Can you name your direct competition?
Of course you can. In fact, you can probably tell me all about them. But what if I asked you to name your invisible competition? What’s your invisible competition? The scores of people who also want or need something from your prospect: vendors from other industries, employees, managers, colleagues, etc. One study shows that the average worker is interrupted 50 times during a day—and managers even more.
As salespeople, we spend a lot of time asking ourselves, How we can beat our direct competitors? when the better question may be, How do we beat out all the other demands for our customer’s time and attention?
Since we rarely come face to face with our competition it’s easy not to think about them. As an actor, it’s impossible not to think about them. Going on “cattle call” auditions, thrust into a room with 50 or more other actors all waiting for their thirty seconds with the casting director, an actor has plenty of time to reflect on how he or she is going to stand out from the crowd. If, like an actor, we were also conscious of the fact that 50 other people were fighting for our customer’s attention, we would also think long and hard about how we were going to stand out.
Casting directors offer frontline advice for sellers on how to quickly gain and hold the attention of busy decision-makers. Here are three simple tips to make sure you are the one they remember at the end of the day:
- Be prepared.
I can see your eyes rolling, but it’s not what you think. I’m assuming you prepare what you’re going to say – that doesn’t differentiate you from the crowd. Think about preparing your body, your voice and your mental and emotional state—all are part of what an actor refers to as his “instrument.” An actor would never walk on stage without warming up his instrument. He knows that once the curtain rises he has to be “on” or risk losing his audience. It’s no different for a salesperson. Your body, your voice and your mind are important communication tools. They are either working for you or against you. You get to decide and preparation is the key. What does warming up for sales look like? I’ve taken compiled my favorites into an easy daily routine available for free here.
- Be interesting.
Casting directors and prospects alike are looking for something that sets you apart, beyond “the guy in the blue shirt.” They’re looking for someone to wow them and make their decision easy. Most people give them very little to work with. If you go in and start your presentation the same way as everyone else does (see the Corporate Selfie) you are in danger of being forgettable. If you want a role in your customer’s business, spend some time crafting an opening that is unique and that connects you to your audience to ensure you are remembered. Remember, you’re a person first – a salesperson second. A well-known casting director said. “We don’t hire actors, We hire people who can act.” In the same way, people don’t buy “solutions” they buy people who sell solutions. When a decision is close—and it often is—sometimes the choice has to do with the person as much as the performance.
- Don’t assume you’ll get another chance.
Salespeople, like actors, often make the mistake of holding back until they’ve taken the temperature of the other people in the room. In business as in acting, this tendency to hold back can be costly. During those critical first seconds, like it or not, your prospect is evaluating you, making decisions about how and whether they are going to listen to you. By all means, read your audience, but don’t miss your opportunity to make a positive impression by quickly differentiating yourself and establishing value. Come prepared to give it your best shot. It may be the only one you got.