I just had an interesting exchange of emails with a contact on one of the social networking sites I subscribe to, who didn’t think that sales professionals would be interested in personal branding.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, believing that sales people don’t need a brand because they are promoting their company’s brand. It’s a very similar argument to the ones I hear from employees that they don’t need personal branding because they have their employer’s brand behind them or that the quality of their work and the hours they put in should say everything about them that needs to be said. Unfortunately, its also just as flawed as those other arguments.
Personal branding is essential to a successful sales professional. Zig Ziglar (arguably one of the most successful salesmen and sales trainers around) didn’t get to where he is by keeping his head down and meeting his targets. He did it by becoming a name in his own right.
You don’t need to be another Zig to make it in sales, but you do need to be thinking about your personal brand.
For example, if a sales rep can establish a personal reputation as a high-integrity problem solver, it puts them ahead of the box-shifters relying on their company’s brand in the eyes of their customers, so the when it comes to a repeat order the customer may go straight to them rather than goin to the open market.
And building on that, however good a company’s products and reputation are, it will have probably dozens of competitors. If a sales rep can build a strong enough personal brand, their prospects will have heard of them even if they’ve never been in touch. Ultimately, you want a personal brand that is strong enough that customers come to find you, because that means they’re already wanting to buy – so you don’t have to sell.
Finally, buyers are increasingly googling not just the company but the sales rep before a sales meeting. They also reach out to their networks. Personal branding is about taking control of the messages that they’ll get back, because if you don’t control those messages then someone else will.
I’ll say that again. If you’re not in control of your personal brand, someone else is. Would Coca Cola let Pepsi run it’s advertising? Would Ford hand control of marketing over to GM?
The key for sales professionals is to create a personal brand that complements that of the company, and which gets across clearly, consistently and constantly their key strengths and personal attributes, that reaches their target customers, and conveys the added value that they will get by dealing with that sales professional rather than anyone else.
So instead of greeting a new contact with "I’m John Doe, I’m your regional sales manager for Acme Software Inc." they might say something like "I’m John Doe. I assist government IT managers in getting their software development projects completed on time and on budget."
and then they just have to make sure that it’s true and that they can back it up. Which, if their brand is an authentic one, should be the easy bit!