Have you ever really given your own personal brand any consideration? Really thought about who you are, and how you show up, and how others would describe you? As a marketer, I always find the conversation of brands very interesting. I had a great time talking about brands with my colleagues Tom, Tiffany and Mark on our podcast, The Big Sale Illuminati, the other day! If you haven’t caught it, the link to listen to it is here.
Let me give you some highlights from my thinking as well as the podcast panel:
It’s true that all of these have attributes—positive and negative—as well as differentiators and an underlying DNA, just like people. Similarly, people have their own brands, whether they know it or not. The secret is knowing that you have a brand and using it to your advantage in a sales or business situation by being comfortable and owning that brand. The beauty is when you work for a company where your brand and the company’s brand are aligned. If you’re working for an irreverent, snarky startup brand, for instance, and you’re irreverent and snarky yourself, that’s a great fit.
As an example, when I graduated from college a hundred years ago, I had the opportunity to get into sales at IBM. I left IBM despite having worked there part-time for most of my undergrad tenure because my personal DNA was so far removed from the corporate DNA of IBM at that time. When I was told my career path was to stay in sales and sell mainframes, I preferred to leave and take a gamble in the job market. It was clear that IBM didn’t work for me because there was no brand alignment, even if I didn’t have the vocabulary for it at that time. I just knew that being told I could not wear a red suit, patterned stockings, or speak to someone that was two levels above me in the hallway was going to be a problem long-term!
Per Tiffany Olson, our podcast’s ‘buyer on fire’, and who was also a divisional President at Cardinal Health when she was in Corporate America, asserts: ‘’When corporations really know what they want to be, they articulate it, and their values show it. Then if you work for them, you’re able to articulate that brand promise.’’
If done correctly, the brand lines, taglines, and selling points of these companies become easily understood by their customers and employees as their values; you know what the company stands for, what you stand for, and then you’ve got to deliver it. It is all in the execution and the customer experience.
Mark Kennedy, our professional closer, made a reference to the brand Clear. As a frequent and discerning traveler, he appreciates their brand, their service, and their people because they deliver on their brand promise from start to finish, authentically.
Tom Searcy made reference to an experience selling a multimillion-dollar contract to UPS. At that time, UPS was comparing his $ 30 million company against two very, very large players in the marketplace. UPS eventually decided to go with his company because his brand was based on safety, innovation and thinking outside of the box. And because that third brand attribute was a priority for UPS, they won the contract. His company remained clear about the three things that they offered and delivered, each and every day—for all of their customers. They were motivated by what they wanted their customers to think, feel, and understand about them. The alignment was clear, and the partnership was long-term as a result.
In the same way that Tom’s team aligned well with the UPS team in the above example, you have to be careful not to pick a team that creates the wrong brand when you are presenting to a client or to your executives. You have to think about everyone’s personal brands and determine how they mesh (or don’t) with the recipients’ brands. Have you ever been in a meeting that gets positively blown up because someone’s chemistry landed completely wrong with the receiving party? Yes, we all have, and it’s painful. But it’s also avoidable. To use an analogy (and you know I love those), you should think about the meeting as a branding exercise and pick the people on your team that create the overall right DNA for the brand(s) you are presenting to. You need to think about how they will show up, what they will do, what they might say, and how they might deliver your company’s message.
How they are perceived by the customer or executive will dictate their results, whether they like it or not. So it’s really important for that salesperson or marketer to be clear that no matter whether they do it intentionally or not intentionally, they are putting out a brand message.
My colleague Mark likes to take a very literal orchestration to these things. He will sit down with people before a sales meeting. He brings a lot of subject matter experts into the process, but later in the process, not too early. Often he finds that these subject matter experts are not adept at addressing some of the concerns and questions the prospective client may have early in the process, so best not to invite them until the deal is close to being done — or actually completely done. He also warns people in advance that at some point in a meeting, he may interrupt them and that this is their cue to stop talking.
Not everyone on the bench gets to play every inning — you know?
If you are struggling with trying to determine your personal brand, ask your friends and family to give you their top three words that best describe you. I use this exercise in my program called ‘’Be the CMO of Your Life’’. Notice the attributes, parallels, and themes. This will help you understand what your external narrative is (the story that we are telling others about ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously). That way, as Tiffany would say, you will know what your own hashtag is. The hashtag hack is easy to remember and to use when you’re in a situation where you have to know your brand: #chiefmarketingofficer #womenleaders #womeninbusiness #marketingcoach #marketingstrategist — you get the idea!
As Mark would say, ‘’When you have a strength, it creates a blind spot’’. As an example, you could have someone on your team that exudes confidence, command the room, and they come in with conviction and passion—all good, right? Well, not always. When we are under pressure, we overuse our strengths, and this often creates an issue. As an example, maybe this confident person’s blind spot is that they are not a good listener and miss the nuanced signals being given by the buyer/customer when they are so focused on being commanding, confident, and passionate.
In all of these scenarios, we are all emanating a personal brand, whether we like it or not. It is worth taking a look at your own, those of your team members, and your company’s too. I use tools like the Predictive Index and the Why Institute’s Why.os to determine some of these not-so-obvious personal brand attributes. Getting alignment and complementary attributes and strengths in one room is a game changer.
So, tell me, which of these people show up for you as a representative brand for me: Plankton from Sponge Bob, Sara Silverman, Sandra Bullock, Rachel Hollis or Sara Blakely? I would love to know your thoughts.
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