Brand of Gold

Apart from obvious examples like the smiling faces of realtors decorating benches at bus stops, or the over-caffeinated car salespeople in Stetson hats on local TV, the idea of salespeople or marketers actively and deliberately building a personal brand has never been a top priority for either the individuals or the organizations they work for. Buyer behavior, however, is forcing a major rethink of that position.

Consider, for example: When a salesperson is busy prospecting and reaching out to potential buyers, there is an immediate expectation that the buyer will research the organization that salesperson represents. This is why a top-notch presence on the web and in social media is important. What is less of an expectation (though common sense would suggest otherwise), is that the buyers will research the actual salesperson.

So, if the salesperson has no profile online and the buyer can’t find anything about him, or if his LinkedIn profile has no picture and only a couple of items of information, rightly or wrongly, today’s buyer is going to find that unusual. On the flip side, if prospects find a comprehensive profile and see that a salesperson belongs to various groups, connected to a lot of contacts (and interesting ones too), authors a blog, and that they have made insightful contributions to discussions, they will take notice of what that salesperson is saying, and there is a credentialing process that takes place. So before the salesperson has engaged directly or significantly with the buyer, some credibility has already been established.

I encourage every marketer and salesperson out there to think about his or her own online persona and begin building a “brand of gold.” The people you’re interacting with are paying attention, and 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?

  John Golden is president and CEO of sales performance improvement organization Huthwaite where he is responsible for the company’s global financial and operational performance and long-term strategy for success.
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