Increasing Your Marketability with Your Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Over the past 15 years of teaching, I have realized that the most important product people market is themselves. For those that have taken a marketing class, there may have been a discussion on Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA). This product differentiator is a critical element for long-term success and creates unique value to your customer. It is the ease of Apple's iPod® and iTunes®, the maneuverability of Dyson's BallTM vacuum cleaner, or even Burger King's Have It Your Way® hamburger to meet your unique tastes. We live with these experiences every day but we don't think of ourselves as a product. With more people out of work and the scarcity of job opportunities, I have had the chance to do significantly more coaching than I've done in the past many years.
During my coaching sessions, I usually hold a quick mock interview session utilizing three questions:
- Question #1 – If I were interviewing you for a job, tell me why I should hire you?
The following response is what I hear from almost everyone: "I'm a hard worker, a self-starter, a good team player, a fast learner …” and the list goes on and on. Once the interviewee has exhausted his or her list of attributes, we move on to the next question.
- Question #2 – What would you expect the next person sitting in that seat to offer that differs from what you just told me?
The response is almost the same from each person: complete silence, sometimes followed with a bunch of uhs or ums.
- Question #3 – What is your SCA?
The response to this question is typically the same response as to question number two.
In the current economic environment with fewer jobs and more candidates per job, recognizing and developing your SCA is more critical than ever. Even if you're employed and feel relatively secure in your job, building your SCA can positively influence your self-confidence and your interaction with the world.
Finding your SCA
Some of you reading this article may already know your SCA. For those who don't have an immediate response, here are five questions to help you discover or begin thinking about developing your own SCA.
- What am I passionate about?
- What knowledge or experience do I have that only a small percentage of other people could also claim to have?
- What have I done where I have created concrete samples demonstrating my specific knowledge or experience?
- What does my unique talent, skill or experience offer to people or organizations that I want to work with?
- What action(s) do I need to take immediately to build or enhance my SCA?
The following is an example of an SCA that I might provide.
I have always been passionate about helping others. I noticed that the more I was satisfied, engaged and motivated with my work, the better life was. What environment helped me discover my own SCA? For my doctoral research, I discovered a new statistically validated way by looking at task mixtures to assess and improve all of the elements that I valued: job satisfaction, engagement and motivation.
Organizations may be interested, but without presenting a "benefits" proposition, I cannot grab the attention of my potential customer. My SCA positioning: “If I could provide you an ROI that is 10 times higher and at the same time improve your employee motivation, job satisfaction and engagement, would you be interested?” The answer is always yes, which is followed by, “If I could do for your organization what I've been able to do for more than 600 people in Fortune 500 companies, would you want to discuss this? The answer once again is always yes. And to close my offer, I include my no risk guarantee: “If for some unusual reason, I can't do for you what I've been able to do for the other 600 people I will bill you $0 for my consulting fee.” Generally, this guarantee shows the confidence to seal the deal. Whether you are trying to be hired for permanent employment or consulting, this focused SCA proposition approach provides the differentiator. Do you have an SCA proposition?
I realize my example may feel far from reality for many of you. I started with the five questions, found my passion and created a plan to build upon my specific interests so that I was continually developing as an expert with knowledge and experience generating tangible results that would be valuable to others. The sooner you develop your own SCA, or identify one that you want to acquire, the faster you will travel down the road to success. Secretary of State Dean Acheson said, "The good news about the future is that it comes one day at a time." For your SCA it's never too late to begin building your future, one day at a time.