I have been thinking a lot about this recently – the differences between so called “specialists” and the alternative, which must logically be “generalists”
It is easy to imagine what a specialist is; someone who is perceived to be if not an expert, then certainly someone who is focused; has chosen to focus on one specific area, thing, sector, topic, subject … you see what I mean. Whereas a generalist is described thus: “One who has broad general knowledge and skills in several areas”
Maybe generalists could also be labelled a “Jack (Jill) of all trades” which insinuates “master of none” but actually that is far from true. When I think about the sales space, and some of my acquaintances, colleagues and friends, it is very easy – well for me anyway – to categorize most of them.
So who is better, the generalist or the specialist?
In that environment there isn’t a better: Some have chosen to concentrate on a particular aspect or area; others cannot be confined to one “discipline”
What’s the correlation with front-line selling? Well it is simply this: Commentators like me evangelise about the need – as a professional salesman or woman – to become an industry expert; to know everything there is to know about what is happening in your sector and in your market, so that you can have meaningful dialogue with your clients and prospects. I highlighted this point in a recent post, when I suggested that buyers today are only interested in having interactions that are “wholly relevant” But here there is a dichotomy …
What if you are selling into a variety of industries? What if you cannot select your customers, and you have to rely on them selecting you? What if you have no control of your typical buying/selling cycle? Then of course you are having a much more difficult time – you have, by the very nature of your role, to become a “jack of all industries” and logically you will probably be “master of none”
I have said it so many times before, all customers/prospects/clients are unique, and so are salespeople – and their development needs.
Oh, and me? I am a specialist … and a generalist: I used to be indecisive, but now I am less certain.