You have a choice. You can stand out or blend in with your competitive landscape. Differentiation doesn't come naturally, blending in does. We all want to fit in with the crowd, we want to be like everybody else, and we've been that way since we were kids. As a professional sales representative you should focus on what makes you different because the similarities will take care of themselves.
When selling there are three principle things you can differentiate: You, your products, and your company. My observation is that most sales representatives do an adequate job of differentiating their products and their company. They neglect, however, to develop a personal brand. Before a customer considers buying your products, they must buy you.
Here are seven ways to separate you from the competition:
1. Your appearance matters. Look the part because your appearance influences your image. You are walking billboard and how you look is what your prospects see first. Belts and shoes should be the same color. Shoes and shoe heels should be shined - every day. When it comes to your wardrobe buy less and spend more.
2. Prepare an effective e-mail signature. Your e-mail signature of course should include your name, a keyword a short phrase - describing your expertise, a telephone number, and your web site. Also periodically include a P.S. and a P.P.S. to emphasize new product introductions, special sales, and special events. In this way, every email provides a branding and promotional opportunity for you.
3. Getting people to return your telephone calls is challenging for everyone. Using a different approach can make all the difference in the world. Mike, a client, shared this with me and it's guaranteed to be different. If someone very important is not returning your telephone calls use this approach. Buy a coffee mug and print these words on the mug. "Let's talk business over a cup of coffee." Put a packet of Starbucks coffee into the mug and include a note with your business card and the times you'll be available to take his telephone call.
4. Here's a business card idea. Why are business cards printed one side? Use the blank side of your business to differentiate yourself. You can stamp an inspirational quote. You can stamp the 7 reasons why customers like doing business with you. Use red ink to make it stand out.
5. This is a small tip though it's an effective one. Most promotional literature is produced on standard size 81/2" X 11" paper. Since most people are overwhelmed by the amount of work on their desk - they simply create stacks of sales rep literature. Go to an Office Depot and buy brightly colored 9 X 12 paper. Affix your literature to the 9 X 12 paper and it'll standout in any stack of literature. Use the open space on the colored paper to write a note, a reminder, or even your phone number.
6. Visibility is more important than ability. Every contact counts. Develop a (one-two-three) follow-up system every time you meet and/or talk to a new prospect. Here's my recommendation - within 24 hours send an e-mail, within 72 hours send a handwritten note, within 10 days send a handwritten note with an article to your prospect. Within two weeks you have a total of four exposures with your new prospect. Now that's impressive.
7. Prepare creative organizational charts for your biggest proposals. In your business, if you do proposals especially for larger deals, consider using a very creative organizational chart. Think about the five to seven people in your organization who interact with your customers; you, your sales manager, your Vice President of sales, customer service, technical service, you get the picture. Create an organizational chart using boxes and include in each box the following: name, title, telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, and a digital photograph. This introduces your entire team with photographs to your new potential customer. It's easier for a prospect to say no to a salesperson than it is to say no to the entire team.
The real difference among salespeople is what's inside their heads - their ideas. To offer generalities when customers are begging for specificity misses the mark completely. Don't permit generalities to skewer the real differences between you and your competitors.
Being boring, bland, and benign won't cut it in today's very competitive marketplace.
If you want to make a difference you have to be different.
Jim Meisenheimer is the creator of No-Brainer Sales Training. His sales techniques and selling skills focus on practical ideas that get immediate results. You can discover all his secrets by contacting him at (800) 266-1268 or by visiting his website: http://www.meisenheimer.com