There’s a lot of discussion about how important it is for sales people to “build their personal brands.” I’ve written about this topic several times before, even using the same title before. But it’s a topic, as much as I wish would go away, doesn’t.
But what does it mean to build our personal brands?
Many advocate building a massive social media presence–doing everything one can by increasing your presence in places like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels.
Apparently, we are supposed to blog and tweet. We are supposed to be constantly involved in conversations or other things that increase our presence and visibility in these social channels.
I wonder what an individual sale’s person’s personal brand means to customers. For example, is a customer going to call asking to talk to Lori rather than Bill, because Lori has a higher SSI and stronger personal brand? Or are they going to want to speak to the person responsible for their account or who they have worked with before.
But when I think about sales people, I wonder, “Who is it important to build our brand with?” It’s our customers, prospects, colleagues. There are few sales people that have a need to develop a global presence/visibility. Most every sales person I know has some sort of defined “territory.” It may be a few accounts, it may be a geographic region, it may be customers/prospects within a certain industry or market.
But it doesn’t seem to me that our customers and colleagues don’t care so much about our brand, rather they care about our reputations. I think a reputation is very different from a brand, and far more valuable.
What does it mean to build our reputations within our territories?
- First and foremost, it’s about meeting commitments to our “constituents.” It’s letting our customers/prospects and colleagues know that we meet our commitments, through our day to day activities, it’s making sure they know they can count on us.
- We build our reputations by being helpful to those people in our territories. Whether it’s a colleague that needs ideas or help, a customer that is struggling with achieving their goals, or a prospect that might want to learn something different, that might want to change.
- We build our reputations by being knowledgeable, both about the companies/enterprises within our territory, and about the people who are our constituents. We have to be knowledgeable about them, about what they face, about their problems, about their dreams and goals.
- We build our reputations by caring about our constituents. By our empathy in understanding what they face, by being driven by their success.
- We must always remember that we represent our companies, not ourselves. Our “brand” is an extension of our “company’s” brand. It is the last mile connection to our customers. As an aside, if you find your “brand” in conflict with that your company represents, then you are in the wrong job.
- To build our reputations, we have to focus on the channels most impactful to them, using means where we best stand out to them. Of course some will be leveraging the traditional social channels, but it’s so easy to get lost in those. Other channels become important to leverage as well: the telephone, email, webinars/webcasts, direct mailing (it’s actually making a revival), local trade shows/conferences. If we have accounts, spending time on site, eating lunch, having coffee in the company cafeterias are among the most powerful ways to networks. We expand our networks there and through referrals.
Building our reputation, is important. Your managers care about this. But what they care about is not the number of followers you have in LinkedIn or other platforms, or the articles, comments, likes you have. They care about how visible you are in your territory, what your reputation is with your customers and prospects, and within your own company. They care about how you can build on those relationships and your reputation to expand within your accounts and territory. They care about how effectively you represent the company and its brand to your customers. Everything else is meaningless.
I’m not naive, I suspect a lot of personal brand building is about positioning oneself to find a new job or a better opportunity. Having hired 1000’s of people (directly or indirectly), one’s social reach or social scores aren’t too important to me as a hiring manager. I’m not sure customers look at your social scores, I’ve certainly never looked at a social score other than curiosity and wondering, why?
Your reputation is what’s most important to me. What do your customers/prospects, and colleagues think of you? What do you do to build your visibility within a territory–I could careless about your visibility in the world. The fact that you may have 10’s of thousands of connections in social channels is meaningless. I’m looking at the connections you have within your territory, or your ability to go into a new territory and build your relationships quickly.
Some of you might, fairly, say: “Dave, you are very active in social media, why are you telling us something different.” I do spend a fair amount of time on social channels, but understand my goals. I’m less focused on my individual brand than I am on building my company’s visibility. Since I’m the “face” of the company, much of my activity is based on “company brand building.” If I look at the people in our company, they are spending significantly less time on social channels, focusing more on personalized “one to one” outreach. They leverage the work I have done in building the company brand and leads generated through my corporate brand building are distributed to the team.
My two sense, a personal brand is relatively meaningless, your reputation is priceless.