What does personal brand mean, how do you build one… and do you need it to sell software?
The idea of ‘personal branding’ doesn’t seem to fit naturally into the software sales space at first. Personal branding for, say, a life coach?
Sure. Life coaches are what they sell, so it stands to reason that they work hard on building their own reputation as much as that of the service they offer. Software sales rep? Perhaps not so obvious.
Sales reps concentrate on promoting an existing brand – that of the software manufacturer whose product they’re representing. Why would they need – or want – a brand of their own?
And yet some of the world’s greatest brands (many of them in tech) are closely linked to the reputations of the key individuals who are behind their success.
Apple had Steve Jobs, Microsoft and Bill Gates are inextricable for many, and the visionary leadership of Jeff Bezos continues to push Amazon to new heights.
In these high-profile instances, personal brand and corporate success intertwined to create an enhanced reputation and ultimately drive spectacular results.
In the era of social selling, can sales reps learn from this marriage of personal and commercial brand-building pioneered by entrepreneurs, and what benefits can it bring?
What is a ‘personal brand’?
It can be helpful to start by clarifying what personal brand is not.
Despite the efforts of many would-be internet entrepreneurs, a personal brand is not about working meticulously to create a public-facing image which is at odds with a concealed reality.
Instead, personal branding is about taking action to ensure that your passions, values and experiences are clearly and authentically communicated to an audience – ideally a targeted audience that moves within your commercial field and will derive value from being included in your network.
In it’s simplest form, personal brand is how others see us.
While sales reps may work for someone else’s organization, represent a product they didn’t build, or earn a living by selling a solution they didn’t design, each person is an individual with a unique trajectory and set of experiences.
Throughout their careers, sales reps (while following a broadly similar career pattern):
- Help different customers in different markets
- Encounter and solve different commercial challenges
- Read, analyze and react to different news sources
- Network with different peers, managers and out-of-industry contacts
- Attend and learn from different events, conferences and trainings
- Develop different methodologies, approaches and values
The sum of these factors – plus many others – creates a unique profile.
If the prominent characteristics of this profile can be accurately and regularly shared with a relevant community, the result is the development of a personal brand.
How does it help?
The way we develop our professional personas can have a direct impact on our ability to exert influence, attract opportunity and ultimately drive sales.
An easy way to understand personal brand in action is to take a moment to think about the people we would turn to in our personal lives for guidance or advice.
They often have a lot in common with one another.
They’re usually people we trust, people with integrity, experienced in the field in which we’re asking for assistance, and – if they’re outside of our immediate circle – people we’ve heard positive things about from our own close contacts.
Personal brand in business replicates this pattern, and helps professionals in all disciplines to establish a reputation in their domain which draws business and opportunity towards them.
That reputation can differ greatly from one individual to the next.
One person’s personal brand may be anchored in work ethic, another’s in innovation.
Someone else may build their brand around thought leadership within a niche field.
Whatever the foundation, personal brand provides people with a platform from which to communicate with an engaged audience – ultimately creating the opportunity to impart advice, generate discussion, facilitate introductions, share content or recommend a purchase.
How do you build your brand?
Although the power of personal brand lies in its authenticity, it does require careful definition in order to be consistently communicated.
As with any brand, this exercise involves some fundamental categorization:
- Your audience
Who is it that you help, what is the market sector in which you hope to attract a following and develop a reputation?
- Your value
What core problem do you solve, and what value does your network and audience derive from their connection to you?
- Your authority
What is your credibility founded on, what is your experience and what have you accomplished?
- Your identity
What’s your story, what are you passionate about, and how does this fit your brand narrative?
Defining and brand and inventing a brand are not the same thing.
Where inventing implies plucking a set of values from thin air in order to create a desired (and unsubstantiated) veneer, definition means working out what’s at the heart of your professional identity and making sure brand-building activities are aligned with this.
Once you’ve defined your personal brand, it’s time to put yourself out there and engage with your audience.
Opportunities to develop brand identity are all around, as long as activity supports brand objectives by sharing relevant value with a target audience.
Common steps to build personal brand include:
- LinkedIn (articles, vlogs, groups and thread discussions)
- Podcasts (personal and guest participation)
- YouTube channels (explainer videos, Q&As, tutorials, reviews)
- Blogs (corporate blogs, Medium articles, industry publication guest blogging)
- Meetups and networking events (hosting, organizing and attending)
- Conference and event participation (panel moderation, roundtable participation, keynote speaking)
Whether it’s solving a specific business problem, reposting an article or patting yourself on the back by sharing positive customer feedback, there are abundant opportunities to connect your daily professional experience with your target audience in a way that creates value for them while strengthening your persona.
Telling stories, teaching and entertaining all help to reflect your values and interests.
Build the right connections with the right people, and the rewards will soon follow.
Adaptive Tech recruits on behalf of high-growth SaaS vendors, filling roles at all levels including SDR, CSM, AE, Sales Engineering, VP and more.
You can check out Adaptive Tech's SaaS sales vacancies in our job listings here.