If there was just one piece of advice that I would dispense to B2B software sales professionals that are just starting out in their career, it is the following: What is your professional brand that you want to build? How do you want to be remembered by your colleagues, customers and partners in 10 years, 20 years or 30 years?
Most people think of a brand as something that a company builds, not an individual person. Apple comes to mind as an iconic global brand. And most salespeople have been brainwashed to believe that they are slimy people that will say or do anything to win business. Not to be trusted. Liars…a snake oil salesman or a used car salesperson. Not exactly the most positive connotation comes to mind when you generally think of a salesperson.
I submit to you that it is precisely because of this general prevailing negative impression of salespeople that presents an opportunity. And that opportunity is to distinguish yourself as a sales professional by building your professional brand…even as a salesperson. How do you want people to think about you after working with you as a professional salesperson? Think of a single word that would consistently define how colleagues, partners and customers would describe you.
As I reflect back on my 30 year software sales career, my single proudest accomplishment is not the number of awards or President’s Clubs that I earned. Not the number of times I was the #1 sales rep in the company. Not the number of times my sales team was the #1 producing sales team in the company. Not the size of my largest deals. Not the amount of revenue I generated or the size of the commission checks. Not the valuation of the company and the shareholders wealth that appreciated due to our sales success.
Nope. My proudest single accomplishment are the relationships that I have built and maintained over the past 30 years. The quality and depth of these relationships are worth far more to me than any financial reward. I still keep in touch with a diverse set of folks (customers, colleagues and partners) at all levels (CEOs, Board Members, investors, bosses, peers, people who reported to me, etc.) going back 30 years.
I decided when I embarked on my professional sales career that the one word brand I wanted to build was based on integrity. Integrity in every professional interaction that I have had. Sometimes that means delivering tough news to a customer or having a challenging conversation with a subordinate or even having to fire people. I doubled down on honesty and candor.
Relationships are based on earning trust. It’s harder than ever to earn trust with people, particularly these days where it seems like no one trusts anyone anymore. These are certainly divisive times. The value of my network and the professional relationships that I have been blessed to build is immeasurable. I wouldn’t trade those relationships or my network for any dollar figure.
What do you want your professional brand to be?