Many women in sales are concluding that they are not just selling a product or a service; they’re selling themselves (in a good way, ideally). Personal branding is a hot trend in the sales sector, but in no small degree, successful salespeople have always tried to effectively market themselves (i.e., their trust factor, professionalism, etc…) to stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re a woman working with a team of other sales professionals or you’re on your own, you’ll want to develop or improve your personal brand to highlight your strengths and better connect to your audience.
If you aren’t checking up on your competition, you should be. It’s difficult to develop a unique brand without assessing how other people in your field are tackling (or not tackling) the issue. You can learn a lot about the best and worst branding practices by merely tuning into what your competitors are doing. Perhaps they aren’t highlighting a strength that you bring to the table. Understanding the landscape helps you to ultimately fine tune your own branding campaign.
Start with the Basics
To create your personal brand, you don’t need to re-invent yourself. You just need to market who you are and what you do best effectively. You can start to do this with your resume, business cards, and other marketing materials. Many professionals today are turning the traditional resume on its head to stand out from other candidates. To get some ideas about what’s possible in the world of current resumes, check out how graphic designers are transforming resumes into exciting info-filed visuals (Pinterest has many good examples.
If you’re a traditionalist, that’s ok. Try to include at least one unique feature. For instance, add a link on your resume to a video. You might use the video to discuss your education and experience in-depth. You might use it to present your sales record or an exciting project you worked on. The idea is to make your resume and business cards go beyond the basics—to stand out as something special.
Establish an Online Presence
To create exposure for your brand, it helps to establish an online presence. While your company might have its own platform and ideas about promoting you as a woman in sales, you’re still entitled to create your own personal website, blog, or social media presence. An online platform gives you the vehicle to promote your personal brand. If you don’t have one, you’re losing out on multiple channels for exposure that your colleagues and competition are likely taking advantage of.
It’s true—online marketing can be a full-time job. You might worry that you simply don’t have the time or disposable income to tackle online self-promotion. Just consider starting small. Use a free platform to launch a professional blog; commit to writing one or two blogs per month and merely promote each to your email list. Even a professional Twitter account can help you brand yourself and increase your online exposure.
Once you have established your brand, get out of your office and actively promote it at trade events, conventions, conferences, etc.…Social media networks can be convenient, but they don’t replace the face-to-face connections that you can make when meeting with people in person. Networking events give you the chance to expose your brand, but they can also provide you with real-time feedback about how you’re coming across. Do you draw a crowd or do you feel ignored? Do people seem intimidated by you or are they curious about you? Whether positive or negative, the feedback you generate helps you tweak your message and enhance how you brand your skills and abilities.
Establish a Look
As a professional woman, you’ve probably heard it all when it comes to dress—all the do’s and don’ts. Dressing is a highly subjective area for women, and business/business casual can mean many different things to many different women, so without getting into specifics, just consider being consistent in your look, making it easy for potential customers to remember you. In this respect, women have more of an edge over men when it comes to unique branding style. Men might be able to wear a whimsical tie to stand out, but women have all sorts of opportunities to reinforce their look.
Maybe you’re the saleswoman who always wears a vintage Vera scarf. Barbara Bush had her pearls. Jackie Kennedy had her hats. Whether you opt for a couple of signature colors, oversized brooches, velvet blazers—some consistent fashions or accessories can help you remind them about who you are.
Share Your Stories
Storytelling—that’s another major marketing trend that brands are focused on. Even Facebook is encouraging users to post by helping them to “update their stories.” Think about the types of narratives you want to convey about yourself. You’re not obligated to share anything you don’t want to, but you get to control the stories you tell, and these stories can help you to reinforce your personal brand and to connect to colleagues and potential customers.
Some stories you might include: your volunteer work, charities you support, your experiences as a woman in sales, lessons you learned as a manager, your mentors, your continuing education—each of these types of stories can enhance your personal/professional brand. Plus, remember that telling your own stories empowers you and prevents others from filling the void with their stories, their take on you.
All of this information could come across as a little contrived, but all marketing is contrived to some extent. When developing your voice, your look, your brand, always try to be authentic. Think of your brand as an organization of your best traits, all the features you want to share about your professional self. Branding ties merely you up in a pretty bow—all your qualifications and winning characteristics there for your audience to see.
Cynthia Barnes is the founder and CEO of the National Association of Women Sales Professionals, 2021 Salesforce Influencer, 2020 LinkedIn Top Sales Influencer, highly sought-after global keynote speaker, and a pioneering champion for Women in Sales.
Cynthia is the podcast host of Unstoppable, with Cynthia Barnes, best-selling author of Reach the Top 1%: A Strategic Game Plan for Warrior Women in Sales and is known for motivating others to feel confident, empowered, and brave. Her insights and unique understanding of what it takes for women sales professionals to excel have made her a sought-after expert, having appeared in over 250 major media outlets around the nation – including appearances in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
Follow her on LinkedIn for thought-provoking insights on what it takes for women sales professionals to reach the Top 1%.