I believe you can simultaneously build your personal brand, coach a sales team, and do deals yourself. The best GMs I’ve ever had have led by example, earning their team’s trust and respect by prospecting and building pipeline themselves simultaneously to their leadership role. I used to work for the former Head of all ISV Channels at Oracle. His mantra was, “Everybody prospects.”
I think a closer is an archetype, it’s a state of mind. As Iannarino says, the first close is the close for the commitment of time. Opening is “closing for time.” Progressing the funnel is “closing for the next step.” And right on through to negotiation – closing the finer deal points. Once you learn the skill of closing, you’re deploying it to close candidates on mutual win-win terms to work with you and closing up and down the organizational chart to manage optics and build stakeholder buy-in.
We live in an era where a sales leader’s brand can eclipse the company in various circles. This is because notable people (or celebrities) on Twitter outweigh companies in popularity. You think Amazon, you think Bezos, Facebook you think Zuck. This is a massive opportunity for a modern Sales Leader to be the face of the brand as ambassadors and to truly stand out.
The authenticity of your personal brand allows you as a sales leader to post more meaningfully in social media, effectively coach a team, and work behind the scenes to close a deal. Without pretense, it’s the lighter weight option if you are yourself 24/7 versus wearing a mask or guise depending on the hat you are wearing. Being a politician or chameleon is exhaustive and could hurt you in the long run.
“Justin, how can you do it all?” I am just myself 24/7. That’s the answer. That’s a power law. Walk the talk and talk the walk. The most powerful wolf leads the pack from behind. I don’t strive to lead and coach a team on something that I myself can’t do. It’s this reason that I still make cold calls and test out tech stacks every day of my life. I still have a fascination for Sales Ops even during a revenue carrying role. It keeps the job interesting.
There will invariably be managers who have decided they are over “closing” and would prefer to just build their brand and manage a sales team in a CRM. That will work too; I find culture builders that are all about enablement do well here. Still, there’s something epic about working for a senior sales leader that still makes calls, handles objections, and stays on the bleeding edge of the front line. If you know how to wield a strong social media game, run a team and get deals done, why not do all three? It’s a myth that player-coach won’t work. If you reach mastery and competence in these areas you can be a tour de force. It all just depends on your goal!
I believe we cannot expect sales executives to be public-facing and amazing closers behind the scenes. Their priority must be serving and guiding the team.
My practical tips –
1) Discuss the expectations you have for your sales leaders when they join your team. If you need them to develop a social presence, can they get support with this? Help developing a professional brand can be appealing to sales leaders. It’s great for your business too, because it helps to attract new candidates.
A company resource should assist in this! Let the leader focus on the internal team, while you find ways to amplify their voice with marketing experts. You might even pair leaders with interns who have a background in journalism.
2) If a leader is able, and has the time to build a brand online, it should be secondary to the internal tasks at hand.
There may be a bit of a gender divide on this topic. Many of the female sales leaders that I know tell me they do NOT have time to build a brand online. Some have kids, but others do not. A few have told me they wonder how much coaching the reps get from the leaders who spend tons of time on LinkedIn. No judgment here—I just think it is a personal decision based on goals and resources.
Per Scott’s hypothesis, I would say it the other way: ”You are no longer a leader if you cannot be both social publically, as well as run the organization.”
There are many areas where sales leaders can suffer when they try to wear too many hats. Common problems I’ve noticed include:
1. Lack of focus – Just because you’re doing well doesn’t mean others are. Failure to understand what your audience is going through could make sales leaders seem tone-deaf when developing a social image. Remember, speak to the specific interests of your target audience. For me, this strategy was magical. Several people asked me to develop a course. When considering this option, I discovered that although I had the knowledge, I didn’t have the right software. That’s something I’m working on now.
2. Lack of motivation: Team leaders can figure out incentives for reaching goals – a weekly challenge is almost a necessity for salespeople, for example. Empathy is not just for clients but for teams
Managers should check in with reps to see where difficulties reside and help turn them around.
3. Issues with follow-up. Managers and executives need to follow up on strategies for both closing, and brand reputation management. Team leaders and their salespeople should discuss issues and challenges, and find ways to overcome them.
To Scott Barker’s point, I’m mixed on the need for sales thought-leaders to be selling hands-on today.
I am still involved in active deals as a solution architect, and occasionally lead an opportunity pursuit, but it’s certainly not my role anymore.
Those who do still sell try to make it a differentiating factor (I’m out in the trenches every day, just like you). To me, that’s like saying that the coach of a professional sports team needs to suit up on game day and go out on the field with his or her team. If you are staying close to the buyer-side market, and close to the seller-side best practices, I don’t believe you need to be “on the field” to have something valuable to share.
I do expect sales executives to be visible on LinkedIn as part of their job. You can’t close deals if you don’t build relationships and bring value.
I believe sales leaders can be public-facing experts and closers at the same time.
There are many ways to do this. Often, it involves having the right tools, including email, phone, video, text, social media, events, and in-person interactions.
However, a great sales executive is also a great time manager who knows how to prioritize and focus on doing things right.
This includes choosing the best message and method to reach the right people and gain their trust.
Today, many of the people you need to meet and interact with are active on LinkedIn (depending on the industry). This is definitely one of the methods that experts should consider.
Sales executives should have a complete and up to date profile online. They should also be curating content that will be of interest to their followers. An active online presence is a must-have.
I come from the world of being self-sufficient as a sales rep – a full-cycle rep if you will.
I started my career hunting, learning, closing, nurturing, and retaining all by myself.
I used social media to help build out the most important weapon I had during this journey: my reputation.
Sales reps have to understand just how important it is for them to be perceived well in the community.
Social media is a powerful tool around this concept. It’s a placeholder for salespeople where people can learn more about the person they are considering engaging with.
A proposal does not have that same power…a presentation does not have that same effect. The entire purpose of social media is to elevate the experience your prospect is having with you. When used appropriately, it will empower and elevate salespeople into a mountain of success.
Ultimately, my answer is yes, a rep can be public-facing and good at their job. It’s time we properly nurtured this type of behavior.
The question is: how can Sales Leaders gain the benefits of building a personal brand, yet still excel in their day jobs? You don’t want to spend so much time posting little advice snippets with emoticons, and then suddenly get fired for poor performance!
There’s a rumor around that the best Sales Leaders don’t post on social media, they’re too busy selling. This may be true for some, but for everyone else, the reality is you have to be noticed to gain the greatest opportunities.
Attention is the new currency, and if you don’t have any, you may end up poor. If you want the greatest amount of opportunities available out there, you have to do both. Dig your well before you’re thirsty.
But where do you find the time if you’re a busy Sales executive who is already over-scheduled? A few tips:
- Make it a priority: If you buy-in to the importance of building a personal brand, decide to lean into it. It takes a long time to build up credibility, so decide this is something you really want to do. Make it a priority, start the process, and stick with it. In order to gain the motivation to do it regularly, you need to make it important and see that it has long-term value to help your career.
- Make time for it: Add a reminder on your calendar to post something each day. Dedicate 30 minutes a day, rain or shine. For B2B professionals, Linkedin is probably best to focus on. For B2C, look for whatever the flavor of the month is. Most importantly, just start doing it regularly, see what’s working and what’s not, and start gathering some data on post performance. Once you see trends, double down on that type of content.
- “Document, don’t create”: Don’t know what to post about? Gary V is the godfather of personal branding and says it best: just share what you’re working on right now, where the challenges are, and your possible solutions. Concerned about confidentiality? Make everything anonymous. Share as much as you feel comfortable with.
- Get help: You don’t have to do everything yourself. If you’re stuck on a piece of content or need some research, reach out for help from websites like Fiverr or Upwork. There are people all over the world who would love the opportunity to help with the stuff you don’t have time or desire for. Give them as much information as possible on what you need done, and stay on it. You may have to try a few people until you find someone who can get what you need done, but stick with it and eventually you will.
If you go into this with the goal of helping people, building your credibility, and creating new opportunities, and you put these tips into practice, you’ll be building your brand in no time, while keeping your day job!
Here’s a ridiculous thought: Stop obsessing so much over sales activity levels, and start obsessing about sales quality. Have you secret shopped yourself?
How consistent are your reps on what they say to prospects and customers?
Have you identified the 5-10 key sales skills that increase your lead to opp conversion rates and opp to close win rates?
Times have changed. You can no longer afford for your reps to be having lousy conversations.
Yes, you can be both. Especially now—if a seller isn’t engaging on social media and providing content to buyers digitally or educating them throughout the sales process (pre, during, and post) they will be totally obsolete in less than 60 days.
There is no argument to be had, today’s COVID-19 affected buyer is digitally connected, socially engaged, mobile attached, and video hungry. Any rep or leader who doesn’t engage has lost the race before they’ve started.
Your sales team is already using phone and email as outreach channels with their prospects. A report from XANT.ai shows that when reps add one or two communication channels, their engagement rate with prospects increases by a whopping 400%! This means, when reps use social selling practices to engage on LinkedIn® or send a personalized video, they increase their chance of creating more sales conversations.
Social selling is the modern way of finding, engaging, and connecting with decision-makers and those who influence them. However, it is only ONE of the channels and today’s modern seller must leverage all channels to be successful.”
If we believe the mantra, ‘everyone is in sales’ then ‘everyone is in marketing’ as the two have blended and are inseparable.
As a C-suite executive, I would leverage members of my marketing team to craft a social media persona and assist me in creating engaging content…consistently.
Visibility, engagement, and insightful posts are crucial to building one’s social persona.
Executives would then leverage this persona to help salespeople connect and/or close deals; content drives engagement which drives connections that drives access. Access is what salespeople crave! The executive could be the ‘golden door-opener’!
It’s everyone’s responsibility, especially those at the top with perceived power, to help salespeople gain access to high-level decision-makers.
Differentiation is NOT about the product (or service) in a commoditized world, it’s about the faces and virtual connections. The more you can stack the sales deck with high status ‘face cards’, all the better. Being on social media and helping salespeople close deals are not mutually exclusive activities: they are inclusive and mutually beneficial.
Is it time to rewrite the C-Suite job description to include ‘social media ambassador’? I think so!