title borrowed from Seth godin

Ridiculous is the New Remarkable:

8 Ways to Stand Out in Sales / Networking

Here’s the most overused quote in business:

You know the definition of insanity?

[dramatic pause with a smirk that comes from the anticipation of saying something extremely clever…]

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

[another dramatic pause as the weight of the knowledge he just dropped settles in on the audience]

But of course, for the same reason I love a good Taylor Swift song, the overused things are overused for a reason. There is truth in it. If you’re in sales, finding a way to differentiate yourself is the key to success. You can’t expect to do the same thing as everyone else, over and over again, and expect to succeed with any consistency. All sales advice comes down to this one point: Stand out…preferably in a good way.

So here are a few ways to do just that. There are many more that involve having a world-class product, using the relationships you’ve built up over a career, etc…but those are of no help to the salesperson already in a job who doesn’t have an existing network. Anybody can do the following, in no particular order:

  1. Send a custom package. In the mail. Include a handwritten note, give them a book that made an impact on you and tell them why it matters, include a flash drive with music/podcasts/articles/local you think that person may enjoy. And tell them why.
  2. Get a little bit weird. Not too weird (this is something I have to be careful with). But a little bit weird is endearing and memorable. For example, at my last company we were having trouble getting a response from a big prospect. We knew they’d be huge, and we knew they’d like what we had to offer, but it was extremely difficult to separate ourselves from the noise they heard every single day. So we sent them a 5-ft tall Bigfoot statue with a handwritten note that read “They say you exist, be we’ve seen no proof. We still believe.” And we included our contact info. The next time we called, we were put through directly to the CEO, laughed for 30 minutes, and set up a meeting for 2 weeks later. Find your version of the Bigfoot. Ridiculous is the new remarkable.
  3. Write an unsolicited recommendation or review for a prospect. This should be be genuine. It could be a Linkedin recommendation, or you could write them a personal note/email. Or best of all, you could be a source of revenue for them by recommending people to their business. There is no greater way to stand out than to help them make money. This also brings the added benefit of acting as a filter for working with people you’d actually recommend to others.
  4. Provide a menial, yet useful service. It’s hard not to take note when someone saves you valuable time without even asking. Research what they’re working on, and figure out a way to help. Dictate one of their podcasts (or have someone on Elance or Fiverr dictate it for you), compile their blog posts into an ebook, come up with 10 ways they can grow their business & help them do one.
  5. Be more persistent. The others gave up a while back. You’re still here, and that is worthy of respect. Follow up for twice as long as you think you need to.
  6. Do something worthy of inbound interest. If you can be the best at something, even some tiny thing, people will come to you. Get good at writing cold emails, or ways to stay productive as a salesperson, or whatever…and make it easy for people to find you.
  7. Become a curator / broker. Middlemen have been eliminated as technology has gotten better. We can do things ourselves now like start a company and create a website and sell things directly to our customers through this website. We can buy stocks ourselves instead of through a stock broker. But there is now space for a new kind of middleman. With so many companies/blogs/products being produced, there is great value in showing people which are worth knowing about. Find a way to connect people to the best creations within your industry. For example, if your customers were startups, you could create a newsletter like this one that highlights the best articles everyday from across the startup/VC world. Or if you read a lot, build a reading list newsletter like this one, which later created a list of 35,000 people to sell his own book to.
  8. Create an experience for others. Throw your own event. Maybe it’s a conference, or maybe a dinner. This guy does it for a living, and considers making connections his job.

Take note that none of these are easy. There is no substitution for consistency, generosity, and grit. But you can be smart by prioritizing tasks that make the largest impact. Be ridiculously generous, ridiculously persistent, or ridiculously helpful, and you’ll find it becomes remarkable.

I’d love to hear any other examples you guys might have. What’s worked for you to stand out?