Can a top salesperson create a personal brand so strong that it's actually a threat to their employer?
Salespeople in particular are just waking up to the power of using their LinkedIn profile effectively - as well as their connections strategy, engagement in groups, and blogging on LinkedIn - to both attract and engage with prospects and customers.
Numerous pieces of research point to the fact that B2B buyers typically get at least 60% of the way through their buying journeys before engaging with a salesperson. That is of course unless during their web-based research when they are “Googling” the symptoms of their problem, they accidentally land on a salesperson’s LinkedIn profile!
As Google is giving LinkedIn profiles weighting in their search rankings, salespeople’s profiles are appearing regularly as customers research their problems online. (The example shown below the FIRST PAGE of the sample search results.)
The profiles of enlightened salespeople that used to be full of “I regularly make 120% of target” statements are now full of keywords and content relating to the types of business symptoms/problems they and their companies solve.
This, and regular refreshing of their profiles, can attract very high Google/Bing rankings about which you would think employers are rejoicing. Surely now we have “multiple company websites” that are attracting prospects as they embark along their buyer journey?
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth and many employers are running scared.
Top 4 concerns and antidotes
Below we list the top 4 concerns we have encountered from “nervous” employers – and we offer our commentary as to the “antidote” for each concern.
If my salesperson connects with all my customers - and then she goes and works for my competitor - the customers will be alerted instantly and they'll all follow her.
It’s great that your salespeople are building strong personal brands, and that customers want to connect with them - but the value the customers see in dealing with your organisation shouldn't just be “relationship building" with the salesperson.
Firstly - this is a flawed sales strategy. Corporate Executive Board research indicates the "Relationship Builder" is the POOREST performing sales profile. If you really think the relationship formed with the salesperson is why the customer is buying - YOU NEED A NEW SALES METHODOLOGY!
Secondly - if your customers are really going to follow the salesperson to their new employer – what does that say about the value your ORGANISATION is offering the customer via the salesperson? Make sure all your salespeople are mouthpieces for genuinely disruptive insights that are developed PROPRIETARY to your organisation - and that you have a truly DIFFERENTIATED offering so that your organisation is the ONLY place that customers can get the value they want.
My competitors will know who we’re talking to if my salespeople connect with our prospects on LinkedIn.
In our “internet everywhere” world and with the propensity to post everything on social networks, it’s safe to assume that everyone knows everything: what prices you quote at, who your customers are, which prospects your salespeople are talking with etc.
THIS TRANSPARENCY IS DARWINIAN - IT FORCES YOU TO BECOME STRONGER! SECRECY IS NO LONGER A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE!
Who cares if you competitors target your prospects!
Again, if you develop a strong value proposition and adopt a "disruptive selling" approach by offering prospects unique customer insights – they’re going to stick with you anyway because of your superior value to their organisation.
Your organisation gives them insights they can't get anywhere else.
And your differentiated value offerings mean that you have what they want - and you're the only place they can get it!
What if my salesperson “says the wrong thing” online?
Many organisations, particularly publicly listed ones, tie themselves in knots in case an active LinkedIn member “says the wrong thing” online, which gets repeated over and over again. Yes - PR disasters can happen online due to an employee's comments - but it’s no reason to not “do” social media – the pros certainly outweigh the cons.
You need to educate your staff, have a social media policy in place, and have a crisis management plan pre-prepared - as part of a broader communications strategy - so you can limit the risk and enjoy the considerable upside of having your bright employees engaging with customers online.
A prominent LinkedIn profile will surely attract recruiters, who will endeavour to poach my sales staff.
Recruiters are getting canny – they can now largely see through the “sales journeymen” and are less attracted to statements around “personal sales brilliance”. More of them understand that the best salespeople are using their LinkedIn profile to attract customers.
You need to consider - what is it that you are actively doing to retain your star employees even though everyone else wants to get them?
Sales coaching is a great example here. As per guidance from the Corporate Executive Board - don’t just coach your “mid-tier performers”: sales managers also need to coach their stars so they know they’re loved - you have to coach them to keep them!
As much as you need to market to customers, you need to ensure you’re “marketing to your sales stars" to ensure they recognise the value in staying with your organisation.
Having a strong organisational value proposition is imperative in respect of customers AND sales stars.
So - what are your thoughts? Are there other areas where you've seen employers become concerned because of a sales person's online brand power? Do you think there are situations where an employer is justified in asking a sales person to modify their online persona and/or engagement? Let us know and comment below.
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