If we’re being honest, we all prefer to do business with people we know, like, and trust. In today’s online world, however, trust building means something very different than it once did. Reputation and trust building used to be controlled by marketing. Now the Internet and social media give customers a bigger say in the creation and communication of how a company is viewed by the rest of the world.
Today’s sales professionals must think of building an online and offline reputation in the same way a company would think about creating a brand. When a prospect is considering a purchase, the reputation of a salesperson for delivering value and the social proof of that is crucial.
With the huge amount of potential information, blind dates essentially don’t exist anymore. If someone were set up on a blind date, he or she would most likely use a search engine to learn all they could about the other’s reputation.
The same is true in sales and marketing. Prospects are digging online to find out about companies and products they’re interested in. They are also researching the sales professionals involved in the sales process. The reputation of a salesperson can be a key ingredient in winning or losing a deal. The good news is that your online and offline reputation is something you can and should proactively manage.
A big part of your reputation is built through non-active interaction like information on profiles, social media activity and engagement, and even the number of followers you have on Twitter.
The first step to building a solid presence is to have a number of social profiles. This builds search results for your name because the search engines will index content from some of the larger platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Organizations have a lot to gain when their individual salespeople are active in a smart way and link back to the organizations they work for.
Most salespeople don’t even think about their social profiles until they’re looking for a new job. Look at your social profiles as a key to building a stronger digital footprint. Claim a personal profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Then consider creating Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, and Quora profiles.
Services such as KnowEm will claim your profile on a hundred or more social networks. You also might consider submitting your personal name to BrandYourself, which offers tips on how to get the profiles that actually represent you, as opposed to someone else with your name. This will give you a better chance of showing up on the first page of search results. Regardless of the service you chose, your first priority should be claiming your own personal name on as many networks as possible.
Once you’ve claimed your profiles, add some detail to them. Don’t just leave them with a generic image or no profile photo at all—and don’t use that phone “selfie” bounce shot off the mirror either. Get a professional photo taken. It doesn’t have to be the stiff studio shot; you can add some character, mix in outdoor shots, or experiment with backdrops. Just make sure the photo is well lit and composed.
When you’re first putting your footprint online, you may also want to check out some personal pages from services like About.me that allow you to build your pages by drawing from your social media participation and images you already have online. These sites can also help with your overall SEO by giving you another piece of real estate that contains your branding elements and messages.
Instead, tell stories. Focus on where you’ve been, what experience you’ve gained, what skills you’ve mastered, and why. Write in the first person and use a tone that is active and expressive. Don’t forget, you want your value to be obvious, front and center.
Also, don’t be afraid to mention your passions in your profiles, even if they’re outside of the professional requirements. If you’ve climbed Mount Everest, I want to hear about it. And by all means, link to your company website, useful content you’ve created, and all of the other social networks in which you participate.
While you first need to set up profiles to build the foundation of your online presence, building and maintaining a meaningful reputation does actually require some work. However, before you look into the more expansive view of personal branding that will be an effective community attracting and building tool, you need to hone in on your one true thing.
Your brand and your reputation for offering expertise and insight must come from that one true thing you stand for. This one thing becomes the story that transforms into a bigger narrative that lives on in your community with no real end.
Once you perfect your profiles, you have to show up and contribute regularly. You need to set a foundation of participation and engagement. One of the best ways to do this is to make a habit of sharing.
Create a master list of blogs to follow. Using a tool like Feedly or Feedbin, subscribe to the blogs of your competitors, your major customers, industry related sites, and some key journalists that might call on you as a source.
Additionally, add the blogs of non-competitive strategic partners to your list. These will be businesses related to your business or maybe even other salespeople from non-competing companies. Aim for adding at least 30 blogs from this category to your list. These sites will be your go-to resource for sharing content with your followers and customers.
About the author
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, Duct Tape Selling – Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar is available online and in bookstores beginning May 15th, 2014.
To keep pace with today’s tech-savvy consumers, the smartest sales reps are getting social. Download the free e-book today and start connecting with more customers than ever before.