(By Bob McCurdy) Competitive advantage is becoming increasingly difficult, not only to achieve but to maintain. This is true in any business, as the time required to neutralize a competitors’ technological breakthroughs, product enhancements, or tactical adjustments is continually shrinking.
In sales, there are several ways we can go about achieving competitive advantage. The four most obvious are:
– Exceptional service
– Strong relationships
– Work ethic
– Expertise.

In 2018, being competent in each of these is “table stakes” for continued employment in any sales field, but one of these four is the most difficult for any competitor to match, is most rare, more durable, and probably most valuable and appreciated by clients, in light of the ever-changing media landscape in which they must market and compete.
Our “competition” could go to Amazon and buy any number of self-help books that tout the steps and mindset required to elevate their customer service, which they could resolutely vow to execute moving forward.

They could read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People and commit henceforth to focus on developing stronger client relationships. Wining, dining, and playing golf is not the exclusive domain of any individual salesperson.

They could also purchase any number of books or read various articles focused on motivation and work ethic, and commit to work harder and smarter.

But the one “How To” book or article that does not exist, and cannot be written, is about the single competitive advantage that’s impossible for competitors to readily match, regardless of intent, expense budget, or how many self-help books they might read, and that is “expertise.” “Expertise” takes a lot of time, study, effort, and intense focus.

Our competition could easily decide tomorrow to match us in terms of both excellent service and work ethic, and in most cases, with the proper expense account, many “relationship” advantages can be neutralized, but no expense account can buy “expertise.”
In sales, having a strong relationship with a client is the “engine” of revenue generation, but “expertise” is the gasoline that ultimately drives that engine.

Any competitor can mirror a playlist, duplicate clocks, and execute similar promotions, but the one thing that remains a unique competitive advantage is a radio station’s personalities. Personalities are to a radio station what “expertise” is to a salesperson’s sustained competitive advantage. Both require time to establish and effort to develop but are capable of withstanding competitive assault due to the difficulty involved in replicating.

Expertise enables us to:
– Develop high-level relationships faster
– Ask better questions and get better answers
– Negotiate more effectively
– Take control of the sales process more completely
– Segue from vendor to partner much more quickly.

Expertise enables us to approach a potential client not with our hands “out” hoping for an order but instead bringing them value, helping them with their business, “giving back,” and making them more successful. This will always come back to us in spades.
Combine advertising/marketing “expertise” with great service, terrific relationships, and a powerful work ethic, and you’ll be a well-compensated, successful radio sales and marketing executive for years to come.

While there are no shortcuts to acquiring “expertise,” there are a few ways to enhance ours:
– The ABCs, “always be curious,” about our profession — even beyond business hours.
– Set aside some time to develop our professional expertise each day/week. Charlie Munger, self-made billionaire and Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner has spoken extensively about the “5-hour rule,” stating that if you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you are being irresponsible. I’d up it another 2 hours, an hour/day, minimum.
– Develop a system to retain what you have read/learned for easy, future access. Cutting, pasting, and storing what you’ve read enables you to easily repurpose it often and effectively.
– Use your expertise or lose it.
– Take pride in knowing you are becoming a more productive, effective marketing professional who is making a difference in the lives of the people with whom you interact.

Today’s successful salesperson understands, appreciates, and welcomes the fact that expertise is a never-ending journey and not a destination.

And thankfully for those who want to really excel and make a difference for their clients and communities, few ever set out on this never-ending journey with even fewer staying the course.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]

This blog was previously featured in Radio Ink.

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