It occurs to me that as the sluggish economy drags on, I am constantly reminded of the movie “Field of Dreams.” Those of us who remember the movie almost certainly remember the famous line, “If you build it, they will come.” It became a household saying and has resonated with me for years. As I work to help people learn how to sell themselves, I see this notion being played out over and over. In other words, being good at what you do is not good enough anymore. You can’t just build a field and expect anyone to come.
Companies that once had business “thrown” at them now have to figure out a way to see themselves in a very different way and – in many cases – need to learn to sell in the first place. People, whether they’re employed or unemployed, need to know and embrace the fact that being great at what you do is not good enough. You have to sell yourself and your contribution to the business every day. If you can’t or don’t, you become irrelevant almost overnight. Sound obvious? You would be very surprised at how many people and businesses are struggling, as they think that just because they exist, they are safe. Better think again – and fast.
So how do we avoid the trap of irrelevancy and get people to come to the fields we have built? It just involves a behavior switch – a mental mind change, if you will. It’s not easy and it’s not optional.
Here are three things to do make sure that you are staying ahead of the irrelevancy curve:
- Say what you do and what you’re good at! When people ask you what you do or your company does, what do you say? If you answer with your title or your mission statement, you will have a problem. You have exactly 5 seconds to say something that will immediately engage and inspire people to want to talk with you and learn more. This is your best chance to sell yourself or your company – and it may well be your last chance too. If you create an answer that talks about what you DO, then you are most likely to get a chance to keep the conversation going. This is called your value proposition. Just having a title says nothing about what you do or, more important, whether you are good at it!
- Get out of the silo and sell yourself! Are you commanding a silo? If you are vying for a job or a promotion or wondering what can be done to help a company grow, take a hard look at how siloed you or your division or company section have become. It’s no longer acceptable, and it’s certainly not safe to think that by being deep and unseen you will be competitive and sought after. Companies that are breaking down silos are doing better, and the professionals previously in the silos are coming out and getting the chance to showcase what they do and how well they do it! Get out of the silo and sell yourself!
- Know your impact! One of the core tenants I talk about in my Sales Culture keynotes is asking the hard question of people: Do they know how they actually impact a customer? Like the notion of not being in a silo, you must be able to demonstrate how what you do is more than just being good at it – it’s about selling how your skills in some way or fashion helped a customer or a prospect say “yes.” A sale is not someone else’s problem, and you do play a role in that process. Can you help people see that what you do actually helps other people say “yes” to a company’s product or service? I call this having a “line of sight to revenue.”
In short, being good is not nearly good enough. Being good at what you do and keeping it a secret in a silo is not a good idea either. You have earned the right to sell what you do if you are that good and get others to see your skills and expertise. Don’t expect that people will just get it and come to you. It will never be again. You have built a field. Now you must get them to come to it.