Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 215: Q & A with Mike Orr @mikeorr8

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If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify,  iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Stitcher

This week’s episode is entitled Learn How Personal Branding Can Have an Impact on Personal Sellingand our guest is Mike Orr, Co-Founder of Grapevine6.

Personal brand has been something we’ve heard about in selling for a while, especially in professional services.  It’s a big topic that I think sometimes can feel a little obtuse to people. How do you define what is a personal brand, and why is it important for sales professionals to have one?

 “Personal brand is the sum total of your external communications about yourself–how you represent yourself, the things you talk about in a public forum–even the things you talk about in private forums–how you represent yourself in the interactions you have with your prospects and customers. That sum total is really what represents your brand.”

And one of the things we’re talking about now is shifting from just looking at it as your brand to really what’s your digital presence? How do you show up when someone’s trying to look you up digitally? Because that’s where everyone’s starting now.

  • What should my brand be?
  • Should people be thinking about certain focus areas or certain areas of consistency?
  • Should they alternatively just say, “Hey, listen, just be yourself,” and that’s who you are?
  • What are some things you recommend to help be consistent in sharing content?
  • What are some best practices you recommend to just be better at sharing consistently?

 I think social is fundamentally the best starting point for building a personal brand because it’s interactive.

Mike answers these questions, shares what is and isn’t working, and a lot more.  Read our conversation and/or listen below.

Matt:  Alrighty. Well, welcome, everyone, to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thank you so much for joining us. All you people joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for making us part of your work from home work day or whatever you’re working today. We’re here every Thursday at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. I’m actually not here today. If you’re listening to this, I’m potentially taking a nap somewhere north of Seattle and excited to be taking a little time with my family. We wanted to continue to provide some great episodes for you here on Sales Pipeline Radio.

We’ve got a great, great episode and great guest planned here. And if you like what you hear today or if your first time joining us, you can find all of our episodes past, present, and future at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing each week. Today is no different. We’ve got the cofounder of Grapevine6 Mike Orr joining us today to talk a little bit about personal branding and the impact it can have on selling. Mike, thanks so much for joining us today.

Mike:  Thanks for having me.

Matt:  Personal brand has been something that we’ve heard about in selling for a while, especially in professional services. Earlier today, I was talking to a bunch of realtors who obviously have a very keen interest in building their personal brand, but that’s a big topic that I think sometimes can feel a little obtuse to people. How do you define what is a personal brand, and why is it important for sales professionals to have one?

Mike:  That’s a great question. I have some little bit of business background, so I won’t go directly from the MBA textbook, but it is still brand. And so, I would say it’s the sum total of your external communications about yourself, right, so how you represent yourself, the things that you talk about in a public forum, I think even the things you talk about in private forums, right, so how you represent yourself in the interactions you have with your prospects and customers. That sum total is really what represents your brand.

And one of the things we’re talking about now is shifting that from just looking at it as your brand to really what’s your digital presence. How do you show up when someone’s trying to look you up digitally? Because that’s where everyone’s starting now.

Matt:  When people think about brand, I think oftentimes, they think about something that has been carefully crafted or carefully thought out. For people that are thinking about, “Well, what should my brand be,” I mean, should people be thinking about certain focus areas or certain areas of consistency? Should they alternatively just say, “Hey, listen, just be yourself,” and that’s who you are? What advice do you give people when it comes to what that brand can and should be?

Mike:  Another great question because I think that’s really why a lot of people have hesitated down the path of going to build a personal brand because it seems like a lot of work. We work a lot with wealth managers and financial advisors. And if you talk to the people that coach them on how to build a practice and how to build their book of business, there’s a three-month process to building out a marketing plan before you’ve even started on building a brand.

I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. You want to have some self awareness for sure and know what your interests are and what you’re compelled to engage with. But start engaging in content because that’s the best way to learn. Post content, engage with other people’s content, and figure out what’s actually resonating. So, you can do it I think progressively by actually just getting started. It also has the benefit of helping you build that brand. But the great thing about digital is very different from print that in any sort of marketing channel, it’s not once and you’re done, right? You can make an evolutionary process where your actions, the feedback you get from them, what people actually care about, that helps you define what you should talk more about, and ultimately, that collection of things that you’re talking about is your brand.

Matt:  When I talk to people about their personal brand and a lot of times we get the advice of, “Oh, you need to share content. You got to do this on a consistent basis.” It’s the consistent basis part of that that can be kind of a challenge. What are some things that you recommend? I imagine this is part of why Grapevine6 exists at this point is that, what are some of the key challenges for people to be consistent? And what are some things that maybe how Grapevine6 is built, and what are some best practices you recommend people use to just be better at that?

Mike:  For sure. Habits are hard to form. And if any of those habits that are going to help you develop professionally, personally, great. Gangbusters at the start. Then you can tail off pretty quickly. There’s definitely an industry built around that. I think there’s a few tactics we’ve seen really work well on engaging, especially in social. And I think social is fundamentally the best starting point for building a personal brand because it’s interactive. Much more than email or web or other digital channels, it allows you to go engage with other people’s content, so you’re not always having to come up with new things. You can find something to engage with every time you open LinkedIn or Twitter, really. There’s an ease of use there. And that’s what Grapevine6 is founded on is that we make it easier to discover content to publish, right, to actually put your opinion out there, and even give you a starting point for what that might be so that you don’t spend an hour trying to think of something to talk about. You can figure it out, set it up, get it done in 15, 20 minutes a week. So, those tools can help you build the habit.

And I think it’s definitely starting. One of the things we coach is to engage with the mobile apps from the networks themselves because they spend hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering how to build habits that keep you coming back and using their platforms because that’s how they make their money. So, engaging with that really helps because once you start using a LinkedIn mobile app or Facebook or whatever platforms you’re going to use, there’s a feedback mechanism that’s built in to show you you’re having an impact. People are reading your stuff. They’re liking your comments even, on their comments. They’re making more comments. It gives you small opportunities to go engage. And I think that’s the key to really developing any habit is it’s the consistency, which needs to be reinforced through a couple of tools. But also taking almost bite-sized pieces, you don’t need to write up a bible about what your brand is going to be. You just need to take a few actions, make it manageable, and have some fun with it, right?

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Mike Orr. He’s cofounder of Grapevine6, a pretty cool personal branding tool focused on social and content. I think a ton of times when people think about building their personal brand, they think that means that they’re talking about themselves. Can you talk about the nature of the content that tends to work best? Because I think it’s less about people learning about you and people more perceiving value from you as part of your personal brand, which makes the content work. Talk a little bit about what that looks like and what best practices you’ve found.

Mike:  For sure. There’s a couple of different things at work there. One of the things that’s worth noting is that much like the way brands first approached social, which was we’re just going to talk about ourselves. And we’re going to get our employees and our salespeople to just talk about our brand. Our products, we’re the most important thing. That whole approach has really proven that it doesn’t really stick because there’s not much value in it for the people that are sharing the content. And it just ends up being noise that people tune out pretty quickly.

Sharing other people’s content and engaging with other people’s content delivers a much higher engagement rate with your clients and prospects. And so, that’s part of the techniques and the approaches that we coach. And really, the reason that Grapevine6 exists is because it’s hard to find sometimes that third party content that’s really relevant and resonates with the things that you want to talk to your network about. So, we make that easier. And it really varies.

Again, I think one of the things that often gets missed in some of these approaches to building a personal brand or engaging in social selling is authenticity. And there’s two parts to authenticity. And the first one I think is in the way that you behave and the way you represent yourself. If you’re a pretty circumspect, retrospective, introspective kind of person where you don’t go out and engage that often, then you don’t need to post 18 times a day. If you are super outgoing, always on, always on social, always tracking people, yeah, great, be super active and be really responsive. But it should be authentic. It should represent kind of how you are and not worry, you don’t have to change your personality to fit a model for engagement.

And then also, you want to talk about the things that you’re interested in. It doesn’t help you if you’re trying to all of a sudden go engage with a classic car audience and you don’t really care about classic cars. You start talking about classic cars as part of your social engagement, that’s going to be found out pretty quickly, and you’re going to be out of the loop. So, I think those are important parts of that is to make sure that it’s still authentic, that you build that personal brand over time.

Matt:  Where did the idea for this come from? I think this is your first time sort of starting a business, first time entrepreneur. But I know you’ve got a lot of background in sort of user experience and user experience design, but did you see something in the market? Did you see something that the market was lacking? What’s the origin story for this idea?

Mike:  It’s a lot like a number of other origin stories where you start in one place and then end up in a totally different place. We worked at a marketing agency at one point and were the digital group within that marketing agency and ended up growing it to be one of the most awarded agencies in the world. And what we saw there back 10 years ago was really the rise of content marketing and how brands were changing the ways that they were communicating with audiences. It was about adding value first rather than just pushing a message, pushing product. It was helping people, educating them. Then there was a whole group of technology companies that came up around that that really got into marketing automation, social listening, the Marketos and Eloquas and Sysomos and those companies. They’re great. They’re really expensive and very complicated.

And what we thought was, could we apply technology and especially some of the AI technology that was becoming available at the time, to make it simple enough that an entrepreneur could use these same techniques, put kind of that marketing agency in their pocket, and help them engage with their networks without the spend and the time necessary to use these big platforms? I guess I think what’s happened actually in the interim is that salespeople more than ever now are entrepreneurs, right? The responsibility for generating business and doing the marketing and building the relationships that drive to business, even post-sale relationships, that whole function now is being moved out more and more to the sales team because all those things that were happening in marketing have just become less and less effective. People don’t trust the brands. As much as they thought they could personalize a message using automation, it only goes so far. And so now, where the connection is happening is really the salespeople. And so, they have a marketing function now, and we deliver the content that delivers on this sort of marketing idea where you’re trying to build a relationship, not even on your content, but on third party content, on things that make you an authority in that space.

Matt:  Well, and I think you make a really good point that you don’t really have control over whether you’re going to get leads from marketing. You don’t have control over how they build the brand and whether that brand halo drives business back to you. But you have control over your brand. You have control over the relationship you have with your prospects. And pretty important, I think, not only to manage that for the current gig and the current quota that you have, but that’s something that will continue to compound in value for you as a sales professional for the rest of your career.

We got to take a quick break. We’ll be back with more with Mike Orr from Grapevine6. We’re going to be talking more about helping sales professionals build their personal brand, the impact that could have if you can get your whole organization of salespeople doing that, how marketing contributes, and more. We’ll be back.

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Matt:  Welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. We’re here with Mike Orr. He’s a cofounder at Grapevine6. We’ve been talking about the role and the importance of personal branding for sales professionals in particular. And we’ve kind of been talking about this, Mike, as if we’re talking about the business case and the value proposition for an individual sales rep. Talk about now what it would mean if you can now get a whole company of sales professionals doing this. Are you seeing companies adopt tools like Grapevine6 for their whole organization? And what does that look like? What are some stories of impact that that’s having?

Mike:  It’s actually taken a little bit longer than we thought it would, but definitely, it’s part of the social selling movement, which is pretty well ingrained now. And the reason I say it’s taken longer than we thought, it was four, five years ago, we started with SAP as really one of our big first enterprise customers. And they had committed to social selling in a huge way and bought like 15,000 LinkedIn Sales Navigator licenses because they had done all the studies to understand the impact that had on pipeline and performance, ability to make quota, the speed of the deals, the size of the deals. Everything was dramatically improved if they were a high performing social selling salesperson. And so, they made a big investment in that.

And the challenge they had was we can teach them how to use the technology, but once they got to social, they didn’t know what to talk about. And so, that was the gap that Grapevine6 filled. And then what we’ve seen is that’s continued to have a huge impact. Using Grapevine6 and engaging with relevant content drives up your Social Selling Index score, which is every sales professional should know their Social Selling Index score in LinkedIn because it’s a measure of how you compare to your peers and the way that you engage in social. And that ultimately correlates to your ability to make quota and your ability to deliver against your sales targets.

We’re seeing that on the sales side. I think it’s surprising that the investment in Sales Navigator took a little bit more time than even LinkedIn thought it was going to take. But now, we’re seeing bigger companies make pretty big purchases of thousands of licenses of Sales Navigator. And that’s sort of drafting in the, oh, yeah, we do actually need to enable our sales forces and our sales teams to create authentic and human relationships with their prospects and customers. And the best place to do that is on LinkedIn or social media generally. And so, we’re going to invest in the technology to get that done.

Matt:  Are you seeing marketers sort of gravitate to this as well? We literally, just this morning, I was on a call with a bunch of CMOs who were talking about influencer marketing and the idea of having folks inside the company that have a presence in their professional community, the idea of, okay, well, how do you make sure they’re doing it well and how they’re representing the company well? And I would think that a marketing organization who is trying to manage the brand might have a vested interest in enabling their sales organization or really anybody in the organization to build their personal brands for themselves but also on behalf of the organization in a consistent way. Have you seen marketers start to gravitate towards this as an opportunity as well?

Mike:  I think the leading ones. It’s a big mind shift, right? Because I think what the organization actually needs to do, and marketing needs to be the leader in this, is that it’s not about capital B brand for the company. It’s about the personal brand. And the company brand needs to live inside that. And when it does, it’s so much bigger because some of these organizations have these huge field forces, or even at our company, we have more than one salesperson. So when that personal brand, if you’re able to build that up, it necessarily builds up your company brand.

And one of the interesting things that we’ve seen, and this kind of goes to the shift in mindset, is a lot of people, when marketing starts a social program, it’s really to get more impressions on their content. So, they just push all their corporate content. Our view is, no, you shouldn’t do that. If you want to go to the extreme, like an SAP, they recommend publicly nine pieces of third party content to one piece of corporate content, so very extreme sort of we don’t talk at all about SAP until we get from much further into the relationship.

But if you actually introduce third party content as part of what your sales team or your employees or anyone that’s customer facing is going out there and engaging, it actually increases the engagement with your corporate content, with your first party content, which it’s not intuitive, right? It’s counterintuitive that if you make this only one of the things that you’re talking about, now the engagement goes up because people believe it’s more authentic when you share it. If all you share is corporate content, it just doesn’t look authentic at all, and nobody cares. Everybody switches off.

So, that’s the shift that needs to happen, and we’re starting to see that in the leading marketing organizations, within especially B2B technology firms, but even like you mentioned, professional services, right, understanding that the partners in those firms and the consultants, the people delivering the service, have a sales and marketing responsibility, they have a brand. We have to help them build that because that is the thing that’s going to create value over the long run.

Matt:  Just a couple more minutes here with our guest today on Sales Pipeline Radio, Mike Orr, cofounder of Grapevine6. And Mike, just a couple more questions. I want to just shift gears a bit. You’ve been growing the business for the past seven years, first time entrepreneur. What’s one of your best lessons over the last seven years, and what’s something that has surprised you about growing a business?

Mike:  The best lesson has been be patient to find the right customers and engage them as much as you can. It took us a while to find the right SAPs and companies like that that really got it, that this was going to be different. And we stayed very much on mission and true to where we wanted to go until we found them. The thing that surprised us was how long that took to find the right customer and have the market almost catch up to where we were thinking because we didn’t plan on it taking quite as long as it did. Always takes longer and costs more than you think it will I think is the lesson that any big project should be taking away.

But really figuring out who those leading customers are because it’s not just that initial sale, which is huge, and having them as an advocate and really advocating and internally sort of championing this idea and this shift and change that needs to happen because it aligns with where they know they need to go. And this is just a great way to deliver that. They’re also the same ones that are looking around the corner before anyone else is in the next two or three years. And so if you create relationships with them, they can continue to guide you on the next evolution of the product or even revolution that’s coming in the market that you need to prepare for. And so, I think that was a great thing we got lucky with in having, really, the best customers that we could ask for. Because they were early adopters and early innovators, they continue to be early adopters and early innovators, and they’re pushing us to where the product needs to go next.

Matt:  Want to really thank you for being part of the show. Just last question for you we’ve been asking everybody the last couple months. I’m sure this year has not gone exactly how you expected, but we’re here. We’re talking. It’s the second half of the year, and we’re still grinding. What’s something that you miss from pre-pandemic days that you’re kind of looking forward to getting back to? And what’s something that maybe you don’t miss that now that you are without or have not been able to engage with that you’re not looking forward to it or not going to make part of your new normal moving forward?

Mike:  Well, I think it’s funny because they’re probably both the same thing. It’s probably the travel and going to visit. Some of our people are in the U.S. We’re up in Toronto. Have people, customers in Seattle where you are and haven’t been able to go and visit them. Or New York, was going there and fairly regularly up and down the East Coast and spending time with our customers. And we’re in a bit of a holding pattern where it’s hard to move things forward because the engagements, you can still have them, and they’re just not quite as rich. And you don’t have as much open communication because you’re not in person with them. That’s also one of the more demanding things. As much as I enjoy travel, the Newark Airport was starting to get pretty depressing for me.

So, I think I’ll moderate that a little bit more, and I think everyone will. I think everyone will be a bit more selective on the trips that they take, try and get more value out of them, and really appreciate when people do make those efforts, right? Sometimes, it ended up being a bit expected that, oh, you’re going to be here on whatever. You don’t need to be there every week or every month. But when you do, let’s really embrace that for the next while, that’s going to be a bit of work to get there. So, let’s make the most of that time. But even I think going forward, appreciating the time spent in person when we’re able to do it is one of the things I’m looking forward to.

Matt:  Yeah, amen to that. And also just silver lining, thankful that it’s been months since I’ve had to think about the Newark Airport. I know it’s in my future at some point, but I feel you on that one. I thank you so much to our guest today, Mike Orr, sharing a little bit about his business Grapevine6 as well as a little bit about personal branding and the need and value in doing that. If you like what you heard and want to share this with others in your organization, some of your peers and colleagues elsewhere, we’ll have this up on salespipelineradio.com in just a couple days. And please join us next week, every week, Thursdays at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. We’ll be back. But until then, on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.

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