Three Ways To Differentiate Yourself From The Competition


(By James Bahm) I studied psychology in college and my adviser’s favorite joke was, “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One. But the light bulb has to want to change!”

Spend more than 11 minutes in a sales role and you will see myriad personalities and philosophies at work. Most sales managers I’ve met all have their “way that works,” and in small markets the phrase “that’s how we’ve always done it” is prevalent.

Not only does that phrase cause a lack of growth, it will slowly lead to complacency and a loss of revenue. There are ways to lead and ways to sell good ideas to clients, and when combined with certain intangibles, these things help you to distance yourself from your competition.

There are three areas that differentiate sales professionals: work ethic, integrity, and communication. They are interrelated, and how well you do at one can greatly impact how well you are at the other two.

Work Ethic
There’s an expression you’ll hear from a lot of analysts on sportscasts that reminds me of business: “You can’t coach speed.” You can, however, coach work ethic.

Most colleagues will tell me that someone either has a solid work ethic or they don’t.
However, I do believe that work ethic can be taught. I saw my mother get up every morning, go do her job without making excuses to provide a home, an education, and put food on our table. She taught by example — as most great leaders do. I love that my wife and I share the same work ethic and, by our examples, we hope to pass our work ethic on to our daughter.

If you want to go further in your career and exceed expectations, you need a solid work ethic. The qualifier there is on you: you have to want to go farther in your career!

You can learn from those in your life who are worth imitating. Are they always at work early? Do they complete their work? Do they make excuses or are they resilient and resourceful and find a way to make it happen? Far too many times, I’ve seen very talented people fail at a job because they didn’t put forth an effort. Moreover, I’ve seen more people than I can count who wanted more and who transformed their career by developing a stronger work ethic.

Like Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” The choice is yours.

Ask anyone if they know how to be ethical, honest, and kind. I’m sure you’ll get affirmatives from everyone you ask. Why is it, then, that some of the most arduous client meetings I’ve been a part of dealt with someone telling me they were tired of dishonest, unethical salespeople who forgot how to treat a client with respect?

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is around to see it. Doing the right thing, always, and following through on your commitment to do right by your company, its clients, and your colleagues.

It also means being able to admit you made a mistake. In broadcast/commercial sales I made decisions that guided my clients’ advertising and marketing for years at a time, and not every idea worked. Some campaigns fell short and I had their message in front of the wrong audience. Admitting that as soon as possible saved many accounts, and allowed me to receive several referrals.

Do you have the integrity to admit to a client or co-worker that you’ve made a mistake? In his book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss says calling out a negative diminishes it every time; and he’s right. Simply saying, “What I’m going to say will upset you, and I need to let you know I missed the mark…” will land a lot better than saying what a co-worked said to a client: “I’m not trying to sound negative and throw them under the bus, but….” The client wound up canceling with my colleague after that call.

Integrity takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy. Use empathy to make a world of difference by calling out a negative to get others to listen to what you’re saying.

One of the biggest needs we have is the need to be heard and understood. Having our words acknowledged, especially at work, makes us feel like an appreciated, valued member of the organization. And the more you communicate with your clients, the more they’ll feel valued and appreciated.

If I am working with a customer and I tell them that I’ll let them know something by the end of the day, I’ll reach out even if that means saying, “I know I promised to get back with you by the end of the day, and I’ve not heard anything yet from my colleagues at corporate. As soon as I hear back, I’ll let you know.” Just a short word telling them that you don’t know anything, or haven’t heard back, will go a long way to furthering your relationship!

Communicating is one of the easiest things to do. Why, then, do so many sales professionals (and their management) fail to communicate even the simplest of messages to others?

Granted, there are individuals who are lazy, flaky, and don’t care about themselves enough to recognize a solid work ethic, integrity, and good communication if they were right in front of them.

Doing what needs to be done will speak louder than talking about what you should be doing!

Bottom Line: Distance yourself from others by letting your work ethic, integrity, and communication speak volumes while you are silently leading by example.

Questions to Ponder:
How would you like to be remembered by others: someone who does the right thing no matter what? Or someone who’ll do anything to get a sale?

James Bahm is a broadcasting veteran and owner of the Bahm Consulting, a sales and marketing consulting company in Las Vegas, NV. You can reach him at [email protected].


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