Develop a successful strategy for aligning your team members’ personal brands with your corporate brand.
By Lorrie Bryan
Despite our growing dependence on technology, we’re not programmable droids. Most people prefer to do business with actual people rather than large faceless corporations. Your sales employees are your frontline ambassadors and thus the face of your company. So, the company benefits when they have strong personal brands that reflect your corporate brand.
“Sales representatives are one of the most critical personifications of your corporate and employer brand. In the current service economy, customers are demanding authentic interactions and service that not only meets but exceeds expectations. Salespeople are the first touchpoint in the customer lifecycle—if they don’t deliver on the corporate brand promise from day one, the customer relationship is damaged,” explains Manda Cuthbertson, director of operations and delivery at Blu Ivy Group, an employer branding and employee engagement consultancy.
Mindful personal branding is particularly important in today’s business environment where people prefer a business partner who understands their needs rather than a salesperson who is more focused on peddling their company’s wares. “Personal branding is an effective way for sales professionals to ensure they are seen as legitimate solution providers, rather than purveyors of snake oil,” Cuthbertson affirms. “When sales employees are able to marry a strong personal brand with your authentic corporate brand, they will be perceived as the skilled consultants your customers want to do business with.”
Make sure you understand your company’s brand and know what your company stands for.
Tactics for seamless branding
The question is no longer whether your salespeople will have a personal brand (they will). It’s whether you will choose to strategically help manage and cultivate their brands so that they are positive reflections of the company’s brand, leading to strong long-term customer relationships. Here are a few tactics to consider:
Promote a strong corporate brand. Successful branding starts internally. Make sure you and your salespeople understand your company’s brand and know what your company stands for. Consistently support your company’s brand in all aspects of the business: voicemail messaging, email signatures, professional attire, customer service, business cards, and marketing brochures. Even small deviations from corporate identity standards can add up to big losses in brand value.
Keep it steady. The best way to ensure that your company brand on all your printed marketing collateral isn’t swerving in every direction is to use a digital storefront (DSF) where you can provide coordinated, consistent materials in a user-friendly accessible format. “You can leverage technology to create a marketing/branding portal where your salespeople can easily access materials that have consistent messaging and brand standards. The employees can also customize these materials with their contact information and images appropriate to the industry they are targeting,” explains Brad Bitzer, eCommerce manager for The F.P. Horak Company, a full-service printing and marketing communications services provider.
Build your own strong personal brand. As a company executive, you should have a well-defined personal brand that supports your company’s mission. “How are you supposed to help others when you can’t even help yourself? Build your own brand first,” advises Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself. “If you haven’t built a brand for yourself, then it takes a lot more energy, time, and luck to convince someone else to build theirs.” Be a role model for your sales force and show them how it’s done, he advises.
Support your employees’ efforts to build their personal brands. Schawbel notes that many businesses discourage employees from building their personal brands. “A lot of companies block social networks and employees from building an online presence or representing themselves in a public facing way.” He emphasizes that this is a mistake. “I believe that companies should support salespeople who are willing to put themselves out there and build a stronger reputation in the marketplace, because it’s for the good of the company—it’s the most effective path to sales and business growth. When salespeople have a strong personal brand, it increases the chances of prospects opening their emails and answering their calls, thus shortening their sales cycle.”
Ensure that your employees’ personal brands are in sync with your company’s brand. Don’t take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to your employees’ personal brands. Manage the building process strategically from the beginning to ensure their brands dovetail with your company’s brand. “Employers can support their sales team in aligning their personal brand with the corporate brand during the onboarding process and at other key organizational times such as new product launches,” Cuthbertson advises. “Managers should work with their team to help each of them develop an effective personal ‘pitch’ about the company and their role in delivering on the brand promise. LinkedIn coaching and social media training are highly recommended to ensure your frontline sales employees are representing themselves in alignment with the corporate brand.”
Identify each of your employees’ unique characteristics and develop their strengths accordingly. Help each member of your sales team recognize the special skill set that he or she brings to the table, and then look for opportunities for each to showcase personal talents and further develop individual brands. These opportunities may include speaking at industry conferences or roundtable discussions, writing articles for industry journals, or creating content to be shared through social media or corporate blogs.
Be authentic in your desire to help salespeople evolve and grow their personal brands. They are your frontline ambassadors, and when they succeed, you succeed. It’s a win-win!