Leveraging Your Personal Brand With In-Person Events
In November I wrote How to Navigate Sales and Tradeshows Post-COVID, outlining the importance of in-person events for companies in a post-Covid environment. Back then, companies were coming out of lockdowns, jobs were in demand, and inflation was under control. Today, sales professionals are facing unprecedented inflation, which means price increases for customers. There is even talk of a recession. As sales pros, it may seem like we can’t catch a break. But there is one thing we can control, our personal brand equity. In this article, we will explore how sales professionals can leverage in-person events to position themselves for success against any potential economic headwinds.
I will be the first to admit that the past two years have been tough on sales reps and organizations. But your sales goals are still in reach if you focus on building our personal brand. What am I talking about when I say, “personal brand”? Specifically, your personal brand is how you present yourself both online and in-person to your ideal clients. With the hybrid sales model more popular now than ever, I would argue this new sales model places greater importance on a sales rep’s in-person event opportunities.
Accelerate Your Sales Career
Early in my sales career, I had little appreciation for building my personal brand. When I attended my first few tradeshows and in-person events, I was more like a fly on the wall than a social butterfly. I look back now and realize I could have done a few things differently. Today, in-person face time with potential clients is more valuable than ever. One connection can change the course of your sales career. For that reason, I wanted to share the mistakes I made so new sales reps can avoid my early in-person event blunders.
The Product is Not the Product
At in-person events, the product is not the product. You are the product. What I mean by this is that it is easy to hide behind your company or product. As a sales rep, we can stand in the booth, answer attendee questions, and scan badges while we pass out pens and key chains. That is what we are trained to do. When the tradeshow is over, we return to the home office, with a list of hot leads that need to be followed up with. Then we call and the conversation goes something like this…
Hi Mr. Prospect, this is Nick with ABC Company, we met at the Vegas show last week. How are things going?
Prospect: Who is this?
It’s Nick, with ABC Company, you asked me to follow up regarding our solution.
Prospect: Oh Nick, right. I’m catching up from missing a few days of work last week, can you give me a call early next month?
Here is what I failed to comprehend at my first few live events. Prospects at trade shows attended dozens of booths and likely meet hundreds of people. If I just go through the motions and act like every other rep at the show, why would the attendee remember me? They won’t, because I gave them zero reasons to remember me. To the attendee, I was just another sales rep, passing out pens, trying to close a deal.
Today, what would I do differently to ensure that I am remembered and not forgotten? I might bring a selfie stick. This way I could snap a photo, then share with the prospect, connect with them on LinkedIn, and tag them in a post using the photo. This way we have fun by projecting a friendly, outgoing vibe. I would also use the photo as a funny email, saying something like,
Mr. Prospect, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?
The facts about in-person events are that most companies are investing hugely in their booth and the swag. Yet, few are training their sales team to stand out and be remembered. That’s why most sales reps will lean on the company and the product–it feels safe. Now, of course, for most of us, being outgoing with strangers can feel awkward at first. I know it was for me. Meeting new people makes us feel vulnerable. We can either let that vulnerability hinder us, or we can recognize it and decide to improve. It starts with telling yourself, “The product is not the product, I am the product.”
One Connection Away
One truth I’ve learned over the years is that some of life’s most important connections are made when you least expect it. The person sitting next to you on the plane ride to the event could be one of your biggest potential clients. The person in the hotel elevator could be a great referral partner. When attending live events, it would have been wise for me to recognize this fact earlier. Anyone has the potential to change my life. For example, before I met Janek’s co-founder Justin, no one was encouraging me to create a sales training company or write a book. Together, we’ve done both. Looking back, it’s hard to visualize where my career would be had I not connected with Justin.
Creating connections is the essence of being a sales professional. As a sales training company based in Las Vegas, we attend our fair share of tradeshows. What I’ve noticed is that there are two types of sales reps that attend these shows: the professionals and the amateurs. What’s the difference you ask? The amateurs view the event as a mini-vacation. They spend more time planning what attractions they will see. The professional is focused on the event.
I do not place all the blame entirely on the sales rep, because the only difference between a professional and an amateur is their training. Professionals are well-trained sales reps, while amateurs are not. You can be a 10-year veteran and act like an amateur at live events. If you are a sales leader and you don’t want your reps acting like amateurs at their next live event, train them to understand the value of connections.
Consider this: At a time when businesses worldwide are worried about inflation, recession, and price increases, you can be attending an industry event with hundreds or thousands of game-changing connections. Alternatively, you look at your next event as a chore, discount the attendees, and receive exactly what you put into the event, nada. That would be a giant career mistake because live events are more valuable now to sales reps than any other time in history. It does not matter if it is your annual industry convention or a local chamber of commerce meeting. Adopt the mindset. You are one connection away from altering your trajectory.
Not Learned in College
As sales professionals, we can earn a business degree or attend graduate school and receive an MBA. But connecting with humans and building our personal brand is not something we learn in a standard college classroom. Why? I believe the reason is that most teachers never sold or had to build a personal brand for themselves. It’s no wonder most sales reps struggle with this topic because it is the rarest of sales skills.
For me, it took years of trial and error, stepping outside my comfort zone, and gaining confidence. As a sales leader, I feel it is my responsibility to share what I learned so other sales professionals can benefit from my mistakes. Every learner needs support.
For sales reps of all levels of experience, live events are an opportunity to increase personal brand equity. Growing your personal brand starts with realizing the product is not the product, but that you are the product. This leads to you being remembered at your next live event. Like other forms of equity, it can increase or decrease depending on how it is managed. Understand that you do not need to be an extreme extrovert personality like Grant Cardone or Tony Robbins to be an effective personal brand builder. But you do need to be willing to feel vulnerable and push your current comfort zone. This is the key to gaining confidence.
Looking back at my early sales career, one of my biggest hindrances early was my inability to allow myself to feel vulnerable. The popular clichés, “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” is truly the path to personal growth. A funny thing happens when you step out of your comfort zone. You connect with individuals who are willing to support you. It happened to me when I connected with the right person to build Janek Performance Group and I am 100% confident it will happen for you.
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