I recently took this pic in Tokyo, Japan. There are five street food wagons in the photo. I stood and watched for a good 15 minutes while a steady stream of businesspeople went to the wagon at the end.

What made the wagon at the end unique? Why was this one vendor getting so much attention when there were four others virtually deserted? Why stand in line at this specific vendor, when they could have gone to any of the others and had instant service? There’s a variety of possibilities, and they all have a lesson to teach about our own businesses.

It could have been that the food cart on the end was new to the block, and people were just attracted by the novelty. Novelty can work in the short-term, but you need to offer a unique service/product and be a good salesperson in order to keep people coming back. It’s also unlikely that customers loyal to another vendor would so blatantly flock to someone new and unfamiliar.

I think it’s more likely that:

The vendor at the end offered a product no one else did. If you provide a product or service that’s unique and can’t be bought anywhere else, you have an edge. Often this service or product doesn’t have to be dramatically different from others out there, but simply has a unique twist put onto it that makes it attractive to people.

It also could have been that the food cart operator knew how to sell better than the rest. Being a good salesperson is not easy. It takes years of experience. You have to be a good communicator, and you have to understand your audience (customers). If you know what they need and want, and you offer it to them in a positive way that helps them connect with you, you cultivate customer loyalty and have a recipe for sales success.

All three of these possibilities play out every day in the business world, to varying degrees of success. The latter two are essential to having a successful business. The first can work in disrupting the marketplace and helping you stand out for a short period of time, but won’t help in the long run if you don’t have talent and expertise behind you.

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