Separating from the herd

Dec. 16, 2014
Personal branding is a strong sales tool

Imagine that your only contact with a certain prospect has been your semi-annual chin wag. Sure, it took 47 phone calls to reach him, but one day your persistence will pay off.  The truth is, the only thing you’re wearing out is your personal brand. Think how you feel when your home phone rings during dinner. On the other end of the line is someone unable to pronouce your name selling duct-cleaning service you probably don’t need.  That’s how this busy, educated, tech-savvy transportation buyer thinks of you.

And that’s why cold calling is a flawed sales strategy.  It hurts your personal brand more than it helps.  Everyone has a personal brand. Quite simply, it’s what people say about you when you leave the room.  If you’ve acted like a buffoon for the past 15 years, there’s a good chance your brand is pretty battered. A strong, authentic personal brand sends a clear, consistent message about who you are, what you’re good at, and why you’re different. If a customer falls into a hole, there are 25 average sales reps who will sell him a ladder. Your personal brand should send a message that you’re the type of rep who can keep him from falling into the hole in the first place.
Here’s why I think it’s important to understand and manage your personal brand:

Shopping has changed. Today’s transportation buyers don’t make decisions the way they did during the heydays of cold calling. The stats say it all:

  • 90% of buying decisions today are based on Internet research.
  • 66% of buyers trust their own research over information provided by sales reps.
  • 92% of buyers are more confident in the information they find on the Internet than what they hear from sales reps.

What does all this mean? Customers think they don’t need you anymore. They trust the words on their screen more than what comes out of your mouth. You need a damn good personal brand to have any chance of sales success.

Margin math. Selling is simple math: The number of deals you close is directly proportional to the number of prospects you have in your sales pipeline. Without a strong personal brand, you’re going to have one hell of a time finding prospects. When you don’t have enough deals in the works, it’s hard to walk away from the ones you’re trying to close. There is nothing worse for margin than taking on bad business because your sales math doesn’t allow you to walk away.

Lost in space. The stats indicate a good chunk of the purchasing decision happens before “outsiders” ever get involved.  A strong personal brand will draw you into opportunities you were not expecting. Unexpected freebies are great for business. Conversely, when your personal brand is weak, you will lose opportunities you never knew existed. They get lost in space never to return again.

Who’s your competitor? Intense competition has led to a commoditized trucking world where fewer products are considered unique. More than ever your competitor is not the name on the truck, but the brand of the rep you’re selling against. When customers start scoping you out online, you will be compared to the other nine reps banging on their door.  When that customer evaluates your personal brand, what will he think? Are you standing strong and separate from the herd?

I’ll talk more about how to develop and manage your personal brand in my next column.

Mike McCarron was one of the founding “M”s in MSM Transportation before the company was purchased by the Wheels Group. Based in Toronto, he currently works for Wheels in mergers and acquisitions and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter @AceMcC.


About the Author

Mike McCarron

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