Personal Branding in Sales: Your External Self

Today we continue our Personal Branding series by shifting to your external self. What we mean by that is how you present yourself to prospects and clients. This is one of the most important aspects of personal branding, because it’s what’s responsible for first impressions. And if you approach it the wrong way, you might not get a chance for a second impression. The following are three key areas to consider with your external personal brand.

Clothes do make the person.
How you dress is the most basic, easiest to control part of external personal branding. Nor is it as clear-cut as you might think. While many sales professionals believe business attire is the automatic go-to, that might not be the case. It comes down to who your target markets are. If, for example, your prospects are casual in their attire and interpersonal communication, going with a three-piece suit or pantsuit might come across as intimidating or too stuffy. Business casual is likely to be more appropriate in those instances. Too formal a dress can make you look out of touch, unapproachable, and cause your buyers to think you won’t be able to understand their needs, values, and desires.

Conversely, a T-shirt and shorts, unless mandated by your company (perhaps you work as the manager of a beachside retail store) is probably going to be too informal. Going too casual runs the risk of your losing respect from the jump and not being taken seriously.

It’s a delicate balancing act between too informal and overdressed, and unless your employer has an established dress code as part of their formal sales process, it can be difficult to find where the line lies. To solve the issue, consider asking your colleagues or do research on the attire of clients in your vertical to get a better idea.

Pay attention to your voice.
You might think there’s nothing you can do about your voice. But in fact, you can. Tone and delivery are very much in the realm of your control and they matter when talking to prospects. You want to strive for calm authenticity. What we mean by that is not getting emotional – being overly excited might come across as insincere and an angry tone, especially when you encounter objections or resistance, can damage the relationship and ruin the chances of a sale.

We also urge authenticity, or coming across in a sincere voice. Everyone’s talked to salespeople who either sound like they’re reading a script or, in an attempt to be professional, uses an artificial voice that tips off you’re speaking with someone performing a role and not the true person. Another example of this latter case is when someone laughs politely after a joke they don’t find funny. Spend enough time really listening to how people sound and you’ll be able to easily pick up on those false notes.

What that means is you’ll need to not only cultivate a calm core, but also practice your professional situation speech until you’re able to deliver it in your natural voice.

What’s your business persona?
When you add together dress and voice, you have two of the core pieces of your business persona, or the overall composite of how you appear to a potential client. We all have different personas in our lives – for example, how we act and present ourselves around family members will often differ from the way we do around our friends, and that in turn is distinct from how we are around coworkers, etc. (This phenomenon is frequently lampooned in sitcom episodes where a childhood friend comes to town and a character reverts back to how they acted as a kid around the friend).

So you need to figure out what your business persona will be. Are you going to be friendly and chatty? Reserved and professional? How will you talk? Informally, with lots of idiom and slang? Formally?

Here’s the real answer: It’ll be a mix of your default persona (how you are when no one else is around) and what a given customer’s communication style and preferences are. An analytical customer likely won’t have the time or the mood to listen to your jokes, whereas an expressive client isn’t going to enjoy talking to you if you’re formal and don’t engage in conversation.

Three key aspects to building your external personal brand – clothing, voice, and persona. Master them all to build the kind of brand you want and that will resonate with your target markets.