If you sell services, build your personal brand

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    Over the past few months, we've spoken to dozens of managing partners in professional services firms about ways they find new business. Every person interviewed said that a vast majority of new business was generated via their "networks and trusted relationships."

    So what is trust and why is it so important to the sales process? Simply, trust is a shared belief that you can depend on someone to do what they say they will do. Trust is built through interaction, integrity, success/failure, transparency and consistency.

    It is important because for anyone that sells professional services, the real job is convincing others that you and your company are trustworthy.

    That means your job as a sales person is to build your personal brand.

    As an owner, you might be uncomfortable with the idea of your employees building their own brands at the expense of your corporate brand. Or you
    may be uncomfortable with the term "personal branding" because it minimizes the power of the corporate brand. If you are, welcome to the club. But if people buy from people and if a brand is really the sum total of a customer's interaction with a company, then it follows that in professional services, the personal brand is really all that matters.


    If you are a marketer, your discomfort may be due to the growing recognition that modern marketing-think is steadily transforming itself into sales-think. It also means that marketing is suddenly being held to the same standard as sales. You are accountable for results.

    The problem is the traditional marketing-think such as intrusion, hard-sell tactics, product-push and controlling-the-message activities just don't resonate anymore. Marketing-as-control has been undermined by customer access to information, networks, word of mouth and experience far beyond the marketing department's ability to control and manage. The marketing department is being forced to accept that authentic, inclusive, people to people-driven information is becoming the dominant method for inviting prospects into relationship that can be nourished into customer relationships.


    This is even more complicated by the fact that the isolated points of encounter between a company representative and a prospect aren't just sales encounters, but social encounters as well. These social and network encounters don't lend themselves the traditional linear progression of a sales pipeline diagram.


    There are some stand-out marketing organizations that have embraced this truth. Yet there are others who are just not capable of authenticity because they are so far removed from the customer.


    This is why some professional services organizations are delegating the function of authenticity to the managing partners and practice managers. The managing partners, responsible for thought leadership are now also responsible for promoting and demonstrating that same leadership through their actions.


    In sales-think, the conversations, the relationships, the personal network and persuasion have always been the de facto currency. For those practice managers and managing directors interested in more efficiently finding new business - the best way to begin is by aligning marketing with the task of increasing the number of highly-qualified trusted relationships in the portfolio. Stop thinking just about closing deals and spend more time thinking about ways to be useful to the relationships in the portfolio.

    Today, the cost of content production and distribution has shrunk dramatically, the information freely available has grown to include not just sellers but buyers eager to share their own needs, challenges and experiences; and reaching interested people with relevant offerings is a much more fractured challenge.

    The challenge is aligning marketing activity with the sales and relationship funnel in a way that supports meaningful and valuable discussion as well as trust building.