It’s Not About the Sales Niche Anymore
The “change or die” motto lives on in sales. Define and communicate what distinguishes you from your competition.
It used to be that you knew you were on your game if you targeted the Holy Grail of specific markets: the ultra-affluent, professional services, networking, mobility, and small business (these were hot for awhile). Then everyone targeted these markets, and suddenly they weren’t special anymore.
Think of it this way—You have a really cool camera. When you first look through the view finder, you see a broad landscape. Then, as you slowly adjust the focus and the zoom, you identify specific images. You zoom in and click. Translated to sales, your fellow salespeople all see the same prospect landscape and focus on the same key clients. You all see and pursue the same prospects. That zoomed-in field is narrower and more crowded than ever. So where to go?
I’m not suggesting that we leave our current clients. We must give them attention, stay in touch, send useful information, and—of course—ask them for referrals to prospective clients who are just like them. (Your current clients are your #1 source of referrals, so be sure to ask. Here’s how.)
But for now, we need to move on and expand into new areas. And there are only two ways to get more business: do more business with existing customers or find new customers.
The Game Has Changed, Have You?
Want to sell more? Change your game. Ditch the niche. It’s no longer about what you target, but how you target.
Ask yourself: What’s missing? What are customers asking for? What are your fellow salespeople saying? How can you differentiate yourself?
Two examples follow (Warning: Be prepared for sarcasm.):
Financial planners all sound alike. They either focus on the affluent or baby boomers. They say that they “help you plan for your retirement so that you can ’really retire’…Your kids can attend college, and you can buy a vacation home and travel.”
Among all of these “sameness” statements, I heard one that stood out: a financial planner said we really need to help young people save beyond their 401K. This grabbed my attention. One of this planner’s colleagues said he’d never make money that way, and he should continue to focus on small businesses, because that’s where he made money.
(There are always naysayers. Trust your instinct; trust your expertise and experience.)
Ask yourself: do you want to be the same as everyone else, or do you want to address a need that no one else recognizes? The answer is simple.
Leadership experts are all over the place. In fact, let the topic of leadership come up, and you won’t believe all of the people who are suddenly experts. In U.S. currency, we say that these people are “a dime a dozen.”
A colleague was planning to transition from a corporate role to launching her own business. Leadership is her expertise, and she was positioning her new offering. She said that a key component of leadership is the ability to ask for and receive feedback. This skill is equally critical in our personal lives. How do we get feedback from our parents, our children, and our friends? Do we ever ask? Are we defensive?
That’s when I took note. Maybe others deliver messages on this aspect of leadership, but I haven’t heard it. Obviously, the “feedback topic” needs more punch, but I believe this will truly differentiate her from other leadership experts. She’s passionate, experienced, and articulate—and I know she will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to the leadership space.
(BTW, if you would like an introduction to either of these colleagues, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to make the referral introduction.)
So, what’s missing for your clients? If you don’t know, ask. The landscape you currently focus on may no longer exist. What can you deliver that no one else does? Consider thinking beyond this moment and identify areas of need that will surface in the next six to 12 months. You’re not a futurist, you’re a realist—and you’ll be way out in front of everyone else.
Take the Leap, Get Ahead
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Go ahead. Define yourself. You’ll be the game-changer that wins.
How Do You Distinguish Yourself? Comment Here.
What’s your key selling point? How do connect differently? What’s your sweet spot and how do you define it? Share your insight and comments here. I personally respond to all thoughtful posts.