While this might seem obvious to you, recent events have compelled me to remind everyone in our community that in sales, your reputation is your most profitable asset.
Yes, people value their freedom to express opinions. Rightly so. And they do that regularly today on a variety of subjects in a big way. My profession has a played role in that because we encourage sellers to have a strong online presence, to be thought leaders and to share generously. But recently, I’ve noticed two things get overlooked in exercising that right, especially online.
First, some forget that everyone else has the same right to react and respond when they disagree with what’s being said. And, even more importantly, some forget that rights come with responsibilities and consequences. Among those, each of us has a responsibility to protect our personal reputation and we have to accept the consequences when we fail to do so.
Your reputation is not owed: it’s earned as an outcome of what we say, how we treat others, and of how we make others feel everyday. And while you only have direct control over the first two points, the third one is determined by the first two.
That your reputation is earned over a lifetime and can be lost in a split second is a timeless fact. Online activities today have only amplified this, along with the risks.
We’ve all seen examples in the last few years of how that can play out. Some have been embarrassingly public. Some have been costly to careers and to business relationships.
Each time it happens—and boy is it happening a lot these days—too much time gets wasted debating whether someone crossed the line, or whether the ensuing punishment is fair.
Reality check: fairness has little to do with human nature and nothing to do with sales. No one else is ever going to be as invested in your personal reputation as you are. And just as no one else can build it up, no one else can damage it the way you can.
So what does this mean for those of us in sales?
How your customer perceives you shapes the reality you live in. And that perception is determined by the reputation you’ve earned.
Knowing this, you have only two choices about what to do about your reputation online. Either you can be invisible and risk customers never findig you. Or you can be visible and be smart about it.
Option #2 is the right choice and the profitable one. Intelligent, thoughtful, well-informed opinions are always in demand in sales. Especially now that trust is at an all-time low in Western society: a 37-point drop across all institutions. As a result, buyers now spend more time on their own, researching and vetting suppliers before engaging with them. Being visible to your community is the only way your customers can find you, develop a relationship with you and prequalify you as a potential supplier.
You can’t be successful in sales without earning back that trust within your community. Collectively, we all must do our part if we expect customers to regain trust in our companies and in our profession.
Keep in mind three simple rules where it comes to building and safeguarding your reputation online:
- Everything is public and forever available: so treat it that way. Never assume you have privacy with anything you say or do. Everything you publish will get to all your clients and prospects.
- It’s not just about you: others have a stake in what you say and do. While your personal reputation belongs only to you, the consequences of damaging it can be just as dire for your team and your company.
- Mistakes get noticed and treated swiftly: govern yourself accordingly. Companies don’t have a choice to waffle anymore. This is a “one strike and you are out” environment.
Consider this as your public-service announcement. Double-check before you act, speak, or publish. If you think there is even a small chance someone might be offended or misunderstand what you want to say, it’s worth your while to stop and listen to that little inner voice.
Your reputation is everything. Treat it with care.