Back in the day, when giants walked the earth and hair covered my head, I was a guitar player and singer.  I started, self-taught, at age 12. By the age of 19, I was in college, playing out three to four nights a week, thinking I might go professional.

This all came to a head just before I graduated from college when I received an offer to join a touring band…. and decided to go to business school. I made the right choice and while my musical flame hasn’t died out completely, it’s pretty quiet…..

… except that,  from time to time, it flares up. One of these flares occurred as I was competing in the Toastmasters International Speech Competition in 1988. Now, Toastmasters is about “speaking,” thus the name of the contest, the International S P E E C H competition.

Thinking through my strengths and weaknesses as a speaker, I had the thought that I could integrate some music into my presentation and, as long as I was  S P E A K I N G,  I could fall within the rules of the contest, work to one of my strengths, have a big wooden object (that would be the guitar) in front of me to ease my stage nerves, and reach the audience and ( I thought) the judges more effectively.

Long story short, the judges came from the “strict construction” school of judging. They didn’t buy my logic.

TWENTY YEARS LATER…. I received an email from a friend who wrote,  “I had lunch yesterday with my friend ____ ____ and your name came up. He talked about a speech you gave at Toastmasters in which you used a guitar.”   His friend heard this seven minute speech once, maybe twice, twenty years ago…. !

Memorability is critical in sales. Wouldn’t you love to be THAT memorable for your clients and prospects?

Why was this particular speech so memorable?  One, novelty.  Totally unexpected. Contrary to the norm. Nobody had EVER tried that approach in that competition before, as far as we could tell.  Two, credibility and emotional impact. Guitar in hands, I was VERY believable, and the speech was a personal story about aspirations, failure, and perseverance to success. It was a GREAT speech, thank you very much.

The great salespeople I’ve known and read about do SOMETHING that makes them memorable. Their points of view on critical issues (contrarian is good!). Their mastery of a particular discipline, their knowledge of a market, their networking skills, their inter-personal skills, the cards they send, the cologne they wear, their voices, a simple turn of phrase they use frequently, their community work, their sartorial splendor. SOMETHING STANDS OUT.  It’s part of their personal brands. It’s the “something” that reminds clients and prospects about them when they’re not there.

For the most part… we back into those somethings by accident.  Trouble is, “backing in” can take a long time and we run the risk that we’re memorable for the wrong reasons. Better to choose, to think through our differentiation and memorability strategies, than to have them back-handed to us by others. Some questions to ask:

  1. Who are your prospects and clients? Who are they at work?  Who are they at home? What do they respond to? What are they interested in?  What do they need or want from their providers?
  2. Who are the people or firms with whom you’re competing for your prospects’ and customers attention?  What are their strengths?  What appears to be memorable or valuable about them to your prospects and customers? Where do they appear to be competitively vulnerable or “dis-satisfying” to their clients and prospects?
  3. What are your strengths?  What appears to be memorable or valuable about YOU to your prospects and customers?  (If you don’t know, ASK them.) Where are you competitively vulnerable or “dis-satisfying” to your clients and prospects?
  4. How can you mold your personal brand to highlight your strengths, offset your weaknesses, and drive at your competitors’ weaknesses?

For example, suppose you sell for a small company. You compete against bigger companies with more resources. They’re viewed as highly competent, broad, and safe, but impersonal. You position yourself as highly competent, too, and then focused, safe but a little edgy, and VERY personal.  The question is: “How do you DO that?”

This is a “style and content” question. For example, you might choose to send handwritten notes rather than emails, where time were not a critical factor. You might dress yourself in clothes that seem friendly and warm rather than “highly polished corporate.” You could send holiday gifts that are much more tailored and personal than the “standard corporate gifts.”  You could call them and sing “Happy Birthday” on their birthdays.  These are all examples of “very personal” that would increase your differentiation, convey your value message, and increase your memorability.

The key is: think it through.

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