Personal brand: you are the product
When I became a salesman in addition to being a developer, I quickly learned that it is not enough to have a good product to sell. The product is not the only thing being sold, it’s only part of the pitch. What makes the sale is you, and everything about you reflects on your product.
Before I started selling my product, I was utterly confident in its quality. It was rigorously tested, I knew from personal experience in the niche and a fruitful beta period that it answered its market’s needs. It worked well, and was adequately priced.
Despite that, my few first sales experiences weren’t as successful as I thought.
My first instinct as a software engineer was that I was missing a killer feature. Something brilliant that would instantly convince potential users to sign on with both hands.
That intuition was wrong.
Whatever you build is an extension of you
At that time, I was perpetually exhausted, sickly, and grossly overweight. And even if I was focused on the product itself, leads weren’t. Imagine being sold something you need and/or want by someone who displays a lot of what you don’t want.
You will experience aggressive cognitive dissonance. “That guy doesn’t look very healthy, I wonder how that affects what he sells”.
And indeed, you cannot produce your best work if you aren’t in your best shape. Motivation, confidence & energy directly all depend on physical and mental health.
I thus changed my marketing strategy: spend less time looking for missing features, and more time focused on diet, exercise and personal improvement. I believe the investment will pay tenfold, and I’ve already seen several signs that I’m on the right track.
Selling is storytelling
You are not selling a product, a tool or an item. You are selling a better world in which a worrisome problem has become a distant memory. “More time with your family, never having to bother with hours of accounting busywork” sounds way better than a bullet-point list of features.
That being said, you are part of the story.
Nobody is going to buy the story of a better tomorrow being told by a walking pile of unresolved issues.
In your prospect’s mind, you are the litmus test of your own claims. You can’t be telling two conflicting stories at once. If you promise them you can solve their problems, what haven’t you solved yours?
Your own story and your product’s have to be congruent.
Your personal brand is the background of your story
Every interaction, professional or personal, is a sales pitch in disguise. Your personal brand, the set dressing you display during non-verbally during discussion, negotiation or argument is the cornerstone.
The interaction is successful when your interlocutor accepts being brought into the story.
A strong personal brand makes every form of communication easier. A story is much more enticing with a rich, colourful and attractive setting.
Before writing an engaging story, you have to build that background, the world where your story takes place.
Elements of your personal brand
Health & Fitness
You have no excuse for not being in the best shape you possibly can. Fitness is your best selling point, it’s also a determining factor in every other area of your life. You cannot ignore this, and you can always improve it. In my case, this was (and still is, to a much lesser extent) the limiting issue, to a degree I could not imagine. The difference in perception is really staggering.
Read: Lessons from losing 50 lbs.
You’ve heard the phrase “dress for success”. Always show up in appropriate attire. Don’t wear casual jeans to a corporate business meeting, and conversely, don’t wear a tuxedo to a family barbecue.
Posture & body language
Most communication is non-verbal. Poor posture communicates poor confidence, doubt and fear. Learn to stand upright. Make your movements deliberate. Avoid fidgeting.
Owning your name
I own the .com domain name for my last name, and the one for my social media handle. You should too. If you don’t own your name, at one point someone else will. Domains are cheap, about 10$ a year. When people look you up, you want them to find you, not third parties talking about you.
Social media presence
In today’s world, social media is (un)fortunately ubiquitous, but can be a double-edged sword. In your advantage, it can be a tremendous showcase of your personal brand, and a great way to reach potential leads.
Make sure your story is consistent across networks. You don’t want a contrast between a very professional LinkedIn page, and a compilation of 3 AM jello shots on Instagram.
When I started freelancing, the hardest part of the administrative setup was coming up with a unique brand logo and a colour scheme. Now, this logo is everywhere. On this website, social media, and my invoices. Your choice should be deeply personal, and instantly recognizable. You want the visual identity of your personal brand to be directly associated with your face.
I will be expanding on these subjects in the following weeks. In the meantime, we already learned an important lesson: everything you produce, and every interaction is governed by the underlying story of you.
You have control over your story, and you should be the one to decide how it’s told.
Whether you are a salesman, a business owner, or anyone else, appearing as (and being) the best version of yourself is a gift you cannot pass on.
You are telling a story. Make it a good one. But don’t lie, do the work.