By Jeanette McMurtry, Founder, e4Marketing
1. Marketers spend billions of dollars each year creating highly-visible marketing campaigns;
2. They might be missing the boat by ignoring the importance and value of personal brands.
When it comes to branding, we are all acutely aware of the intense efforts companies take to create a positive, desirable image for themselves. Every year, we watch millions of dollars worth of branding during the Super Bowl, just a mere splash of the total $1.84 billion worth of Super Bowl ads in the past 20 years.
Ad agencies spend countless hours and dollars coming up with clever entertaining concepts to create strong impressions for a brand, defining brand experiences, and creating brand equity. Yet quite often, the most important aspect of a company’s brand is overlooked. Few hours, if any, are spent building the core of the company’s brand, the final element that makes or breaks sales, determines customer satisfaction, generates repeat sales and loyalty, and the like. This element is, of course, the human brand behind the logos, advertisements, press releases, graphics and promises.
A company’s brand might be built by well thought out marketing strategies, messaging, appealing graphics, and energetic experiences, but it is defined by the people that interface with customers at each point of a transaction.
The minute a salesperson walks through the door to greet a customer or a potential customer, all the concerted branding efforts are quickly replaced by the individual’s persona or “brand.” And when the two brand images don’t sync, you could have just wasted your entire marketing budget.
Personal branding is perhaps the most important investment a sales team can make, according to personal branding expert, Rebecca Wichern, president of Executive Search of Denver, Colorado. “Many sales people do a great job of promoting their company’s credentials, but fail miserably when it comes to presenting their own. And unfortunately, you have on average 3 – 7 seconds to establish your credibility once and for all.”
It’s the little things that make a huge difference in “personal branding”, says Wichern who has spent years helping marketing professionals improve their personal presentation and thus career opportunities. Before making a sales call of any type, Wichern suggests sales professionals complete a personal checklist such as the following:
• Am I presenting a consistent image?
• Is that image right for this environment?
• Do I build trust and credibility, or do I break it?
• Does my brand attract the market, or does it push the market away?
And we humans are pretty hard on each other, as the seemingly little things about our persona play a big role in creating opportunities.
“The way you hold yourself, your level of eye contact, and even the tone of your voice are critical to getting respect, credibility, and the chance to make a sale,” says Wichern. “Your mannerisms either create confidence or a lack thereof, trust and distrust.”
Wichern encourages people to pay attention to the visual cues they send about themselves. Do you dress in a way that may suggest you’re overly materialistic and perhaps a talker more than a doer? Do you talk in a way that is believable or sounds apologetic.
Following are some considerations Wichern shares in her personal branding clinics for creating a positive, successful personal brand for yourself:
Decide who and what you are to the customer: Sales people often have a hard time defining themselves. They lead with a brag list to try to sound competent and win the respect of the buyer, yet this typically doesn’t work. In fact, it often communicates that you don’t know who you are and are not sure what you can do for the person you’re selling to. What you do and say in your first 15 seconds teaches people what you’re all about. Don’t leave this critical first seconds to chance. Wichern recommends having an “elevator speech” about yourself just like you do for the brand or products you’re selling.
Mirror and match: Creating a sense of equality is critical to getting someone’s time, respect, and the chance to come back for more. If you’re meeting with a CEO, you need to act with the same amount of confidence and poise as a CEO. If you are selling insurance, you should mirror the friendliness of a neighbor, or the boy next door, and act with appropriate cheerfulness. If selling financial services, you may want to engage with a bit more serious tone, use a more sophisticated vocabulary, and act somewhat reserved in order to instill a sense of business judgment and trust.
Establish yourself in a memorable way: Celebrities do a great way of branding themselves in memorable ways. Jackie Onassis with her large sunglasses; Johnny Cash with his all black attire, Donald Trump with his iconic use of last name, Barbara Bush with pearls, and so on. What characteristic of yours helps you to stand out? Is it the way you dress? Is it the way you greet people? Your sense of humor? Discover a strength of yours that helps you stand out in a positive way and make the most of it, says Wichern.
Building a personal brand is critical to any business’s success. If you don’t stop to focus on how you and your sales staff are presenting yourselves, you stand to lose all the groundwork you’ve laid to build a positive image for your company. One bad impression is all it takes to ruin a customers’ perception of your company in terms of quality, integrity, and competence.
Jeanette McMurtry is a sales and marketing consultant specializing in the health care industry. She is the principal of e4marketing and can be reached at 970-390-6909 or at Jeannette@e4marketingco.com.