Everyone in sales has a secret weapon — so secret that most of them don’t even know they have it. It’s called the personal brand. In fact, the personal brand is so powerful that it needs five keys to unlock it. By the end of this article, those keys will be laid out on the table for anyone who wants to learn how to keep selling while they sleep at night.
The Good News About Automated Sales
The story of the 21st century is the evolution from push (like broadcast TV networks and newspapers) to pull (like apps and on-demand programming). Now people can go out and grab whatever they need in real time based on the free flow of information.
The same is true for the modern customer. They don’t have time to wait for vendors to dole out the data they need to do their jobs. B2B buyers especially want to find what they need and then call sales. Sometimes they just buy it online without talking to anyone. Forrester research projects that 22 percent of sales processes will be automated by 2020.
That might sounds ominous for traditional sales practices, but it’s actually great news for anyone with a strong personal brand. As B2B buyers gain more freedom to choose, social sellers are able to shake up inefficient partnerships and compete in ways that were never possible before right now. Those with a strong personal brand can influence buyers that traditional sellers will never see.
A personal brand certainly takes time to build, but there are best practices that can speed up the process. The best place to look for inspiration is at the top: the world’s most successful commercial brands. Based on Denise Lee Yohn’s What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best From the Rest, here’s how to unlock the vast energetic reserves of a personal brand for social selling.
1.Brand From the Inside Out
One of the reasons that companies like Google have been able to build such strong brands is that the employees themselves are some of their biggest brand advocates. Social sellers develop a reputation for helping others achieve their goals, and the first logical step is to help those within their own organizations. Look for ways to improve sales/marketing alignment, make the most of training, and power up peak performance. What matters most at this point is acting on the mindshift from information gatekeeper to success coach.
2. Do More Connecting and Less Convincing
People don’t buy Apple computers or phones or anything else. They buy the Apple lifestyle. Top brands sell emotional connections, which is why it’s so easy for buyers to justify cross-sells and referrals. Social sellers communicate expertise, reliability and a resource that buyers can turn to when problems arise. It’s time for salespeople to become brand evangelists for themselves. Guy Kawasaki first popularized that term, saying, “Evangelism is of Greek origin. An evangelist brings the good news.” It’s a different way of thinking about how to get people excited about a brand. A brand evangelist isn’t trying to convince anyone, but share helpful content that people want and need.
3. Take Advantage of Individuality.
There is a wide open field for what works in terms of sales. Although it’s possible to learn lessons from others, imitating the style of someone else rarely works. Research by CEB Global found that the number one driver of customer loyalty is a supplier who offers wholly unique and valuable perspectives. The study found that 40 percent of overachieving salespeople among sales professionals were those who challenged their customers and made them think with original content.
4. Don’t Stalk the Buyers
Persistence pays off, but pushiness doesn’t. Salesforce.com reported that 90 percent of B2B buyers say they will contact sales when they are ready to talk. To succeed in sales in that kind of environment, it’s more important to attract customers instead of chasing after them. Large brands don’t try to appeal to everyone. They look for a base of loyal customers and look for referrals to others like them. Casting a wide net of shallow engagement is the business of the personal brand, not the salesperson. Instead, spend time building relationships with the company’s best customers.
5. It’s All About the Experience
In a world where geography doesn’t matter and competition can arise instantly from anywhere in the world, sales can’t be about features or benefits. It has to be about the entire brand experience for the buyer. That was recently confirmed by customer experience research from Forrester. They found that customer-centric experiences beat even the price/value equation for generating stronger customer loyalty. Careful listening through social selling delivers the kind of attention to detail that B2B buyers look for in their long term partnerships.
Establishing a personal brand involves sharing valuable insights through blogs, LinkedIn groups and social networks to help countless buyers along on their individual journeys. The personal brand does the selling 24 hours a day, every day of the week at the top of the funnel. Salespeople are then free to spend more time with potential customers closer to the close. At that point, most B2B buyers need help convincing the rest of their purchasing team the value of the investment. That’s where personal interactions can do the most good, and that’s why personal branding gives sellers the time they need to take care of business the right way. The secret is out: To have a great brand, act like a brand.