When I think back to my early days in sales, I owned a consulting firm, and I desperately needed to build a personal brand.
CEB stats show that 77% of B2B buyers said they only speak to a salesperson once they have performed independent research online. In other words, if you don’t have a strong personal brand, you’re not going to win over your buyer.
When it comes to building a personal brand, I’ll be the first to say I failed many times doing it. But finally, after many late nights staring at my computer screen, I finally hit something that worked.
What I recognized was that in every industry, there are rock stars. In the industry I was trying to target, my buyer was the VP of sales, the VP of marketing, and VP of sales enablement or sales operations. I recognized that if I wanted to get the attention of those VPs of sales, marketing, and sales enablement, I needed to align myself with those who already had their attention.
In marketing terms, you would call this, ‘influencer marketing,’ but I want you to forget that. In sales terms, it’s called socially surrounding the ecosystem of your buyer. And sales, rather than marketing, owns the initiative.
This is what I did: I drew a map of the typical VP of sales and/or marketing. To do this, I went into their LinkedIn profiles, I looked on them Twitter, and I started searching who these VPs had tagged in Twitter Lists and who they were following as influencers on LinkedIn.
I found common elements. There was this group of top sales leaders who they all followed: Ken Krouge at InsideSales.com; Trish Bertuzzi, and Jill Konrath. I saw all these sales leaders and I thought to myself, okay, well right now when I call a VP of sales, he or she does not know me. So what I need to do is ensure that I’m grouped in the same conversations as Ken Krouge, Trish Bertuzzi, Jill Konrath, and other kinds of these people.
Next, I began engaging with Ken’s, Trish’s and Jill’s content. I started reading it, started commenting on it, started liking it, started creating my own derivatives of their own contents. I would even do reviews of their content.
The engagement doesn't end once I've built my own personal brand. To this day I still like, comment and share posts from top sales leaders.
And what happens is you then get on their radar. Because you’re liking, commenting, sharing, retweeting their information, they start to notice that there is this guy in Toronto, Canada who finds them interesting. What happens is they naturally start taking notice of you, and when you create original ideas or you leave a comment on something they’ve done that is interesting, new, fresh, might engage with you too!
Then, your buyers, the VPs of sales and marketing start noticing that the people who they love, follow, admire and learn from also are also interested in this guy. This guy, Jamie Shanks in Toronto, Canada.
All of the sudden, you start slowly getting lumped into the same conversations as these people. And that’s where, for me, it all began.
Taking Online Value Offline
Of course, the real moment came for me when I attended Josiane Feigon’s session at the AA-ISP Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas in April 2012. About 10 minutes into Josiane’s session, she asked the audience for specific examples of sales success leveraging social media. I sprung up and said, “We have been helping clients send LinkedIn InMail to prospects with a 12- to 20-percent message-sent-to-new-lead-created ratio.” That moment forever changed my life. After the session, Gary Ambrose and Ken Krouge approached me to exchange business cards. They both asked me to call them to discuss doing a joint webinar and ebook on the topic of LinkedIn. The rest is history.
This ebook was the result of socially surrounding the ecosystem of my buyers, and helped me bring a strong personal brand in the process. Source: InsideSales.com.
So to be clear: you have to rock offline to rock online. And you need the business acumen to back it up. Social allows us get insight into top sales leaders, but offline allows us to truly make an impression.
In my experience, building a personal brand isn’t just about sharing content from industry experts. There’s a million blogs on LinkedIn and Twitter on how to do that. The reality is, if you want to create a real brand, you need to be aligned with the people that already have a brand.
This strategy is no different than when your parents probably used to say, “show me your friends, I’ll show you your future,” and that old adage is so true—especially in the modern sales environment. Because those who you hang out with are those who you become.