Having grown up in an automotive town, I have never liked the term "unskilled labor," finding its application to hardworking families like my own a bit insulting. I recently encountered a new definition of the term as it applies to sales and business:

"Unskilled labor is what you call someone who merely has skills that most everyone else has."

If the traditional meaning of "unskilled labor" disturbs me from a personal standpoint, this new definition may disturb many in the broader business community as it pertains to remaining competitive and relevant in today's changing business environment.

Sales skills matter and make a difference. If your sales approach and skills are the same as anyone else's, what is special about you or your organization? Why would potential customers choose you, much less pay extra for your products or services? What is your individual competitive advantage? If you can't answer this question instantly and succinctly, you may be an "unskilled" sales professional with little or no hope of consistently winning in the sales arena.

It's so easy to blame inadequacies in our organization, management, product or service offering for our failure to close the sale. When reflecting on a sales call, we should ask ourselves, "What was my personal role in the outcome?" Did I really take the time to understand this customer or prospect's long term objectives and strategies? THEIR customers' needs? Did I consider the impact of THEIR competition, future product or service introductions, consumer demands and opportunities in my proposed solution? How does their unique competitive environment affect all of these considerations? The sales professional who fails to understand the customer also casts themselves in the role of "unskilled sales labor," putting them at a distinct disadvantage against anyone who is doing their homework.

Our transformation to the role of business advisor will add authentic value that reaches beyond the scope of mere products and services. Business advisors bring a deeply networked collaboration to the customer. They facilitate synergy inside and outside an organization, paving the way for innovation. As a business advisor, the sales professional is not only a highly skilled but a highly valued asset with an attitude and approach that clearly differentiates him/her from the competition. This role can't be assumed; it is earned when a sales professional invests time and energy, networks inside the organization and explores to gain a deep understanding of the customer.

Today "unskilled labor" means "not-uniquely-skilled" labor.  What selling skills are you cultivating to ensure you are among the next generation of "skilled" sales professionals to become a business advisor?