61: Sell Only Your Core Competency
This is one of the two times a year when work is typically less frenetic for me, which means it’s one of the slower times of the year for most of my auctioneers. So, I’ve been working on more auction company promotion than I do during the spring and autumn—company brochures, trade show displays, proposals, solicitation pieces, etc.
As I consult with clients about the concept of their respective pieces—the core messages on which to build the text and visual impression—the question I keep repeating is, “What is the one (or two) benefits you are promising the seller?” See, there’s a tendency amidst small business marketers to try to sell every possible aspect of their service in one swipe.
I’m free to say that, because I’m a recovering over-seller. My first company brochure was eight pages of magazine-size type, trying to prove my worth. (Now, it’s on two plane tickets.) The last ad I ran in Auctioneer (August 2003) was a full page ad that listed the 15+ different services that biplane productions could provide. I was trying to be all things to all auctioneers.
I don’t remember getting any clients out of that ad. And I’m not surprised. Foundational truth rests in the adage, “The jack of all trades is the master of none.” It’s the reason your family physician doesn’t perform brain surgeries, why athletes are sorted by positions, why we pick majors in college. A century removed from an agrarian culture, we now have local or regional access to enough service providers to be choosy.
We want specialists.
Your clients are no different. So, sell them on your primary area of expertise.
I laugh when I see auctioneers list five or seven (or more) areas of specialty. It reminds me of this entrepreneur’s sign I saw in Peru last month. If an auction company claims to sell all of those asset groups with equal dexterity, it gives the impression that it performs each at one fifth or one seventh of the proficiency as the auction firm that advertises only one niche. Which company would you hire: the one that does things at/near 100% competency or the one that executes at 15% or 50% competency?
“But we do sell farm equipment and commercial real estate,” you might retort. My response question would be, “Do you sell yourself to farmers and retail developers the same way—with the same materials?” I hope not. If you do, there’s a reason your auction company isn’t growing at the rate the firms you see sprouting around you. Sellers don’t care how well you chant from a podium, the part of the process many auctioneers think is “selling” something. They want to know you’ll have the most butts and the right people in the chairs in front of you. They want to know you have a top secret list of MVP’s who are waiting for you to show them opportunities. They don’t want someone who promises them they can put any number of things on an auction block.
If they wanted their property to be sitting next to random acts of other assets, they’d grab a booth at a flea market.
So, sift what you do down to one or two main services. Then frame those in terms of the primary one or two benefits they provide. Determine which venues and/or media would most efficiently reach the people who want those benefits. Then choose graphics that accentuate and illustrate those benefits to make sure your message stands apart from the other people shouting into that niche’s marketplace.
You may end up having different marketing collateral for different environments, but you’ll need fewer of each to reach the same people you were trying to reach in the first place. You’ll have less-worried sellers who have more confidence in your skills. Yes, you might see your number of auctions drop (at least temporarily); but you’ll be more efficient and effective on the sales you do have.
I wouldn’t suggest all of this unless I had seen it work for me.
Taking It Personally
God wired me “wrong.” I’m not left-brained enough to be the architect or auto engineer my junior high years dreamed for my career. I’m not right-brained enough to see concepts nobody else has dreamed; I’d be worth little to a Madison Avenue ad agency. In college, I took a brain-sided test in a creative writing class. I placed dead center. On top of that, I have the attention span of an inebriated goldfish.
I’m grateful for God’s wiring job, though. Because I don’t have to sift through a mental flood of creative ideas, I’m faster than many professional creatives. Because I like numbers and columns more than the average designer, I’m decent at organizing advertising that auctioneers would rather not touch. Because my mind bounces like a kindergartner on a trampoline, I can jump back and forth between the six to thirty auctions I have on my desk at any given time. I’d be unemployed or underemployed in most advertising settings; but in the auction industry, I’m in demand—working long shifts for good wages. If I tried to be a graphic designer for every industry, I’d be working in a corporate basement instead of my own. And I wouldn’t have over 120 state, national, and international awards.
Last week, I heard this advice from Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast: “Only do what only you can do.” I can confidently and humbly say, I’m one of a small handful of people in a world of billions who do exactly what I do and can do it at the level that I do. And if I’d chased the world, instead of the the relatively-tiny auction industry—God’s destiny for me—I’d be frustrated as an overwhelming misfit. By embracing my uniqueness, I find fewer outlets into which to plug; but I don’t bend my prongs trying to fit into places I don’t belong.
So, how has God wired you? And how are you embracing that wiring?
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