Dave Stein

Article Summary:

How establishing a personal brand can help you achieve greater sales success.

Sales Success through Self Branding

A number of the very successful sales reps whom I coach have a strategy for winning that is worth considering. They do what entertainers, sports figures, and politicians do--they brand themselves.

I do admit it is unusual for someone who sells for a company to establish and promote their personal brand identity. (Many senior executives do: Welch, Bossidy, Jobs, et. al.) However, for some sales pros I coach, having a personal brand identity has enabled them to continue exceeding quota even as some of their customers have tightened up their spending and their competitors are dropping like flies.

One winner has branded himself as a high-integrity problem solver. Among the tactics he employs to maintain his brand is this: At the end of the first meeting with an executive-level prospect, he leaves them with a high-quality folder of testimonials written by different people from a broad sampling of customers attesting to his integrity, ability to provide solutions for their business opportunities and challenges, and statements that he regularly puts their interests above his own. What does that do for him? It equates his name with credibility--that elusive product of integrity and competence. And it leaves an impression.

Company brand is not enough
There is another rep I know who also brands himself. His company has its own brand identity. They have a good product and a good reputation, but they have literally dozens of competitors. So this sales professional has figured out that his company and product can't do the whole job for him. For him to be successful he had to personally brand himself.

He sells to manufacturers within a geographic territory and let me tell you, he owns that territory. His name is known by at least one person in half the manufacturing companies in that area, and that's not by chance. While his company promotes themselves, he promotes himself.

Don't get me wrong, it's not done in a way that at all conflicts with the efforts of his company, in fact, it totally compliments it. He is known as the source of information, insight, experience and a broker of that information.

He doesn't nearly know the answers to all the questions that are posed to him, but he knows where to find them. He's branded himself as the GoTo person. He puts himself in the middle of the action and as a result, his customers and prospects go to him for answers, opinion, guidance and his products.

Here's what he does
His appetite for information is huge and his attention to detail even greater. He does all the Sales 101 stuff, like never forgetting a customer's birthday or congratulating them on good news. But he carries that practice much further. He tells me his customers feel he is ever-present.

The product he sells is secondary. Important, but not that important. He's not a product expert, but is an expert in how his company's product helps his customer's top and bottom lines. He can quote the numbers. Produce the ROIs. Need tech specs? He's got lots of people in his company who will jump at the chance to work with him. (He shares the credit. He leads. He wins. And people follow winners--winner is a powerful brand!)

A starting point
Before you go any further, you'll need to assemble the key components that will constitute your personal brand. Here are some questions:

  • What are your key strengths that will be the foundation of your brand? Knowledge, a network, analytical capabilities, integrity, leadership qualities?
  • Who is the target for your brand? What market segment(s) and what constituencies within those companies?
  • What value will your potential customer see in your brand? If your customers aren't buying what you are selling, it's all a waste of time.
  • What branding has your company done? Remember, you want to complement, not conflict with their brand.

    A defining statement
    You'll need a defining statement. It states what you do, your value and what makes you different.

    Yours will likely not mention your company. Here is an example:
    "I assist government IT managers in getting their software development projects completed on time and on budget."

    And of course, you'll want to use that defining statement
  • In your email "signature" above your company name
  • When someone asks you what you do or what role you play in your company
  • When you introduce yourself in a selling situation. (Think about the difference between, "I'm Dave Stein with The Stein Advantage," and, "I'm Dave Stein. I coach companies to win in highly competitive sales environments.")
  • In letters you write to customers and prospects.

    Building your brand
    Consider taking some or all of these actions to build and maintain your brand:
  • Send your customers and prospects your own monthly e-mail update. Simple, short and laden with value. A few links to articles. Your brief analysis. Remember, it comes from you, not your company. And remember to put your defining statement in your signature.
  • Don't miss an industry event or association meeting. That's where you get to promote your personal brand. And please, have a plan for "working the event."
  • Attend security and industry analyst events as well if the industry into which you sell has them. That's where the CFOs and CEOs present and can be approached. Know who is going to present and when.
  • Regularly invite two or three different customers to dinner. A mini-users group meeting. Not fancy, but potent. Be prepared with one or two relevant and hot issues promoting interaction.
  • Occasionally get customers together who have the potential of doing business together. If a deal is struck, you can't be compensated, but you can reach new levels of customer loyalty.
  • Have a customer version of your resume--a narrative bio. It shows the projects, companies and people with whom you were involved. It lists your educational background and the associations where you been a member and have served. Don't include what isn't relevant. Show the value you deliver. Highlight your brand. Powerful.
  • When it's appropriate after a meeting, write your home phone number on your business card before handing it to an executive. You'll rarely get a call at home, but providing your number sends a strong message.

    Branding and your career
    One of the benefits of personal branding is that it comes with you if you change companies. If you brand yourself successfully, your competitors will know who you are. So will recruiters. So will potential customers in your geography and target market segment. I'm not suggesting that you brand yourself for the purpose of finding a better job, but it certainly makes things easier if that situation arises.

    If you do build brand identity equating yourself with what is valuable to buyers in your marketplace, you'll build credibility, differentiate yourself and you'll sell a lot more.

    Dave Stein is the President & Founder of The Stein Advantage, Inc., which offers companies diagnostic and remedial expertise to hire top sales professionals, better position themselves in the eyes of industry analysts, overcome tough competitors, motivate their sales forces, and refocus their selling efforts to achieve new levels of credibility and differentiation with higher-level executives to whom they are selling. Dave's unique skills in competitive sales strategies and political positioning combined with the success he has brought to his clients make Dave much in demand as a speaker, author, consultant, coach, and trainer. His Amazon bestseller How Winners Sell is now in its Second Edition. For more information, visit How Winners Sell.

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