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Outside Your Comfort Zone

By Patrick T. Malone
December, 2018
Increase your knowledge of issues beyond your products and services

One of the biggest challenges facing distribution representatives is how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else in the marketplace? After all, your product lines are relatively similar.

So, when it comes to a competitive advantage, the best you can do is offer a special that your company is running this month, this quarter, this year. Competing on this basis is a win-lose proposition. You might win with the right special but you generally lose when you don’t have one running. It just isn’t sustainable.

In my previous columns, I have attempted to demonstrate how leadership skills rather than the typical sales tactics and techniques can set you apart in the marketplace. There is no doubt in my mind that you can build loyalty and lasting relationships by using what are referred to as the PAR skills when interacting with your prospective and current customers. I have explained the elements of those skills and then left it to you to decide if they would help you.

However, you will not succeed by skill alone. A butcher and a neurosurgeon might be equally skillful with a scalpel, but would you let the butcher operate on you? While the old axiom “knowledge is power” is true, skillful use of knowledge is more powerful.

Beyond products and services
Last edition’s column was on creating a sustainable competitive advantage. I am going to suggest that you might further differentiate yourself and add to your own sustainable competitive advantage by getting a little outside your comfort zone and increase your knowledge of issues beyond your products and services.

• What do you know about GMOs?

• What do you think about antibiotic resistance and food safety issues?

• Has the use of herbicides contributed to the growth of super weeds?

• Are nitrates in the water supply a real issue or, as some would claim, without scientific substantiation?

• What about animal welfare issues?

• What do you know about the EPA’s proposed water regulations to expand control beyond the Clean Water Act’s navigable waterways?

• What about the impact of tariffs?

These questions are issues that are important to your DVMs because they are important to their producers.

You will enhance your position with them if you are able to skillfully discuss the important issues of the day in addition to your products for BRD treatment, parasite control, effective delivery systems, etc. Be interested instead of trying to make yourself interesting. Think outside the box and outside your comfort zone.

You will enhance your own sustainable competitive advantage by expanding your knowledge and then combining it with your skill to transition from just another distributor rep to a trusted advisor. Try it and find out for yourself. It works.

Topics: Sales

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