When the concept of personal brand was first mentioned to me, I took issue with the idea. Admittedly, I'm not a "branding" person. It seems so impersonal. People want to buy from people, not brands. The beauty of the Internet is that it has brought us full circle back to the one to one individual engagement between a business (brand) and the buyer.
But is the relationship really with the brand? Or is it with the person who represents that brand? Do we need to "create" personal brands, can't we just be ourselves?
If you are unfamiliar of the HBO series Game of Thrones, it is about families in an era of kings, castles and knights. Conflicts and power struggles circle around family names, crests, and lands. Much like business are about their names, logos, and markets. Brands are reputations, and a personal brand is the same. Whether we intent to create one or not, we do.
If you watch the series, you will soon learn that when one family member wrongs another clan family member, say by pushing them out a window for example to protect themselves, it incites a war. In business, when a sales person wrongs a buyer, it can also incite a war. But instead of swords and ships, it's in the form of social media and a bad Angie's list, Yelp, Google, Glass Door, or BBB review.
It's also interesting that no one in the series easily trusts someone they don't know, or doesn't have a reputation. B2B buyers are more likely to engage with those they see as thought leaders and experts.
Do sales people need a personal brand?
Last week I talked to several business owners who are also responsibile for sales and new business. Before every conversation, we do what their potential buyer would do before talking to them. (This also applies to sales people in a company.)
- Check out their website. Who is their team? What services do they offer? How does their services line up with who is on their team? How fresh is their content? What niche or industry do they focus on?
- Find them on LinkedIn. What is their past experience and education? How long have they been doing what they are doing now? Who else recommends them and for what? What content have they shared, written, or commented on? How many of their employees are on LinkedIn?
- Look for discrepancies. If their website lists their team, does their team's LinkedIn profile match their role on the website? Do they say they are an expert in XYZ, but all their endorsements are for ABC?
Does the lack of a personal brand hurt sales? How do you know? It is likely you don't, because they don't tell you. But they might tend to ignore your calls, emails, and choose someone else that is more transparent and known.
For entrepreneurs who have to sell for their business, personal brand is even more important. Selling as an entrepreneur is different, and I would argue more difficult, than selling for a company.
Does the personal brand of your sales people help or hurt your family brand name? Are you the one responsible for sales in your business?