They're all widely recognized brands that tell the world what to expect from their products. When you pop open a can of Coke, you can be sure you're about to imbibe a sweet, carbonated beverage. Apple has a reputation for user-friendly technology. Likewise, Southwest Airlines is known for its fast, friendly service at reasonable fares.
When your profession is sales and the economy is in a slump, how can you take advantage of the tough times? Focus on what you can control! You may not be able to control the credit crunch or the slowing economy, but you can control your reputation — your brand!
What are you known for right now? When people think of you, do they feel a powerful connection? When your colleagues talk about you, what stories do they tell? Do they think, ''Unforgettable, get-it-done, go-to person, industry expert, thought leader, guru who is indispensable and would be sorely missed if she ever left''? Or do they think something else? Every day you do something to build your brand equity or weaken it.
Use these five tips to help you get more strategic about what you want to be known for:
1. Have Incredibly High Standards.
Demand more from yourself than your clients demand from you. Are you better prepared for a sales call than anyone you know? Do people applaud your sense of urgency and responsiveness? Do you take creativity and execution to a higher level? When you meet a potential client for the first time, do you know more about that person and his or her business than any competitor will ever dream of knowing about him or her? Do you have a reputation for doing your homework or for winging it? Do you go above and beyond what’s called for or just do the bare minimum?
2. Create a Project Portfolio That Rocks.
Think of an account executive from an ad agency being interviewed to make a pitch with a new client. The portfolio counts! Who you’ve done work for, the level of creativity expressed in that work, the ROI of your campaign — it all matters. What if you had to ''re-up'' for your job every six months? You go in for your interview, open up your portfolio, and what’s there? Stunning projects that shook the world, gave history a shove? Or the same old thing?
3. Keep Lots of Company.
You are as cool, stimulating, adventurous, thoughtful, reflective, spiritual, disciplined (you get the point) as the people you associate with. What’s the collective IQ, EQ (emotional quotient), or any other ''Q'' of the gang you hang with? How big a net do you cast? Do you go to lunch with the same people all the time? Do you attend the same conferences with the same people? Do something to broaden your network and surround yourself with people who will stretch you in new directions — people who are fun and bring something significant to the table. By the way, the key to this is being the kind of person cool people want to hang out with!
4. Tell Great Stories.
People of influence know how to tell stories. Why? Because they are a powerful teaching tool. This fact has only been demonstrated for more than 2,000 years. Research shows that stories can increase recall by up to 300%! House a critical point in an interesting story. If people remember the story, they will remember the point. Stories are entertaining, they can be replicated and passed on, and they create a common experience. The next time you have something important to share, avoid the temptation to simply quote a fact or put an idea in an email. Put it in a story.
5. Step into the Breach.
When the going gets tough (and it will!), are you known for jumping in the boat and paddling or doing a disappearing act? Whether it’s rolling up your sleeves and helping to fulfill a customer order or analyzing your customer’s business and offering an additional service before she even knows she needs it, stepping into the breach is about seeing the gap and filling it.
About the Authors
Dr. Kevin Freiberg and Dr. Jackie Freiberg are international speakers, consultants, and the authors of the bestseller NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success and its sequel, GUTS!. In their new book, BOOM! 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors off Business-As-Usual, the Freibergs show both leaders and those they lead that the company’s success is as dependent on the will of the people as it is on that of the CEO.
For more tips and resources about how to create your own personal brand, visit http://freibergs.com/boom and enter ''YOU'' in the ''BOOM!'' box.