Creating a Personal Brand

When David was a small boy his father asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” David thought about it for a minute and answered, “I don’t know what I want to be, but I know that I don’t want to be a salesman.” “That’s too bad,” his father responded. “Because, whatever you want to be, you have to be a salesman.”

This is so true. People are always selling. They sell their products, services, ideas and, most importantly, themselves. No matter what you do for a living, you are a salesperson.

What will help someone succeed in this world of sales? Let’s take a look at how branding can help you sell yourself more successfully.

Playing to emotions

A brand is simply the emotional reaction and attachment a customer has to their total experience with a company, product or service. Judgments about brand are created in the hearts and minds of customers.

In this very competitive marketplace, it is more critical than ever that companies differentiate themselves from their competition. Success depends on being visible; standing out and rising above the crowd. Managing their brand allows companies to grab attention and gain a hold on the hearts and minds of their customers.

But, you may be thinking, how can someone maximize their brand as an individual? How can a person harness the power of brand, to help them stand out from the crowd—to demonstrate the value they add? A personal brand provides a person the same benefits as a corporate brand. Your brand is what you represent and what you stand for in the hearts and minds of others. It is not posing, pretending or posturing. It is about who you are every day consistently, and who you are working to become.

As you attempt to manage your personal brand, remember that everyone makes split-second decisions about the world and the people with whom they come in contact. While you are taking in data and forming opinions about the people around you, they are doing the same.

The way you dress, what your business card says, your tone of voice, your body language, your work ethic and the words you use all form mini-impressions in the hearts and minds of others. These impressions are brand touch points, and collectively they form your brand image. You need to remain aware of and responsive to how your everyday actions create the impressions others have of you, so you can constantly shape your brand to maximize your value.

Five important touch points

Regardless of where you are in the development of your image, there are five important areas that you should always focus on:

1) How you look. Whether you like it or not, you are judged on your appearance. The moment you walk into a room, people’s mental checklists come into play. Are you well-dressed? Is your hairstyle both flattering and contemporary? Do you look well-groomed? Do you look successful?

Many free spirits have said, “I’m not concerned with shallow things like clothes. My clothes express my personality.” Yes, they do. But think about what message you’re sending about yourself. Is your message, “I don’t care what you think?” The key isn’t having the most extravagant wardrobe. The key is taking the time to look appropriate for the setting and situation.

Remember, customers are often dropping several thousand dollars in your lap for a mower. You want them to feel comfortable doing so. You also want to be judged on merit. But if you don’t make a positive physical impression, you may never get a chance to impress others with your knowledge and skill.

2) How you communicate. No matter how wonderful your physical impression, you have to support it with good communication skills. Have you ever watched a presentation given by someone who is slump-shouldered, can’t look you in the eye and bores you to tears with their lack-luster voice? Don’t let that be you. Your body language needs to say that you are confident and relaxed. Good posture and appropriate gestures say that you are sure of what you’re saying and enthusiastic about your topic. Comfortable eye contact says that you believe what you’re saying. Varying your vocal tone, pitch and pace says you are motivated to keep the person you’re talking to interested and that you are worth listening to.

Your vocal skills are even more important when communicating on the phone because the person on the other end doesn’t have the benefit of visual input.

3) What you do. You can promise people the world, but if you don’t follow through, your promises are meaningless. For example, you can assure someone that you make it a practice to always be on time. But when you show up late you are sending quite another message. Your actions don’t match your words. Though people may not notice when you are punctual, every time you are late you leave a negative impression. The message received is that you made the person you are meeting a low priority, whereas showing up on time or a little early indicates that you consider that person and the time you will be spending with him very important.

This attitude goes beyond punctuality. You need to be seen as someone others can count on in a pinch. Ask yourself these questions:

• Can you be depended on to follow through no matter what?

• Are you the go-to person who consistently gives more than is asked for?

• Are you able to multi-task with grace?

• Is your word your bond?

Answer “yes” to these questions and you will deserve the confidence you’re seeking.

4) What you know. You probably don’t like to appear to be bragging about your accomplishments. No one likes the guy who flaunts his fancy degrees, certificates or awards. However, that’s a far cry from sharing the very things that qualify you as an expert on a certain subject matter. If you’re asking people to believe that you know what you’re doing and/or to take your advice, you need to tell them why their confidence in you is justified. What makes you qualified will vary with what you’re trying to do. Perhaps it will be years of experience, a long and/or varied job history, an advanced education or a depth of research. The key is in giving your listener the information needed to make an informed decision.

5) How you reach out. Letter writing is an art. You need to make your communication compelling and effective. People will also want to do business with you based on what they see on paper. Although e-mails are intended to be less formal methods of communication than written letters, you still have to be aware of proper e-mail etiquette, which includes correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Mistakes in these areas make you look unprofessional or uneducated.

Something as small as your business card can have a big impact on how you are viewed. When you hand someone a tattered card that has writing on the back, you are leaving an impression that you are not prepared to do business. Remember every day that you have the ability to either support your current brand or enhance its power by supporting these five brand touch points. Create a powerful image that sells.

Laurie Brown is an international speaker, trainer and consultant who works to help people improve their sales, service and presentation skills. She is the author of “The Teleprompter Manual for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers.” For more information visit www.thedifference.net, call 877-999-3433, or send an e-mail to lauriebrown@thedifference.net.

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