To many people, the obvious examples of a “brand” means things such as the smiling faces of realtors decorating benches at bus stops or the over-caffeinated car salespeople in Stetson hats on local TV. It has never been a top priority for salespeople or marketers to actively and deliberately build a personal brand–either for the individuals themselves or the organizations they work for. Because of the radical changes in buyer behavior, however, a major rethink of that position is being forced.
When a salesperson is prospecting and reaching out to potential buyers, it is expected that those buyers will conduct their own research on the salesperson’s product or service and company. This is why it’s vitally important today to have a top-notch presence on the web and in social media. What is less of an expectation (though common sense would suggest otherwise), is that buyers will research the actual salesperson.
If a salesperson has no online profile and buyers can find nothing about them, or if a salesperson’s LinkedIn profile has no picture and only a couple of information items, rightly or wrongly the buyer is going to find that unusual. Conversely if a prospect does find a comprehensive profile, and can see that the salesperson belongs to various groups, has a high number of contacts (including some interesting ones), authors a blog, and that they have made insightful contributions to discussions, the prospect will take notice. What the salesperson is saying will be given more credence–there is a credentialing process that takes place even before the salesperson has engaged with the buyer.
I encourage every marketer and salesperson out there to think about his or her own online persona, and begin building a “brand of gold.” Trust me, the people you’re interacting with are paying attention. The easiest ways they have of getting an initial read on “you” is to simply look you up on LinkedIn or conduct a search online.
Ask yourself this: What will they find? Does your LinkedIn profile have a reasonably professional picture of you? I know your kid is the cutest in the world (just like mine is) but they don’t belong with you on LinkedIn and neither does that great shot of you hanging off the front of the yacht at last year’s company club trip. Is your profile comprehensive and does it contain anything beyond just your job history? Have you linked to a blog you contribute to or articles that you’ve written? Does it show that you belong to groups that are relevant to your buyer’s industry and business issues?
Creating your brand of gold as a marketer or salesperson is another of the increasing points of intersection between marketing and sales, because in essence you’re now looking to market yourself as a provider of value in the same way your organization (hopefully) is marketing itself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues in marketing expert in social networking to ask for help in creating the right brand for yourself online.
It has long been accepted that marketers and salespeople need to be value creators and not simply product communicators. But in today’s buyer-empowered world, to even get a chance to be that you have to ensure that you’re presenting your best, most business savvy face to buyers in every venue that you and they operate in.
Put yourself in the place of a prospective buyer and ask yourself: what do the results of a search on you communicate about you? Is the composite online persona that someone would create in their mind from clicking on the first three or four results one that is going to win you business?