Think of branding and you’ll probably think of a product, service or company. We’re all well aware that branding has a major impact on our decision-making process, with the power to influence whether we buy into a product or not. After all, companies invest a significant amount of resource – both time and money – on their brand image, how they want customers to perceive them and convincing them to buy into that image.
That’s the corporate side of branding, but there is also the personal brand to consider. As a media sales person have you ever thought about yourself as a brand and how you want to be perceived? I love this quote from Jeff Bezos, C.E.O. of Amazon: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” It’s a really powerful statement and one that is worth exploring more.
So here’s a question: what do you want people to say about you?
A personal brand is a mix of factors, some tangible and some intangible – essentially, it’s about your personality, your values and your drivers. The important dimension from a sales and business perspective is to be known/respected for something that is of value to others.
Over many years in media sales I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many people who have successfully mastered the art of personal branding – and I have seen them built fantastic careers on the strength of that brand. How do they do it? Let me share with you a few key things you can do to develop your own brand:
1. Build your expertise
Think about what you are really good at and what do you most enjoy doing. Is it meeting people, developing strategies, building teams, finding new angles in data? Can you develop your expertise so that others want to hear your point of view? You can showcase your expertise in a host of ways – speaking at conferences, writing a blog, commenting in relevant media groups on Linked-in. It is never too early to start – provided you can present an intelligent and considered view.
2. Build your network
The best media sales people I know all love networking. They see it as a natural part of their job, whether it’s over an early morning breakfast or whilst enjoying a glass of prosecco and canapes in an evening. Networking has become an extension of their normal working day, not something they ‘have’ to do but something they love to do. They understand the importance of building relationships with the right people, both internally and externally. And in media sales there are so many opportunites to network – whether it’s at client events, agency leaving drinks, industry events, training days and so on.
Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but I firmly agree with Olivia Fox Cabane in her book ‘The Charimsa Myth’, if you’re not confident you can ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. To borrow from her suggestions, there are some very easy ways in which you can build confidence:
- Stand/sit up tall, shoulders back and head held high. Look like you want to be be there.
- Plant both feet on the ground (whether standing or seated) and slightly apart, avoiding the urge to slouch onto one foot or the other. It gives you more presence in the eyes of others and will automatically give you a feeling of inner strength.
- Keep your body language open – don’t fold those arms!
- Be in control of how quickly you speak. If you’re prone to gabbling away because you’re nervous, take a conscious effort to speak more slowly and try to project your voice.
- Be present in the moment. Focus on who you are talking to, rather than yourself and your internal dialogue – this will help you to project warmth and interest in the other person.
3. Be helpful
Clients and agencies are incredibly busy. They want to deal with media owners and sales people who know their stuff, not just about your own products, but your media, the market, your clients’ business. If you can share fresh insights with them then you will be the person they will call when they need help.
4. Presentation is everything
Are you on time, dressed appropriately, well prepared? Do you check you proposals for typos? Even the smallest detail matters. Every touchpoint with a contact reflects on you, creates an impression. It needs to be the best it can be.
5. Have fun
People enjoy spending time with people who are friendly, warm and good fun to be with. Media is a fun business. Whilst it is important to be professional, knowledgeable and helpful, clients will definitely want to see more of you if you are great company – it’s a natural impulse that spills over into business.
6. Deliver what you promise
When I worked at a large media organisation, we carried out an annual extensive customer satisfaction survey. Without fail, the number one concern for agencies was that our sales people delivered what they promised. Agencies work on behalf of clients. Going back to clients with bad news should never be an option. So do what you say you will do, when you say you will. The good old cliché of ‘under promise and over deliver’ holds true if you care about your personal brand.
7. Use social media
Social media can be an incredible tool for building your personal brand. You can’t work in media and not be aware of the rise of influencers and the incredible success they have had in building brands based around their lifestyles and passions. This may be more difficult to do in a B2B context. However, many agency strategy directors and CEOs have a very strong voice on social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. This approach may not be for everyone, but at the very least makes sure you are up to date with your profile description and are using professional profile shots. Start slowly if you need to – by commenting on and sharing content that fits with your area of expertise, gradually developing your confidence and building a wider audience of followers.
Your personal brand is the most important tool you have. By thinking about how you want to be talked about, it can help you think about the image you want to create. Good luck!