I learned about Cobol programming, Fortran, 8-inch floppy drives, and outdated architectures at college. I also learned how to cram for tests, gain the teachers favor, and correctly fill in scantron test sheets with a #2 pencil. Eventually I graduated and needed a brain dump on relevant technology – at the time, Novell operating systems, ArcNet and Ethernet, PCs, and mainframe/PC connectivity. The first part of my education came from professors lacking any relevant field experience, the second from sales people. Sales people educated me, kept me up-to-date on product road maps, and even taught me how to address TCP/IP back when you did everything manually. There was value in product knowledge, and other than some outdated bulletins our company subscribed to (at a very high price), I had few resources to turn to. Even books were out of date by the time they hit the market; on demand publishing didn’t exist.
Enter Google. Need to know how to cook something, understand a math formula, fix an engine problem, find a verse in the Bible, or learn about a technology? Google it! I used to be a central resource of knowledge, teaching my kids at home. No more. Now I just have one answer…Google it. Just about every question that comes at me during the day can be answered on Google (well almost every answer). We’re almost at the point where I don’t have to ask my wife what’s for dinner! Chances are it’s on our family blog and all I have to do is Google the question.
They Can’t Google Your Expertise
So what is the sales person’s value? It was about product knowledge, coming features, and compatibility. Not any more. It’s all on Google. So where is your value? It comes back to “improving the client’s position”. What Google doesn’t have is your expertise and customer interaction. You can find a million articles addressing someone else’s situation, but not one that exactly fits your client’s current situation right now, with the current market conditions, partners, employees, plans, and current technology. This must become central to your value proposition and you must be able to communicate it with confidence.
They can’t Google Mine Either
In 2003 I was looking for something new. My wife sat me down and said, figure out what you really love about the work you’ve done in the past, what you don’t like, where your passion is, what won’t commoditize in the next year, and create the perfect job. Then, taking a note from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, I added the economic engine concept. (Notice this type of decision process is not in Google). Speaking, writing, teaching, mentoring…these are the things I love. I do them at home in our homeschool program, I do them at Church,…why not do them for a living. So on December 17, 2003 Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts was formed. I found my niche and have never looked back. In fact, in the early days whenever difficult times would come, I would simply call up one of my buddies in product sales and ask him how things were going. Their answers always validated my choice. Whether or not I sold a product didn’t matter. What did matter was that I offered something based on intellectual capital, something uniquely mine. I don’t sell hours, skews, or discounts. I sell IP (Intellectual Property).
Find your Niche and Sell it!
There are millions of things to specialize in, and for the engineer, products are included. In sales, you must pick something you believe in, are passionate about, and something you can be the best at. Then it must have an economic engine that works. Take inventory of your intellectual capital. What value can you provide which cannot be commoditized through Google or filled through your prospects everyday social contacts? Hopefully you can come up with something your company can offer or support you in. Then become the expert in it, and figure out how to take it to market. But don’t stop the learning process or the market will quickly pass you. In 2011, Find your niche and go out and sell it!
© 2010, David Stelzl