If you want to grow sales, a personal brand is essential…
Your personal brand builds a rapport with your target audience…
It demonstrates your credibility & helps you stand out in the marketplace…
Alan See, Chief Marketing Officer at AMS Parts, is here to break down your first steps to creating a personal brand that resonates with your target audience.
Alan has been recognized as the American Marketing Association “Marketer of the Year” for content marketing and social media and as one of the “Top 50 Most Influential CMOs on Social Media” by Forbes.
In this episode, Alan shares:
- Best practices for LinkedIn networking
- How to minimize risk
- Strategies for defining your target audience
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is how to develop a personal brand to build credibility and rapport to grow sales. Here to speak with me is Alan See.
He is the CMO at AMS Construction Parts, which offers the best parts at the best prices for heavy duty construction equipment. Alan has been recognized at the American Marketing Association, as “Marketer of the Year” for content marketing and social media. He was also recognized as one of the top 50 influential CMOs on social media by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies, and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan See: Thank you. It’s great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
Steffen: Now, Alan, before we start exploring today’s topics, I would love to learn more about yourself. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in your career, and what led you to be the CMO at AMS Construction Parts?
Alan: Well, so you know, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than it is to be good. My career actually started in sales with NCR Corporation. And then in 2000, I had the opportunity to become a CRM consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. And through this consulting was just about the time that the internet was starting to really pick up and boom, this is early 2000, right at 2000. And soon after, in 2002, LinkedIn became a platform. I was actually one of the first 100,000 people on LinkedIn. I’m part of the beta group.
I was 74,134 to join. And at that point, in getting on to LinkedIn, I realized that this was not a resume tool, that this was, you know, from looking at it through the lens of a salesperson or former salesperson, I knew this was how, how customers and companies would you would keep track of them and build relationships. And so my career in marketing, my career leading up to personal branding, really started with being an early adopter of social media and more specifically, LinkedIn.
Steffen: What does personal branding mean to you?
Alan: Well, you know, first of all, it’s it’s not something that’s new. In fact, you know, I have here, it’s a copy of George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. And his first rule is, every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present. And his last rule is labor to keep alive in your breast, that little celestial fire called conscience. So I mean, it’s not something that’s new, but personal branding, it’s who you are. It’s your values that you embrace. And it’s your thoughts as a thought leader of who you really are.
Steffen: How does it influence your business self, your business space?
Alan: Yeah. So AMS is in the business to business space. And I’ve always been in the business to business space throughout my 40 year career. This is my belief, when it comes to business to businesses, that we do business with people we know, like and trust. We know like and trust. If they know you, like you and trust you, you’re going to probably get the deal or be able to stay at least competitive. Now, having said that, I’ve actually created a formula for building trust. And so think of this is a mathematical formula.
So you’ve got rapport times credibility, and then you divide that by risk. If I’m building rapport, if I’m creating and building credibility, rapport times credibility, okay, that’s going to be a big number. Now, if I’m doing things that reduce risk of small number going into a big number, it’s going to equal a huge trust number. And so I’m constantly thinking about that equation. As I’m going through my personal branding exercises, am I building rapport? Am I creating credibility? Am I helping reduce risk? And I believe that if you keep that formula in mind, you’re destined to build a very big trust number.
Steffen: Now, I would assume that when someone starts the journey to build their personal brand, especially from a business perspective, they have to work through those three things. So how do you build rapport with your target audience, or with your target audience you’re going after?
Alan: Right. So this kind of comes back from my initial CRM consulting background when CRM was still brand new and first, you know, being launched in the early 2000s. And that’s, am I communicating to them through the channels that they prefer? I mean, each of us has communication channels that we prefer, whether it’s email, phone, you know, text, or whatever that might be. And so it’s really thinking through, am I contacting them through their preferred channel? Am I contacting them through their preferred platform?
I mean, I have people that, you know, I’m connected to who much more prefer doing direct messaging and trading tweets versus direct message or something through LinkedIn. And so it’s really keeping those nuances in mind, so that I’m creating rapport and creating a communication that they feel comfortable with.
Steffen: How does frequency play into that, into that picture? Is the frequency important? What is the right frequency when you start building rapport?
Alan: Yeah, well, you can definitely tell when you’ve got the frequency wrong, because people start ignoring you. And so, you know, it’s one of those things where you can definitely do it too much. And so, in that case, I believe it’s, it’s better to be on the sparse side than on the more verbose side. And it’s also about watching for the signs that, you know, are you asking them questions and keeping them engaged, rather than spewing information and facts, you know, at them.
I believe firmly that we are all dialed into radio station WIIFM. That’s what’s in it for me. And, and that’s just the way our DNA is set up is what’s in it for me. And so I’m constantly thinking, what’s, well, I’m thinking what’s in it for them. Because I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about them. And so if the conversation or the content is starting to steer the wrong way, and things start cooling off, you pretty much know you’ve, you need to turn around and go another direction.
Steffen: Now, let’s look at credibility, right. So how do you build credibility? What steps do you take when you build your personal brand, within an industry or an area that you’re currently working to stand out?
Alan: Right. So I mean, to be straightforward, this opportunity, where you invited me to this podcast is part of that credibility building exercise. As I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognized by Forbes, to be recognized by the American Marketing Association, to be invited to be you know, guest speakers at various conferences, those highlights, highlight reels if you want to maybe call them that are, of course showcased on my LinkedIn profile. So those people that are, you know, reviewing my LinkedIn profile can see those awards, that recognition. And it’s not something that happens overnight.
But to, you know, to let the audience know, I didn’t just start this process. When social media and LinkedIn was first launched, I actually started this process back in the 80s, long before the internet, and I started it by doing things to try and get myself and my bio, into Marquis, Who’s Who in America. So I, you know, I started with trying to make sure the recognition happened in print, old fashioned books, like Who’s Who in America, and then just continued that strategy as online started to become stronger and more prevalent. So that’s, that’s kind of a process.
Steffen: Now the risk factor can screw things up. I mean, I would assume it can screw things up. Because as much as you can build rapport, as much as you can build your credibility, if there are red flags on you, that can kind of you know, wipe out everything else you did on the two steps beforehand. So talk about risk a little bit. What are risks that people might perceive? And how can you minimize them so that they don’t have a heavy impact on what you built before?
Alan: Right. So the simplest and most straightforward way to do that, of course, risk, you know, the risk in dealing with, you know, anybody online even when you’re looking at a bio or a profile on LinkedIn, you think, wow, this is just absolutely great. But how do I really kind of check them out? And this is where what I’ve gone to great lengths with is, if you were to review my bio, or my profile on LinkedIn, you’re going to find that I have, I don’t know 26, 27 recommendations and I’m talking about people who actually wrote a recommendation, you know, for me. And the reason for that is I’ve tried, I have not tried I have received a recommendation for everybody that I’ve worked for, or reported to.
And so being able to see those references related to your bio is kind of like looking at, you know, when you’re reviewing a product on Amazon and you’re wanting to see, well, what did people say about this. And you know, that, that sometimes those stars can be all over the board, and you’re still not really sure what they’re saying about that product. But I can tell you that of my 27 reviews on LinkedIn, that they’re all stellar. And I went to, and I’ve tried to go at great lengths in what I deliver to people to make sure I get that kind of a recommendation or reference.
Steffen: Now as the CMO at AMS Construction Parts, and you know, I think what we talked about before, you’re currently working very close together with your sales team, to help them build these personal brands that resonate with your target audience. Can you talk a little bit about how do you approach that? How do you help the sales team, to carve out their personalities to be more successful, to get more deals done?
Alan: You know, and that may actually be one of the hardest parts of my job. And that’s, you know, this intersection between sales and marketing, and having grown up in sales, and now be having become a marketer. I feel like I understand the mindset of where a salesperson is coming from. The other thing, too, is, and I’ll admit that my birthday was yesterday, I turned 64. And you know, and oftentimes, I’m dealing with people who are, you know, 20, 30 years younger than I am, and oftentimes, they’re thinking, well, what do you do you know. You’re already over the hill.
And so my building and creating that credibility with them to let them know, I know, from an empathetic perspective, what you’re feeling and what you’re thinking and what you’re going through. And, you know, guess what, this is why your personal profile matters, because in this b2b world, especially in the situations where we’re, we’re not talking about, you know, $10 and, or 10 cent pieces in parts. We’re talking about parts that can be very, very expensive, that probably two things are going to happen.
Because this always happens to me. And this is, what I do is, is when those deal value start going up, I’m going to Google your name, and then I’m going to look you up on LinkedIn, because yeah, I can go to your company page and check out your company, website and everything. But again, we do business with people we know, like and trust. And I am going to look at you personally, before I think about buying, you know, a $25,000 final drive, because I you know, until this phone call, I didn’t really even know who you were.
So this is where dealing with each personality, it’s like every, every coaching session is totally different. Because I need to figure out, you know, where are they on that social spectrum as far as their comfort level with being out there, so to speak, you know, on LinkedIn, on Twitter. You know, how comfortable are they are they even capable of developing their own content in order to create their own credibility. And so I’m constantly going through this exercise of sometimes it’s to the point of I’m just giving them here, just copy-paste and post this.
You don’t, you don’t have to do anything, just copy-paste and post. And what I’m hoping is that they mature to the point where, okay, in the beginning, I’m kind of feeding them what to do, to where now they’re starting to listen and kind of pick up on it to finally you know, graduating meaning, okay, they’ve got a personality of their own. They are developing their own content, they are creating their own thought leadership, you know, perspective. And that’s that’s when I know my coaching sessions have been successful.
Steffen: Now is it generally easier to coach people that are younger and might not have such a big grafter credibility already in place, than someone that is kind of an air quotes sales veteran, but might still need to be kind of, you know, to resonate better with the target audience.
Alan: Yeah. And so you know, what I would really love to put that myth to rest and say, age is not the factor. In fact, you know, I do of course, this worked for a AMS. I also happened to be a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. As it as it turns out, my seventh great-grandfather was at Valley Forge with George Washington. So I do a lot of the social media work and content for the Sons of the American Revolution, even at the national level. And of course, I’m dealing with an audience in that audience that can be quite older, even older than I am.
And yet I can find in young people that you would think that they grew up with this, and it was second nature, and it would be easy. And yet, they just totally don’t get it and don’t want to get it. Whereas the older person is just like, man, just, you can’t give me this fast enough. And so it’s all across the board. There is no, there is no way we should be putting certain personas or certain demographics into boxes, saying, oh, they’re old, they’ll never get it, let’s cut them loose, and be gone with it. And we’re only going to hire you know, the young people, because they’re the only ones who can pick up on this. I just don’t find that to be true.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, we touched on target audience a few times, now, as part of this response. How did you define your personal brand audience? Did your target audience shift over time?
Alan: You know, your target audience, it does shift over time, depending on you know, what your objectives are, or how you’re, you know, what your overall personal strategy is in combination to the strategy of the company you may be in engaged with. So for me, especially moving into that CRM consulting role at Cap Gemini, I was heavily involved in a was called the CRM index. And we interviewed hundreds of Fortune 500, or hundreds of companies, including Fortune 500. And we were measuring their CRM effectiveness across sales, marketing and customer service.
And it was through that exercise that I realized I really wanted to get strongly into marketing. And that the type of persona I wanted to, to put out there. And the type of personas I wanted to be in touch with and to network with would be other CMOs. Other people who were marketing leaders, marketing directors, people who were very much concerned with the marketing aspect and where marketing intersects with sales, customer service, and, and within that group or that persona.
Steffen: So in the past, you heard people talking about, everyone should have a personal elevator pitch. How is that still important? Or is it still important?
Alan: You know, it is important because research shows, I don’t know how they knew this was true, but that our attention span is less than that of a goldfish. Human attention span is less than eight seconds. And so I pretty much always assume that, you know, if you’re not saying or doing something in those first eight seconds, that the chances that they’re going to stay with you are not very good. And so, I still believe that a quick succinct elevator pitch, whether it’s for what your company does, or, you know, for yourself is important.
Steffen: You know, when you’re in sales, when you’re in marketing, networking, usually is one thing that is really important to do, to connect with people within the industry, like-minded people, you name it. However, it’s also something that some people find really difficult to go to. And kind of putting themselves out there, striking a conversation and doing that networking thing. How have you approached networking during the process of building your personal brand?
Alan: You know, it is hard, it’s difficult. And one might think that I’m naturally wired for that, but I’m actually quite a private person and would be just as happy being in the mountains, sipping a cup of coffee and, and looking at the view. So it is something that it’s almost like training. Physically training, you know, whether it’s for a marathon or whatever that might be is, is in the beginning, yeah, you might, it might just feel like a grind to have to go to that conference. And then they have to go to that, that mixer to, you know, to meet people. And you find out after five minutes, you’re just physically and mentally exhausted with it.
I promise you it, you will get better if you just if you stay with it. And so, for me, you know, even still just getting the business cards, I will go back to my room and I will immediately Google, look that person up on LinkedIn. And while the connection while the memory is still fresh, it’s at that point, I’m saying, hey, it was great to meet you tonight. I never just send a blank invitation. I will always try and do it through some kind of a personalized message. Which is why it’s important to pay attention to what platform you’re using.
You know, from the phone you can’t personalize messages, whereas from your PC you can. So when I get back and get on my PC, I’m going to send a personalized message. Hey, it was great to meet you tonight. Your company sounds very interesting. I’d really love to know better how you do whatever it was, you know, we talked about. And go ahead and make the connection attempt right them. Your chances of being accepted if you do it that quickly, are a lot better than if you wait a month, and you’re already back in your home office.
And then you think, oh, where are those cards I collected, and you’re trying to go back through it then. Now you don’t even remember the conversation really, because all you, you’re lucky enough just to have remembered to get the card. So these network connections are important. Even the soft connections where, you know, it’s not a connection where you directly work with them, or went to school with them or knew them deeply. Sometimes it’s those soft connections that work out the best.
Steffen: And that’s the beginning of a relationship, right? I mean, it’s hard. And that’s where you start your journey with that individual. Now, you’re not going to sell to them immediately.
Alan: Huge, huge mistake to try and sell right off the, right off the bat. It’s just like, wait a minute, we just met. And now you’re already trying to set up a demo. I’m like what? No, no, no, no!
Steffen: I always, you know what, I always give the example is like, when you go on the first date, you’re not going down on your knee after the first date and say marry me. Probably 99% of the time, you will never see that person again. Maybe 1% of the time the person because it was so amazing would say okay, let’s do it. But the reality is, you wouldn’t do that, right. It’s kind of the same way I feel with any, whether you’re at networking, or whether you meet someone in any other environment, or even from an email perspective, any other form of communication. You know, don’t don’t kind of offload your services, the moment you start talking, you know. It’s like, get to know the person.
Alan: And, and that is so funny that you mentioned that though, because, you know, I was talking about, you know, what’s in it for me, or what’s in it for you. And so many times, you know, like I just said, personalize the email, the invitation to LinkedIn. They will personalize the LinkedIn invitation all right, but it’s personalized in the direction of how can I get on your calendar in order to tell you about me? I’m like no, that’s not gonna happen. You’ve already blown it with your opening line here.
Steffen: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And one question on the networking part, again. Someone who has 40 years of experience, and I’m sure you’ve been to a lot of networking events. What worked well, for you to strike conversations, and get started, to kick off a conversation with someone that you just don’t know, that you meet at an event.
Alan: Yeah, so over the course, I’ve I’ve been one of the people who was responsible for setting up quote, the booth, and working the booth to having been, you know, lucky enough to sometimes be on a panel or actually be one of the speakers at some breakout session. Each of those present its own challenge and challenges. For me, though, what would help a lot is I would also always study the list. You know, usually when you’re going to attend a conference, you get a list of the companies, and sometimes even the people who are going to be there.
And so I call this doing your homework. I would go into LinkedIn, and I would be looking them up before I even get to try and meet them so that maybe they went to a school that was in my same conference, or I’m looking for some kind of something of common interest that I can that I could touch on to at least start the conversation and not have it be so straight on business focused.
Steffen: I mean, to me, that’s, that’s kind of normal, Right. It’s kind of same thing when you go into sales call, you want to be prepared. Which means on your background research on the prospect. You know about the company, you know about a person that you’re going to talk to. You have certain things that you hope will strike a conversation that kind of warms things up, right. I’m always surprised how these very easy and apparent or very clear things are missed or just left when people start communicating.
Alan: Well, I don’t know. There’s, I can look back at my career, especially starting sales at NCR, you know, back in the 80s, early 80s. And at that point, NCR, I went through six months of sales training. Now at this point, I’m in Texas. So it’s been four weeks in Dayton then three weeks back in the field, four weeks in Dayton, three weeks back in the field. Four weeks in Dayton, three weeks back in the field. And this rotation went on for about seven eight months.
And each week in Dayton for the four weeks I would be there during that rotation, we of course would get drilled on certain product lines and things like that. And then the time back in the field was following a seasoned sales person. You know what company invests in the salesforce training like that today? I mean, literally six to eight months before you’re tabbed ready to go and, and get your quota and get your first territory.
And you know what, at that point, I had already had an MBA, I had an MBA. And I’d already been selling out in the oil field for five years. It’s not like I was 22, and right out of college. So I still had to go through that same exact rotational training. And I just, you know, there’s not that kind of investment in people today. And so that that part is, you know, it’s a shame.
Steffen: I agree. I agree. I think people these days are less prepared for what they’re being asked to do. And they have to, therefore show much quicker results. And I mean, yeah, the responsibility is literally on the individual to collect all the knowledge, whether it’s in regards to the company they’re working for, in the products they’re selling or services, or for sales in general, if they’ve never worked in sales, for example.
Alan: You’re spot on. You are spot on.
Steffen: Now, Alan, before we come to the end of today’s podcast episode, I have one last question for you. LinkedIn recommendations. I know you touched on it briefly earlier, but talk about the importance for especially the personal brands, probably as it relates to credibility.
Alan: So this is a feature of LinkedIn that I feel people overlook, and really don’t realize how important those recommendations are. You know, fast before the internet, you would go to your next job interview or whatever. And they’re like, bring three recommendation letters, and you would have had to have those typed out. And hopefully, your last boss and the boss before that, you know, would write you a recommendation letter that you would be on their stationery, and you know, everything like that.
Today, those recommendations are usually not that lengthy. But it’s the importance is crucial. I mean, first of all, you want to leave on a good note, and you want to know what that person is saying and thinking about you. I mean, even to the point where you may even kind of write out the rough draft of what you wanted to say. And I’ve had them say, absolutely, I’d give you no problem with I’d love to give you a recommendation. In fact, you know, more than I probably even remember of all the different stuff you’ve done kind of highlight that for me, and I’ll finish it, you know, finish it up and boom.
That’s exactly how it rolled out. But the fact of having those references on your profile is again, what leads to reducing the risk. Now, people can go in and look at those references. And know that you are the real deal. I mean, they could go back in, those people are still in LinkedIn, right? So they could go back and say, hey is this really right? I mean, I’m thinking of partnering with this company and this person’s their rep or you know, whatever your question might be. But those references are crucial and can help you so much.
Steffen: Now, Alan, great last point. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on how to develop a personal brand to build credibility and rapport to grow sales. How can people get in touch if they want to learn more about you, and AMS Construction Parts?
Alan: Sure. So really, the best way to learn more about me and AMS would be to visit my profile on LinkedIn. AMS has a very strong company page on LinkedIn. I’m of course working very closely with our salesforce for them to develop their personal brands as it relates to AMS and the parts that we sell and the companies that we do business with. And so please look us up on LinkedIn.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ Thanks again and see you next time.
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