9 Ways to Avoid the Commoditization Trap

By Jeff Beals

The world becomes more “commoditized” each year.

In other words, the services and products you sell are becoming more and more like commodities. The skills you offer as an individual professional are unfortunately seen my many people as commodities too.

How has this happened?

There are many factors. Technology has made many individual skills obsolete. The same applies to products and services. Many of the things we sold a few years ago now have little or no value because of rapidly advancing technology.

Thanks in part to technology, companies and organizations are now amazingly efficient in producing goods and creating cutting-edge services. Marketable ideas go from concept to scaled-up products in a very short period of time. Our unprecedented efficiency has changed the way we live and the way we do business.

In addition to technology and efficient scaling, the economy is increasingly global in nature. Capital transcends international borders. Talented people can go just about anywhere and compete with just about anyone. Life moves pretty fast!

RELATED ARTICLE: “What’s One Way of Marketing Yourself that Nobody Else Is Doing?”

So how can you as an individual professional, transcend commoditization? How can you stay relevant as things around you change so quickly? How can you reserve your professional standing when so much of what happens around you is utterly outside your control?

Here’s a good place to start: master the art of personal branding.

Always remember that you are a brand. You are a business of one.

As a hard-working professional, you have a personal brand, a reputation that must be carefully maintained and zealously promoted. In today’s loud, crowded and hyper-active marketplace, effective personal branding has never been more important.

When someone is ready for the services/products you provide and the skills you possess, how can your personal brand stand out in a crowd? If you’re a good self marketer, you have little to fear. You need to be the professional whose name pops into the client’s head when it’s time to buy.

Building a bigger image takes work, but anyone with at least moderate talent can do it. The key is to follow certain steps:

  1. See yourself as a business entity, not just a person
  2. Stay up-to-date. Constantly educate yourself. Study everything you can about your profession and industry
  3. Determine who is in your personal target audience, the group of people who have influence over how successful you are. You need to make sure that this group of people knows all about you
  4. Exploit the part of your expertise that is most interesting to outsiders. I call it your “area of self marketing expertise.” That’s what you talk about when you meet new people
  5. Live actively and network every day. You need to be externally focused. Make it your mission to reach out and build your list of fans
  6. Foster relationships with local media. You are an expert and therefore a valuable source for news stories. The exposure you get from the media helps your personal brand transcend the ups and downs of the business cycle
  7. Become a writer and speaker within your area of expertise. You have a lot to say and there are organizations out there that would love to learn from you. Business and career opportunities often come from writing and speaking
  8. Promote yourself 24-hours-a-day on the Internet. Use social media. When someone Googles your name, it’s important that a lot of good stuff shows up in the search returns
  9. Always be prospecting. When you’re out and about, whether for personal or professional purposes, always keep your eye and ear open for opportunity

NOTE: This article is based on Jeff Beals’ international award-winning book “Self Marketing Power.” Click for details >>

You have sole ownership of your personal brand, but it comes with a burden. You bear the responsibility for building that brand, shaping it and promoting it to the general public. As a self marketer, you can recruit the services of others, but the responsibility to carry out a marketing strategy is ultimately yours.

Don’t let other people or any haunting feelings of self doubt stand in your way. Self marketers have to stick their necks out and take risks. Not only is it worth the risk, but establishing a well-known personal brand is essential in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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How to Stop the Spread of Creeping Self Doubt

By Jeff Beals

I encourage all professionals to become “celebrities in their own sphere of interest,” which means they use personal branding (what I like to call “self marketing”) as a way to attract more clients and find better career opportunities.

In a typical self marketing journey, an ambitious professional tries to go from a little-known entry level worker to a rock star in his or her industry or community. Self marketers strive to become superstars in their own spheres of interest.

Along the way, they encounter challenges, setbacks and, worst of all, self doubt. Creeping self doubt has paralyzed many would-be successful people. There are tons of people in the world with outstanding talent who never accomplish greatness because of self doubt.

I have been hosting a radio show on a Fox News affiliate since 2004. I will never forget the very first episode. As the intro music was playing, I got a momentary feeling of self doubt. Feeling a bit nervous, I turned to my co-host and said, “What the hell are we doing?” At that point, the music stopped, and I just started talking.

Now, years later, we have tens of thousands of loyal listeners. It’s amazing to think that I almost killed the show a couple times before it first aired because I was worried how well it would be received. Thankfully, my colleague and I stayed with our vision and fought off the doubt.

If you strive to do something unique and different as part of your self marketing efforts, be prepared to face self doubt. It’s hard not to get a little nervous when you are taking a risk. Self marketing is one of those activities that potentially can bring high rewards but also significant risk. The more you try to market yourself, the more you expose yourself to potential disappointment, failure and embarrassment.

Don’t worry about failure. You are better off trying something and failing than not doing it at all. With each disappointment, you learn something that will help you do better next time.

Just remember, you are operating in a high-stakes environment.

You are competing with talented people from around the globe. All the competition makes today’s marketplace very crowded and noisy. In order to get ahead and attract new business, you must stand out, be noticed and impress the people around you.

As a professional, you are a business unto yourself. You have a personal brand, which must be perpetually and actively promoted to your personal target audience. Never forget that, like the politician running for office, you are in a life-long campaign for excellence. A big part of your success or failure will be determined by your ability and willingness to toot your own horn.

With a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and the understanding of critical success skills, you have all it takes to achieve greatness. You just need to be willing to tell the world about your accomplishments.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

Click here to subscribe to Jeff’s weekly articles!

Click here to see sample videos of Jeff speaking to live audiences!

Sales Intel: The Slightest Clue Can Expose Your Client’s Secrets

Client Secret
By Jeff Beals

The following is a true story, but the names have been omitted.

 

This was not your typical client.

 

It was big time, a Fortune 500 company based in Silicon Valley that was looking for a new vendor to which it would pay millions of dollars. The stakes were so high that the prospective client kept its identity a secret from the would-be vendor.  The client’s name would not be revealed until it decided which vendor company would be selected.

 

Secrecy and confidentiality were so important that the prospective client hired a third-party company to serve as a sort of intermediary.  All communication had to go through the intermediary firm, which scrubbed it of any potentially identifying factors.

 

The prospective client disclosed only that it was a high-tech company based in Northern California. When a team of executives from the prospective client company conducted a site visit at the would-be vendor’s office, only first names and job titles were given.

 

Of course, the would-be vendor’s sales team desperately wanted to know what company they were dealing with.  After all, if the vendor was successful in winning the business, it would be the single largest deal in company history.

 

Knowledge is power.  If the would-be vendor could only figure out the identity of its prospective client, it would be a game changer.  It would allow messages to be targeted and customized.  It would tell the sales team what to focus on. The sales team cleverly asked questions but the visiting executives were tight-lipped and very careful not to say the wrong thing.

 

Frustrated, it seemed like the sales team was stuck – destined to operate “in the dark,” not knowing who they were courting and what exactly they were selling.

 

But then things changed in an instant. A clue! The door cracked open.  The slightest little opportunity presented itself.

 

As it turned out, one of the visiting executives made a critical error. He wore his class ring – Princeton University, class of 1998.  It also helped that the proud Princeton graduate happened to have unique, distinctive first name. A member of the sales team stepped out of the room, did a quick Google search, found the man on LinkedIn and figured out the prospective-client company’s identity within 30 seconds.

 

Suddenly the would-be vendor had all the information it needed.

 

At that point in the courtship process, the tables turned. Power shifted. The would-be vendor now had the advantage of knowing exactly who and what it was dealing with while the prospective client still assumed its identity was secret. That knowledge allowed the sales team to win the business and make a fortune.

 

Thankfully, most clients are not nearly so secretive. Nevertheless, sales professionals benefit by gathering all the client intelligence they can find. Even in the typical sales process, the prospective client withholds some information if for no other reason than to protect itself during the final negotiation process.

 

As the would-be vendor, your job is to find out everything you possibly can. Be a detective! Ask the right questions, but just as important, find the hidden information. Scratch the dirt. Turn over every stone. Find the information the prospective client does not necessarily want you to know.

 

If you do your detective work, you will dazzle the prospective client with your offerings and have a huge leg up on your competition.

 

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

Avoiding Arrogance

By Jeff Beals

“You may have heard that I’m about to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

That’s how former NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw began an episode of “An American Story with Tom Brokaw” a couple months ago. The semi-retired newsman then went on to talk about an experience he had back in high school. After talking about his life, he signed off boldly with the words, “I’m Tom Brokaw. This is an American Story.”

A daily radio network feature, “An American Story” is a 40-second spot, in which Brokaw shares what’s on his mind.  It’s called a “story,” but the topics more often than not are Brokaw’s opinions or name-dropping tales about his interactions with wealthy and powerful people.

I always laugh a little to myself when I hear “An American Story,” because instead of a touching little vignette about a piece of Americana, the feature sounds more like a celebration of Brokaw’s ego.

I’m not claiming that Brokaw intends to sound so egotistical during the spots, but to my ears he does nevertheless. That is unfortunate, because Brokaw has done many good things during his career.

Maybe it’s an NBC thing.  It appears as if arrogance runs rampant at the National Broadcasting Company especially given the shocking and inexcusable revelations that now-suspended anchorman Brian Williams fabricated news stories in order to make himself look downright heroic.

Major media outlets are famous for their arrogance and the arrogant people who work for them. At some major media companies, the arrogance is palpable, but arrogance is a problem all across society.  It’s not just the haughty media types.

One of keys to success is to keep your ego in check and mitigate arrogance. Confidence is a virtue, but arrogance needs to be studiously avoided.

It may seem odd to be reading such a strong admonishment about arrogance from a guy who writes and speaks about the value personal branding.  After all, I encourage entrepreneurs and salespeople to become “celebrities in their own spheres of interest.”

While we need to build our personal brands, one of the first things we must accept if we are to become widely recognized and highly respected is the virtue of humility.

There is a fine line between good, healthy self marketing on one side and egotistical boasting on the other.  You never want to be that person who causes other people to roll their eyes!

If you want to avoid coming across as arrogant, you might want to take this little three-part test. Ask yourself:

  1. Are the things I’m doing for personal branding benefit also of social, economic or cultural benefit?  If the answer is “yes” you are probably okay.
  2. If people knew the real reason why I want to build a more widely recognized and highly respected personal brand, would I be embarrassed? If the answer is “no” you’re probably okay.
  3. Am I sensitive to how my personal branding messages come across to other people? Try to put yourself in your reader’s/listener’s shoes and then honestly assess your message.

Promoting your brand while avoiding arrogance can be kind of tricky. It’s a balancing act, because the world has no room for shrinking violets, but the world also hates blowhards. Society tends to neglect and leave behind people who choose anonymity but it punishes those whose egos are excessively inflated.

It is wise to become a celebrity in your own sphere of interest if your intentions for doing so are noble. If your motivation is self-aggrandizement or to salve some deep-seeded self-esteem issue, then you’ll want to proceed with caution.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

Click here to subscribe to Jeff’s weekly articles!

Click here to see sample videos of Jeff speaking to live audiences!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be More Confident in Professional Networking Situations

By Jeff Beals

Even in today’s digital communication environment, networking is still essential for professional success. But for many people, networking is not a pleasant experience.

If you are introverted, you have to find a way to break out of it and develop a level of comfort initiating conversations with total strangers.

If you find networking intimidating, don’t feel as if you’re alone. Many professionals who are good at networking have had to work hard to make it look that way. Sure, there are some lucky people who are blessed with a natural gregariousness and are comfortable at high-powered cocktail receptions, but they are the exception, not the norm.  It is natural to feel tinges of uneasiness when you attend a networking function by yourself where you know nobody.

If you’re not the most outgoing soul, here is how you can mitigate your shyness:

Practice

There is absolutely nothing wrong with rehearsing how you will act in a networking encounter the night before in the quiet privacy of your own home.  Some people even practice in front of a mirror.  (Disclaimer: the people who live with you might think you’re acting a little weird!)

Observe the Masters

Think of someone you know who is socially gifted, very at ease working a room. Watch that person. Study that person. Think how you can imitate him/her. Each time you go to a networking event, do something he/she does. The best ideas are borrowed. Instead of reinventing the wheel, figure out how you can mimic someone who has already figured it out.

Hold a Drink

I’m not encouraging you to become a drunk, but holding a drink at a social function can help you be more comfortable.

If you’re a non-drinker, there is nothing wrong with holding a soda or virgin cocktail. The drink is useful, because it gives you something to do with your hands. It also gives you the opportunity to look down at it every once in a while. That’s handy, because sometimes it gets hard constantly looking someone in the eye especially when you encounter “Mr. Laser Eyes,” the guy who gets close to your face, stares deeply into your eyes and never blinks. I can’t stand that guy.

Just be careful not to become intoxicated! You don’t want to do anything that would embarrass your company or damage the reputation you are working so hard to build. Some networkers will order one drink and nurse it for a couple hours, just taking infrequent sips. I know of one person who orders a 7-Up with just a tiny amount of alcohol in it. That way, it smells like a drink, but there’s not enough live juice in it to compromise his faculties.

A Positive Vision

Another way of dealing with shyness is to envision success before going to an event. Like a coach mentally preparing athletes for a big game, you can increase your likelihood for success by imagining yourself doing well in a social situation. Sit down for a few minutes at home or behind your closed office door and envision yourself saying the right things, using good interpersonal skills and being professionally assertive. If you do this regularly, you will most likely evolve into a graceful networker.

Brush It Off

Operating out of your comfort zone can increase introversion tendencies.  Some networkers worry they will say the wrong thing and sound stupid.  Others are afraid to “interrupt” someone at a party. Others fear they might be “rejected” when they reach out to another person. Even as an established professional, it is an unpleasant experience to introduce yourself and attempt to carry on a conversation with someone who clearly appears not to give a damn about you. I know – it’s happened to me plenty of times! When it happens to you, just brush it off and go to the next person.

When someone gives you a cold shoulder, it likely means that person’s problems are greater than yours.

Pair Busting

Periodically, you will find yourself at a networking event, standing by yourself with nobody to talk to. You look around the room and everyone is already engaged in conversation with someone else.  There are no other “single” people. It can be a little unnerving. When this happens, it’s time to be a pair or trio buster.

Simply look around for a pair or trio of people and walk toward them. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re interrupting. Just go up to the pair or trio and introduce yourself.  Be assertive.  Sometimes it helps to say, “Mind if I join you?” in a joking sort of way. Ninety-five percent of the pairs you bust open, will welcome you.  The other five percent are jerks and not worthy of your company.

Welcome Other Busters

Now, when you are already talking to someone else and a third person tries to bust into your pair, be sure to include that person and make them feel welcome. Treat the conversational newcomer the same way you would like to be treated. Don’t act as if you’re inconvenienced. Just introduce yourselves and allow the person to feel part of the group.

The tone of your voice and your body language will help make such a person feel more welcome. Slightly turn your body toward the new person to make them feel subconsciously included and welcome. If the person comes in mid-conversation, I explain what you have been talking about in an effort to bring the new person up to speed.

Connecting

Networking gives you the opportunity to be a “connecter,” a person who introduces two people to each other. Go out of your way to connect others to each other. If you connect two people who end up doing business together, you have earned social capital. The two people who profited from that relationship will always appreciate you and owe you a debt of gratitude.

Connecting also helps mitigate introverted feelings. Instead of focusing on the stress of networking, make it your mission to find people you already know but who don’t know each other. Make it a game.

On Your Own

While preparing to go to some function, have you ever worried, “What if I don’t know anyone?” It’s a common concern, but knowing nobody at a networking event is actually a blessing if you have the right attitude. When nobody knows you, you are liberated from all preconceived notions. You have a clean slate. You can establish your image any way you want in front of new people.

Not knowing anyone forces you to actually use your networking skills. Too many people will go to a function and sit in the corner with their friends, co-workers, spouse, whoever. That’s a waste of time. If you’re going to do that, just go to a restaurant.

One last thing…I usually drive by myself to networking functions. I find that I meet more people this way and get more out of the event. You can move around at your own pace not having to keep track of the person you arrived with. Another advantage of driving by yourself is that you can leave whenever you like!

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

Click here to subscribe to Jeff’s weekly articles!

Click here to see sample videos of Jeff speaking to live audiences!