Sales trend 10 – Personal branding and the foundation of social selling

The 10th trend from our 12 Sales Trends Report for 2017 is about the relation between personal branding and social selling.

It is an interesting fact that the ‘extraordinary’ of yesterday becomes the ‘ordinary’ of today.

Have you noticed that the most extraordinary salespeople of five years ago are often the ordinary salespeople today — or gone? Why is this?

The world of sales has changed dramatically in the last five years and some selling organisations and their salespeople are not adapting fast enough. As a result, a lower percentage of salespeople are achieving their targets and vendors are struggling to grow their revenues.

Futurists are saying the world of commerce and sales will change even faster in the next five years as new technologies such as analytics and artificial intelligence mature. Sales are not getting any easier. In fact, the futurists predict a lot of sales roles will disappear, particularly the ones where they are not adding value for the buyer.

You will be familiar with the fact buyers are behaving very differently. They now have all the information they need at their fingertips to assess their business issues, assess options, determine a solution, and often make a final decision without speaking with you, the supplier.

They have access to expert and peer opinion plus product and company reviews. The internet, search capability across a mass of information, peer based forums and social media all provide them with great insight. They have access to credible expert advice wherever they turn. As a result, they are closing their doors to the traditional sales approach because most salespeople they meet struggle to add value.

They find too many salespeople want to talk about their products and services rather than helping their customer determine how they can achieve their desired outcomes.

In what way do we need to adapt and change?

To be extraordinary, the modern salesperson must stand out as somebody that projects eminence and value — as somebody with whom the customer feels compelled to converse. The extraordinary vendors and their salespeople are learning to attract customers — they have learnt to ‘pull’ their customers, instead of ‘pushing’ them.

Ensuring each member of our sales team develops a strong personal brand, particularly digitally, is essential. Strong brands attract. Strong authentic brands have credibility and are trusted. Strong personal brands project a unique promise of value that customers see and are more inclined to open the door to.

In years gone by the salesperson did not need to develop a strong brand. All they needed to do was represent the brand of their company and the product — the customer saw value in that. The salesperson was the channel through which the customer accessed information about that brand and the products, and learnt how they could solve their problems. Today they can get that from other sources and if the salesperson has nothing else of value to offer then there is no need to talk with them. We need a strong credible brand to encourage buyers to be more inclined to want to talk with us.

How can we build a compelling personal brand?

Firstly, you need to know what you are about and be able to express it clearly and concisely so you can focus your activity and drive your energy.  What is your vision and purpose? Be your authentic self, it is very difficult otherwise. Define your unique promise of value — the essence of a personal brand. Finally, define your target audience. Know who they are individually and where they hang out, where they learn and interact with thought leaders and their peers in their specific domain.

Brand strategy

You will also need a strategy to build a brand to project your unique promise of value in an authentic way. Choose your objectives. What are you aiming at? These can be anything from growing the number of connections in a specific network platform to building credibility through references and endorsements.  

Now you can develop a strategy to achieve each of the objectives.  

Your profile

Make sure your profile on different platforms reflects your unique promise of value but also is written with your target audience in mind and why you do what you do to help.

If your writing skills are good, draft some articles to be published on your LinkedIn profile. They can be about case studies, just be sure not to mention your company or products, or the part they played in the customer’s success. Such things will be assumed by the reader and by saying it in the article it becomes less credible in their eyes.

The outcomes and company impact

You will soon find you start having immediate results. From increased profile views to improved call back rates.

If all customer facing staff have strong personal brands, aligned with the company brand, then that company can have many times the pulling power in their marketplace.

Customers will engage with those who they perceive have the intent and expertise to help them achieve their desired outcomes. This trend indicates that a strong personal brand, solid domain expertise and unique commercial insight makes a salesperson appealing and potentially valuable for a buyer.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Read Sales trend nine — learning agility for salespeople.

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