Its not being best, its setting the standard

June 4, 2012
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When I say the words, “set the standard,” what comes to your mind?

Is it your personal standards?

Is it the standards your business sets?

Is it the standards you have about other people?

Is it standards you have about other products?

When you go to a restaurant and order your favorite steak, you’ll always recall the one restaurant, especially if it’s the one you’re in, that had the best steak or whatever your favorite food was. That restaurant set the standard. All other steaks you will ever eat will be compared to the standard bearer, until one day you may get a better steak, and then that restaurant will become the new standard bearer. You know and recognize dozens of standard setters in your life — especially if these products or people are amazing and have your undying loyalty, and especially if you proactively refer them. It could be as simple as the best ice cream or the best apple pie. It could be the best dentist or the best chiropractor. It could be the best financial planner.

 And it also could be your own brand loyalty. The best car. The best clothing. The best computer. The best phone. Things that you would never consider doing without.

 Whatever those products are, whoever those people are, they set the standard. Your standard.

 There are third-party standards:

• Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single basketball game. He didn’t just set a record. He set the standard.

• Abe Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. It wasn’t just a speech. He set the standard.

• At the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech to 500,000 people. It wasn’t just a speech. He set the standard.

 The Beatles. Elvis Presley. They set the standard and paved the way for others.

 When Chamberlain set the standard for scoring, it was on March 2, 1962. That standard has endured more than 50 years. Kobe Bryant’s 81 points were good, but not as good as Chamberlain’s 100 points — the standard.

 Accomplishments are always compared to the standard. Quality is always compared to the standard. Products are always compared to the standard. You know what the best products in your industry are. If you work for that company, you love it and vice versa.

 Now that you get the idea of what I’m talking about, let’s talk about your business and career.

 What standards are you setting, and who are the people involved in setting those standards? Don’t think about just in your company, but also in the mind of your customer and in the reputation of your business in your community and industry.

 If you’re not setting the standard, you’re fighting price. Reputation trumps price.

 Your reputation stems from what others think about you and say about you. In today’s world, it’s what others post online about you. Reputation comes from setting standards in service, quality of product, consistency and availability.

 You may think of it as “best.” But there’s a big difference between bragging about the fact you are the “best” and “we set the standard.”

 There are many products in which you can argue who is best. There’s often an obvious winner. German automobile engineering has set the standard. Many computer products are best. Microsoft set the old standard, and Apple set the new standard. There are many social media sites that can be argued as better than others, but Facebook set the standard.

 As a salesperson, I’d like you to take a moment and evaluate (or should I say self-evaluate) where you are on the standard-setting scale. Are you just a rep? Are you one of the top 25 percent of reps? Or have you achieved the status of trusted advisor, who is setting standards not just in sales numbers, but also in customer loyalty, profitability and relationships?

 What about your company? What standards are they setting? What high ethical ground have they achieved?

 If you look at the example of Bank of America, you see a century-old company which had set many standards and achieved global greatness. It was destroyed by indiscriminate greed and a total lack of understanding of social media in general. Standard bearers can fall quickly. Just ask Tiger Woods.

 You may believe setting the standard is out of your personal control — especially standards that your company sets. But in the new world of transparency, thanks to the Internet, mothered by Google and social media, you have the opportunity to build your personal brand, create your personal reputation, and set your own personal standards — standards that will remain yours even if you change companies or careers.

 The key word in standard setting is “endure.” Set standards that will last. Many have come and gone quickly. Don’t be one of them.

 Jeffrey Gitomer’s Web site,, has more information about training and seminars, or e-mail him personally at

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