Should sales people leverage the power of branding to differentiate themselves?

When thinking of branding, most thoughts turn to large corporate brands like: Coca-Cola whose brand is estimated to be worth $70M, IBM’s brand estimated to be worth more than $60M, or the Google brand reported to be worth just over $43M.  Why is developing a world-class brand worthwhile? Besides asset value, branding provides business leverage. A commodity competes only on price. But for a great brand, price is not the single issue.

That’s all true for companies, but what about individual sales people – can they leverage the power of branding?   In Business Magazine, Kathy Heasley notes that “a brand is just two simple words – promise and experience.”  This got us thinking about sales reps – can they develop a “personal brand” that will help them differentiate themselves from the competition?

We think the answer is “Yes”!

Top performing sales reps can build their own brand by the way they sell. Sales people can differentiate themselves by helping buyers think through problems differently than the competition – leaving the buyer with a more informed view of the problem, and a clearer picture of the issues and consequences. For example, through a conversation a buyer might realize that he hadn’t thought of the implications of rolling out a solution in Europe or she underestimated the impact on other divisions.

This is becoming more important because what sales reps sell increasingly looks more like what the competitors sell. Competitive advantages on products alone aren’t as sustainable as they used to be.  If a great personal brand can be achieved, then the sales person can become a competitive advantage versus just selling a competitive advantage. 

So, how could a sales person start to develop a personal brand? Some initial ideas are …

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do and do it every time. When we survey buyers, they identify following-up as a key attribute for the sales person to develop trust and creditability – a foundational requirement for establishing a personal brand.
  2. Leverage institutional resources.  Know your company’s operational and personal resources and bring them to bear to help the customer address their needs and concerns – by doing so you develop the reputation for being able to make things happen.   
  3. Don’t leave it to the buyer to “connect the dots”. Rather, collaborate with the customer to “connect the dots” between the buyer’s problems and your solution. An important aspect of a viable personal brand is the customer’s perception that you “solve problems versus sell products.”
  4. Document good news.  One unfortunate truth is bad news documents itself, good news doesn’t.  So a part of personal branding is about documenting and marketing those situations where you provide extraordinary value to the customer. 
  5. Remember, the power of networking.  In any B2B sales environment there is a substantial number of players involved in the decision process.  Know who’s who, what role they play, and devote the time to develop and manage the relationships.
  6. Figure out what you are particularly good at.  As with corporate brands a part of a great personal brand is about uniqueness.  What is you uniqueness when in comes to selling?  Know the answer and know how to make it helpful and memorable to the customer.     

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.    

©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC 

About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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2 Responses to Should sales people leverage the power of branding to differentiate themselves?

  1. Nell Lennon says:

    Totally agree with the power of branding for the individual sales professional. Who doesn’t want to be “known” as the guy or gal who can deliver? In every organization, there is usually that one person who commands the attention of the senior management group. Why? Experience, skill and leveraging your “personal brand”. After building your brand, you need to manage it.

  2. Janet Spirer says:

    Thanks for the comment Nell. And – the “build” – the need to manage the brand. Too often we invest energy in developing something, but forget the need to manage/nuture it over time.

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