Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 13, 2006

Managing the “personal branding” sales rep

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:21 pm

I’ve had several sales managers asking about what kind of limitations they should put on their salespeople who are trying to do “personal branding.” For many industries, the personal branding craze isn’t anything new. For instance, for years this has been a common factor in the real estate industry. Realtors have for decades tried to brand themselves as much or more than the company, they work for. Other industries have had something of a similar history, though maybe not to the extent as the real estate industry. Mortgage loan officers, bankers, insurance agents and financial services reps have always tried to establish a personal following. These personal followings would, the salesperson hoped, follow them from company to company the salesperson went to. However, in the last few years this idea that the salesperson should be selling themselves and their identification first and the company secondarily (if at all) has begun to enter into a number of industries. Now companies from dozens of industries must make a decision as to just how far they go in allowing their salespeople to overshadow the company in name recognition.

There are basically three things any company must take into consideration when trying to determine how free a salesperson should be to feature themselves in marketing vs. the company: Who’s paying? He who pays should determine who gets top billing. This is just common sense (with some limitations below). If I’m going to pay for the ad, the flier, the brochure, or whatever, I should certainly have the option of advancing my name recognition more than the company’s. I certainly must take into consideration my current name recognition vs. my company’s. If I’m a new salesperson with little name identity and I work for a major company whose name is a household name, I might want to feature my company’s name just as much as I do my own. But, at the same time, I want to spend my money advancing myself more than the company.

If the company is paying for the materials, then the same logic applies. The company should be advancing their name over the salespersons. In both instances, both the company and the salesperson should have their identities prominently displayed. Unless one is embarrassed to be associated with the other, there is not reason why both shouldn’t have significant placement in the piece. In addition, if one of the parties is embarrassed to be associated with the other, it’s time they part company.

Is it legal? If there are regulatory reasons for limiting the “personal branding” then, of course, the question is moot. However, if there are legal reasons why the salesperson cannot advertise their self, then the company certainly has no business asking the salesperson to pay for or participate in the cost of the marketing.

What is being sold? If the experience and qualifications of the salesperson are of significance in the sale of the product or service, then it is probably to the company’s advantage that the salesperson focus on their name and their experience. Even if the company is a household name. Joining a household name with a salesperson with exceptional credentials will only enhance the company’s sales.

If the product or service is dominated not by the salesperson’s experience and skills, but by the product or service, then it is probably to the salesperson’s advantage for the company to be the primary focus of the piece.

So, the brief answer: based on a combination of who’s paying for the marketing piece, the regulatory situation and whether the salesperson’s experience and skills are the primary sales issue should determine just how much freedom a salesperson should have in “personal branding.” Companies cannot keep their salespeople from leaving. The unfortunate fact is that those salespeople most likely to want to brand are those who will have the most direct influence on the quality of a customer’s experience. To a large extent, it is the quality of the Realtor, not their company, that has the most impact on a customer’s experience; it is the quality of the broker, not the company, that will have the most influence on a customer’s satisfaction; and it is the quality of the agent that will have the most influence on a client’s purchase, not the insurance company he works for.

Let your people personal brand all they want–then work to keep them happy and in place as their sales grown.

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