Standing out in a crowd.

By Scott Westerman

Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Life isn’t about fitting in. It’s about standing out.” 

One of the best books on selling that I ever read was “The Accidental Sales Person” by Chris Lytle.

I love his maxim that we are most likely to build a profitable relationship with someone who aligns their behavior with the things that we value.

Flip that around and you get the secret for choosing the right organization to partner with your personal brand. We are most likely to be successful in a company culture that is in sync with what we think is important.

Whether you are starting your own business or looking for employment, these two ideas will be critical to your success and happiness.

First decide what you want to do and where you want to do it. Then do your homework to become the best possible practitioner.

I recently had a chance to visit with some of the recruiters who were on campus interviewing Spartans. What, I wondered, separated the winners from the rest of the field? Two things seemed to be common to every conversation.

“We are more impressed with people who understand what we do.”
Translation: Do your research before you meet the customer.

“We don’t hire employees. We hire problem solvers.”
Translation: Understand their challenges and be ready with solutions.

These are two great ways to stand out in a crowd.

When Colleen and I walk through the mall, I’m fascinated by the people who work the cosmetics counters. The most successful seem to be artistic dermatologists. They know enough about the biology of our skin and the psychology of physical beauty to tell in an instant what will work best in our unique situation. And they can size up a customer’s psyche with good eye contact and a couple of well chosen questions.

Likewise, rock star CEOs have a unique understanding of their customers, their competitors and the dynamics of the marketplace. They rise to the top because they get the job done. They have a sixth sense for finding great talent and inspiring them to do great work.

Want to have a leg up on your competition? Create a career game plan that includes these five ideas.

  • Bracket your passion – Hard work is much more fun when you love what you do.
  • Carefully select your partner – Build relationships with people and companies that share your values. Going to work is more fun when you love the culture.
  • Do your homework – Become an expert and never stop learning about your work and your competitors. Keep adding to your skill set so you won’t become obsolete.
  • Bring solutions – Come into every interaction with an idea. You are hired to help. Add value.
  • Execute – Life is about results. Deliver on your promises. Go the extra mile. Don’t let setbacks deter you. The most important skill for standing out in a crowd is doing a little more than expected.

Whatever your passion, you will be happiest when immersed in a challenge that stretches you, teaches you and gives you the chance to solve a big problem. You will be the most successful when you have fully prepared for the task, can keep an open mind as you work and stay with it until you get to where you want to be.

“Sales,” Chris Lytle writes, “is a series of defeats punctuated by profitable victories.” And so it is with our careers. Life is a series of problems punctuated by moments of joy and affirmation. You will definitely experience more lows when you decide to stand out from the crowd. But if you’re working in your sweet spot, with a company that shares your values, have done your homework and are going the extra mile to deliver great value, you will discover that the joy is in the doing.

As Seth Godin might say, creating great art is the cause. Success and happiness for you and everyone around you is the effect