(By Bob McCurdy) This is not a new subject but the following might contain a slightly different twist or two.
As in business, our personal brand is the single most important factor that determines our income and our success, often insulating us against business factors beyond our control. So as salespeople, it’s incredibly important that we nurture, cultivate, guard, and “market” our brand to our clients. Those who succeed in doing this will generate more billing and be more successful than those who don’t. It’s a business fact that if we’re not branding ourselves our competition is sure to do it for us.
“Brand,” while a simple word, brings mental clarity to our clients when making media investments and while it may be elementary in concept, proper professional branding requires time and a lot of focused effort to first create and then sustain. Like a pearl in an oyster, our brand equity accrues over time with successive layers — it does not grow/happen overnight, but without a powerful brand image we’re likely to remain vendors in our client’s eyes. With the proper brand image, we can become trusted and valued partners.
Local retailers are inundated by media salespeople daily. Clutter is not the exclusive domain of commercial media, it’s also rampant on the streets with dozens of different media reps vying for attention (Nielsen’s Commspoint channel planning tool evaluates 69 different media). So the first challenge of branding is to “stand out,” as the salesperson who’s developed the strongest brand will more often than not get the benefit of the doubt and/or the extra call in any buying situation.
The best way to stand out is to aim for “contrast,” which is the active ingredient in any brand differentiation. We need to be remarkable, unmistakable, trusted, and essential to stand out in this sea of sameness. The best way to ooze contrast is to do the things our competitors aren’t, to say the things they aren’t, to think the way they aren’t, dress the way they aren’t, and most importantly, to behave and execute the way they aren’t. While this requires discipline, focus, patience, and commitment, it greatly contributes to our brand and over time provides us with a sustained, bullet-proof competitive advantage. We distinguish ourselves by what we do — not just by what we say. Walking the talk. Our personal brand is a promise to our clients, a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.
When prospecting in-person, on the phone, or via e-mail, understand the prospect’s first reaction is likely, “Another one?” So the first step toward proper branding with these individuals is to do the proper pre-call prep. Second impressions rarely occur when the first is not positive.
When we’re approaching a client who has a strong relationship with a competitor, at a minimum project a clear and unmistakable, distinct image of being better prepared and more knowledgeable. “Branding” requires a lot of things but product knowledge and compelling marketing expertise are both critical if we are to positively impact/influence clients.
Finally, every successful brand, a.k.a. salesperson, has to have some kind of emotional appeal. People buy emotionally and justify with logic. We should constantly be on the lookout for different ways in which we can go “above and beyond” on our client’s behalf. To do the things for them and their business that others have either not thought of, or have chosen not to do. The intensity of emotion felt toward us is equal to their connection to us. Sir Richard Branson has said, “Branding requires commitment, commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions.” He is correct.
Separating ourselves from the pack is not as difficult as it might seem in 2018. Most of what our clients encounter every day is routine and predictable. We need to be neither by doing all that’s necessary and then some. “Standing out” is the foundation of our brand. It will not only lead to a higher income and greater professional success, but it’s fun and fulfilling. Jeff Bezos said it well initially, but I took the liberty of modifying his quote a bit by transposing the words “company” and “person” — “A brand for a person is like a brand for a company. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
Bring on the hard things.