Personal branding is valuable in the sales industry but doing so can be challenging for women, even if she is a successful saleswoman. While these unique challenges exist for females, there are ways to overcome them and successfully build a personal brand.
Personal branding involves boosting one’s reputation, visibility and even likability. This, in turn, enhances networking and the ability to grow new business and relationships. In sales, a personal brand is especially beneficial. According to Forbes, “When salespeople develop a brand around themselves they take the impersonal to the personal. Salespeople are, as the name suggests, people and because of that, they can play at the personal level. They have the human element and that's a game changer.”
Why can this be difficult for a successful saleswoman?
For female sellers, they often have to battle gender norms that dictate how women are expected to be agreeable and accommodating. This is also known as the “likability” conundrum. “Gender norms presume that women should be agreeable, warm, and nurturing, and when they violate these norms — such as when they step up to make a tough decision, share a strong opinion, or promote themselves — they’re often penalized for that behavior in a way that men wouldn’t be,” explains Dorie Clark for Harvard Business Review.
Women struggle to find a balance, as they are often labeled “aggressive” or ”cold” when they assert themselves.
Not to mention, sales continues to be highly male-dominated. Only about 30% of sellers are female, and while women are more likely to make their sales quota than male counterparts, they are paid less.
So what can women do to build a personal brand in the face of these challenges? Opportunities do exist, and certain strategies can provide effective guidance.
Define and develop your niche
Writing for LinkedIn, Cynthia Barnes suggests that even the most successful saleswoman should have an identified niche and and unique value proposition. If you haven't done so yet, ask yourself the following questions:
- What industries or products are you most passionate about?
- What skills and experiences make you an expert in your field?
- What unique qualities or attributes do you bring to the sales process?
By uncovering your interests and your strengths, you can easily build a powerful value proposition to share with others. As SalesFuel explains, “Buyers have a variety of reasons they buy from one seller rather than another, and the reasons vary from buyer to buyer. Sellers’ success lies in how much they can influence these reasons, which is why having a value proposition is vital.”
And for women, this step is crucial to personal brand-building, Barnes believes, writing, “As a woman in sales, you may have a particular perspective or approach that sets you apart from your peers.”
Control your narrative
Female reps need to be in control of their own narrative. While we hope that hard work gets noticed, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And others also freely make their own assumptions, which can be majorly challenging.
It’s up to saleswomen to control and own their narrative. “Help others understand the truth about your journey by developing a clear and concise elevator pitch that explains how your previous skills connect with, and add value to, what you’re doing now,” Clark urges. “Make that connection explicit, rather than hoping others will figure it out on their own.” She recommends starting by simply charting your past experiences, positions and achievements. Then, write out your current role and responsibilities. Find and highlight the threads that connect the two sections, emphasizing your unique strengths and the value you offer.
Having your pitch ready to share helps you take advantage of opportunities to convey your personal brand–and not just when you’re seeking new business or job hunting. As Clark notes, “A crisp elevator pitch isn’t useful just for times when you’re job hunting. There are often opportunities to shape the way you’re perceived by others, but most people miss them.”
Share your ideas
A successful saleswoman shouldn’t be shy about her achievements. Again, while it’s preferable to have hard work speak for itself, in reality, that’s not always the case. Saleswomen need to advocate for themselves, which includes sharing their ideas and achievements.
Understandably, it may be uncomfortable to do so, but there are ways to share expertise other than talking. Clark recommends creating and sharing content that highlights your ideas and can boost your personal brand. This can include hosting a small event, like a “lunch and learn,” contributing a blog post and offering advice on social media posts. Barnes agrees that demonstrating knowledge and thought leadership are key to personal brand-building. “Share your knowledge and insights through blog posts, articles, podcasts, and videos,” she adds. “Offer valuable content that addresses your audience's pain points and provides solutions. Participate in industry panels, workshops, and webinars to share your perspective and build credibility.”
As a successful saleswoman, increase your visibility and boost your reputation by taking the time to build your personal brand. Doing so will make sure you are seen and heard and that your accomplishments and knowledge are known. This will open up even more opportunities for future growth and success. As Barnes writes, “Embrace your unique qualities and experiences as a woman in sales. Use them to build a personal brand that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from the competition. As you grow your personal brand, you will elevate your career and inspire other women in sales to do the same.”
Photo by George Milton