Your only contact with this prospect has been your semi-annual chin-wag. Sure, it took 47 phone calls to reach him but one day your persistence will wear him out and you’ll get a chance to make a pitch.
The problem with this strategy is the only thing you’re wearing out is your personal brand.
Think how you feel when your home phone rings during dinner. On the other end of the line is someone who can’t pronounce your name selling a duct-cleaning service.
That’s how this busy, educated, tech-savvy transportation buyer thinks about you.
And that’s why cold calling is a flawed sales strategy. It hurts your personal brand more than it helps.
Everyone has a personal brand. Quite simply it’s what people say about you when you leave the room. Everything you say and do contributes to the perception that people have of you.
If you’ve acted like a buffoon for the past 15 years, there’s a good chance your brand is pretty battered. A strong, authentic personal brand sends a clear, consistent message about who you are and what you have to offer. It helps you become known for what you’re good at while setting you apart from your competitors.
If a customer falls into a hole there are 25 average sales reps who will sell him a ladder. Your personal brand should send a message that you’re the type of rep who will prevent him from falling in the hole in the first place.
Here’s why I think it’s important to understand and manage your personal brand.
Shopping has changed
Today’s transportation buyers don’t make decisions the way they did during the heydays of cold calling. The stats say it all:
90% of buying decisions today are based on Internet research.
66% of buyers trust their own research over information provided by sales reps.
92% of buyers are more confident in the information they find on the Internet that what they hear from sales reps.
What does all this mean? Customers think they don’t need you anymore. They trust the words on their screen more than what comes out of your mouth. You need a damn good personal brand to have any chance of sales success.
Selling is simple math: nothing in equals nothing out! The number of deals you close is directly proportional to the number of prospects you have in your sales pipeline.
Without a strong personal brand you’re going to have one hell of a time finding prospects. When you don’t have enough deals in the works, it’s hard to walk away from the ones you’re trying to close. There is nothing worse for margin than taking on bad business because your sales math didn’t allow you to walk away.
Lost in space
The stats indicate a good chunk of the purchasing decision happens before “outsiders” ever get involved. A strong personal brand will draw you into opportunities you were not expecting. Unexpected freebies are great for business.
Conversely, when your personal brand is weak you will lose opportunities that you never knew existed. They get lost in space never to return again. Customers do their research and decide they really don’t want to do business with you. Chances are they never will.
Who’s your competitor?
Intense competition has led to a commoditized trucking world where fewer products are considered unique. More than ever your competitor is not the name on the truck but the brand of the rep you’re selling against.
A strong personal brand is how you can differentiate yourself. In many ways, your reputation is more important than price.
When customers start scoping you out online you will be compared to the other nine reps banging on their door. When a customer contemplates who you are and how you can help him, what will he think? Are you standing strong and separate from the herd or are you vulnerable and on the outside looking in?
I’ll talk more about how to develop and manage your personal brand in my next column.
Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in the “monetizing” of transportation companies. A 30-year industry veteran, he founded MSM Transportation which he sold in 2012. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 416-931-7212. Follow him on Twitter: @AceMcC All posts by Mike McCarron