvy once put it this way: “The beginning of greatness is to be different. And the beginning of failure is to be orthodox.” So when the competition is zigging, zag. Stand out by going in a different direction. Being positively different is positively beneficial.

The effective sales professional is constantly on the lookout for and embraces every opportunity to contrast with the competition, identifying issues, problems, or challenges disguised as contrasting opportunities to separate themselves from the pack.

There are dozens of local media vendors (increasing by the week) in your market competing for your client’s time, attention, and money, so it is essential to focus extensively on being distinctive, both in your actions and your personal brand. The greater the contrast, the greater your revenue potential. It’s that simple. Those who strive to “fit in” are those who are setting themselves up to drown in that sea of sameness. What follows are some ways to create meaningful contrast, all pretty basic, but all do require some discipline:

– Be media ambidextrous. Equally comfortable with digital and traditional media assets.
– Skilled at creating coherent cross-platform marketing solutions that work. Having a marketing mindset as well as a sales mindset.
– Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’ll do it. Period.
– Know your product and your client’s business, inside and out.
– Prepare meticulously for every client interaction.
– Be on time.
– Intensely and intently listen.
– Look for new ways to improve professionally. None of us have perfected this business.
– Master all of the research/sales support resources at your fingertips. Salespeople in general tend to woefully underutilize these resources for which their companies pay big bucks.
– Treat Fridays like Tuesdays. It’s summer. Let the competition be the one to kick back on Friday afternoons.
– Practicing, drilling, and rehearsing never hurt anyone. Works for world class athletes. Works for world class salespeople.
– Every job/assignment is a self-portrait. Autograph it with excellence.
– Understand that nowhere is it written that the advertiser or agency owes us anything. Their time, attention, focus, and money must be continually earned.
– Do the things for clients that the competition has either not thought about or has chosen not to do.
– Blog/social media/podcast. It’s an opportunity to influence and show your clients you know what you’re talking about.

Sales and the art world do have something in common in that the great performers in each discipline understand and have mastered the art of contrast. Strive for making the difference between you and your competitors as obvious as black ink on a white background. You’ll make more money and you’ll have more fun.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at bob.mccurdy@bbgi.com.

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