A brand is not what a company says about itself. A brand is what the market says about the company. A good brand can take years to create and be lost in a second. Similarly, you have a personal brand: “That person is a team player,” or “They can sell,” or “They really deliver.” And just like with a company, your brand can sour almost instantly based on one negative interaction.
You may consciously work on your brand, but it still comes down to what people perceive about you — and that’s usually based on what your dominant behavior is. Think of celebrities. They basically have to be super polite every minute of every day because it only takes one time where the public thinks they acted like a jerk for that to become their brand.
As it turns out, a personal brand is generally accurate. There’s been very, very few times in my career where someone has said to me, “Wow, my brand is completely wrong,” and been right. They might not have been aware of their brand, but it wasn’t that it was wrong. It was that they didn’t understand how they were being understood.
That’s part of the problem. Even if you didn’t deliberately create a brand, you’ve got one. My first piece of advice then is to go on a self-exploration project and find out how you are being perceived. You need to seek out people you trust to get this feedback, and you can’t be defensive when you get it.
Ask peers, managers, and others you have a rapport with, “What am I bad at?’ or "What can I improve on?” I’ll admit I’ve chickened out at times when people have asked me this because it can be hard to give constructive feedback. You can take some of the pressure off and increase your odds of getting an honest answer by asking, “What do other people on the team say about me and my brand.”
As a part of this exercise, you should also think of three phrases you would want the people you work with to describe you as, whether they’re your colleagues, or external prospects or customers. For example, my version would be: “Tony knows my business. He has my best interest in mind. And Tony is a pain, but I mean that in a good way.”
I’m in sales, but I want customers to know that I’m not so focused on selling that I don’t spend time thinking about them and what they do. I want them to know I have their best interest in mind and wouldn’t sell them something just to get to my number faster.
And I want them to think I’m pushy in the sense that as a so-called trusted advisor, I may try to get them to do something they’re not comfortable doing, but only because I want good things for them. As a sidenote, while I love what the phrase “trusted advisor” connotes, I’ve never actually heard a customer use that term. So better to leave it off the personal brand list you aspire to.
Once you’ve identified these three things and written them down, put the list where you’ll see it frequently. Take a few weeks to look them over and keep them top of mind. Treat them like the most important part of your daily to-do list, or whichever task manager you use.
At the same time, share this list on your company’s intranet or over email with your sales team. A simple “Managing my brand. I aspire to have customers say X about me” is enough of an explanation. This exercise works best when a group is participating. Look at what other people are sharing over the next few weeks and use that to improve your own list.
After all, part of sales is hearing what colleagues are doing that’s working and using it on your next call to sell better. Ultimately, you want to hone your list back down to three items. Keep them in your consciousness constantly. There’s no wrong answer to this exercise. The power is in going through it and being accountable to yourself to follow through on doing the things you aspire to.
Ultimately success in sales comes down to consistently hitting your number and overachieving over a long period of time. I’d still aspire to more. If you left sales today, wouldn’t you want your legacy to go beyond “He or she hit their number”? You never know who you’re going to meet again. You never know who’s going to be your boss.
Over the years I’ve seen salespeople who did not have a good brand achieve their number and those who have an exceptionally good brand miss. It is sales utopia when somebody is hitting their number and doing it the right way. When someone misses their number, the biggest question I have is: Are they doing all the input things right?
For example, hitting quota is usually reflective of having great discovery conversations. You get good at these by making lots of calls. If part of your personal brand is that you’re known for being a hard worker, you are more than likely making tons of calls and working out your prospecting muscle. Those two inputs will eventually lead to an output of making quota.
Or say part of your brand is as a great teammate. You’re good to work with and you bring positive energy that others feed off of, in turn making them more successful. The nuance here is that hitting your number matters, but you’ve got to get it done and do it right. Creating and being accountable to your personal brand is the path to both.
-Tony Rodoni, EVP Commercial Sales, Salesforce
This blog post was originally published on Quotable.com.