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With millions out of work, it is not uncommon to be worried about the stability of your employment. Regardless of your industry expertise, your education, or experience, you can find yourself out of work. You could fall victim to a change in the economy, the whim of a lunatic boss (sound familiar?), or the obsolescence of your industry. Wouldn’t it be great to have a job that was almost bulletproof? Regardless of your profession, I consistently see a common approach on how to make your job indispensable.

The Basics

You’ve certainly read about getting to the office early, doing what you said you would do, and making your boss look good. Those might keep you out of the target zone for phase one of a layoff, but they are not going to make you indispensable. Maybe you are thinking about getting an advanced degree, additional certifications, or sucking up to your boss (which doesn’t hurt). You could be the brightest mind in your company, though that cannot be taught. You could cure a major disease, or invent a perpetual motion machine. Only these attributes are not things you can obtain by following a process with intention.

The good news is that despite misconceptions to the contrary, the most valuable attribute can be taught, turned into a process, and valued across industries.

The Most Valuable Attribute

Who are the people in your organization who appear to be covered in a non-stick surface? You know – The ones who can make a mistake and your boss makes excuses for them. Why do executives go to battle for these folks?

Kathy Albarado is the CEO of, one of the most-respected Human Resource advisory firms in the Washington DC region and founder of the Helios Awards – an awards program celebrating its tenth year Honoring Employers Who Promote Talent Development. According to Kathy, “It is not unusual for an executive to bend the rules and try to make exceptions for an employee who has a track record for business development.” When I asked her about recruiting top talent, Kathy said, “If you have multiple applicants for a position, the one who has measurable business development metrics in their resume almost always gets extra attention as a candidate.”

The Common Misconception

I am often asked whether great salespeople can be built, or are they born that way. Recognize that the notion of the salesperson is changing as we speak. It used to be that the salesperson had a job of knocking on doors, captivating attention, and closing deals. There are three sales personas: The Order Taker, Sales Person, and Subject Matter Expert. I define each clearly in the linked article. All that matters is to consider that as a customer, you most value the subject matter expert.

Consumers today can get most of the information they need with a well-defined search. What they cannot do on their own is figure out how their business or personal challenge aligns with your products or services. The stereotypical salesperson might not be seen as that kind of trusted advisor. However, the competent professional who also knows how to navigate the customer through the buying process can be incredibly valuable to your customer and to your own company at the same time.

How Do You Start Developing Those Indispensable Attributes

Understanding the right questions to ask and the proper process to grow with integrity is something I cover in detail in books. Here are steps to help get you on your way:

Seek To Solve Not Sell: Your goal is not to make a sale. Rather, your goal is to see if there is a good fit between the challenges your client hopes to solve and your products and services. If you are not the right fit, then it is your job to help point your client to the right solution.

Understand Impact: Avoid the urge to jump into your solution. Make sure you fully appreciate the issue the client is trying to address and what happens if they don’t solve the issue. If the issue doesn’t appear to be worthy of an investment, you can simply say that. Effective sales is not about persuasion – it is about getting to the truth as quickly as possible.

Follow A Process and Rehearse: You can meet with a client and feel like you had a good meeting. But, how do you really know? Feel free to borrow the Same Side Quadrants as a template for success. Practice with colleagues, first. Practice for at least one hour per week in groups of three. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make in just a month or two. Whether you use Same Side Improv or another tool, just be sure to invest the time and you’ll see results.

It’s Your Turn

Introducing business development skills can be daunting for non-salespeople. The reality is that some of the most talented executives I know earned their position by investing in their business development capabilities. If done right, you can become indispensable. When have you seen someone with business development skills receive special treatment?

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