What Do You Sell? A Lesson in Personal Branding
Yesterday, a story about Tiger Woods’ lost endorsement deals appeared on Yahoo! Sports. The title, “Woods Financial Losses May Be Short Lived,” caught my attention, but it was really two lines in the story that are worth thinking about.
The first line was a quote from Tiger Woods: “Hopefully, I can prove I am a worthy investment.”
The second line is from Marshal Cohen, and analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm: “ . . . all it’s going to take is for Tiger to play well and his value as a spokesperson for a product not only goes right back where it was . . . but even may increase.”
What Does Tiger Woods Sell?
Tiger Woods brand stood for something. You golf fans will surely correct me where I am wrong, but I believe his brand stood for discipline, for excellence, and for performing at the highest levels of competition. His brand stood for possessing the attributes that champions are made of, and his consistent winning built the brand.
Why then did he lose sponsors? Did he lose sponsors because his performance on the greens declined? Did he suddenly suffer an irreversible losing streak that gave pause to his sponsors and caused them to reevaluate their investment? The answer to this question is, of course, negative; he did not lose his customers because of his golf game.
Tiger Woods lost his customers because his behavior was no longer consistent with what it was that he sold. His behavior was inconsistent with his brand.
Like so many salespeople and so many companies before him, Tiger Woods lost his customers because his brand promise was broken. His reckless behavior meant that he no longer stood for discipline, for excellence, and for possessing the attributes of a champion. His behavior was in conflict with his brand.
I believe Marshal Cohen is incorrect. Mr. Woods can certainly rebuild his brand’s value, but it won’t by his performance on the golf course alone. He will have to rebuild the perception that he possesses the attributes that we find most inspiring and most worthy of emulation. If Mr. Woods want to and rebuild his brand and prove himself “a worthy investment,” much of the rebuilding will need to be done by possessing those attributes off the golf course
Should Mr. Woods behave poorly off the golf course, he will find the value of his brand worthless and meaningless to his past customers. He will find instead printed stories and pictures in the thin gossip magazines at the front of grocery stores; he will find his brand means the same thing as, say, Lindsay Lohan’s brand.
Lessons for Salespeople: What Makes You a Worthy Investment?
The lesson for us as salespeople is to remember what it is that we sell. Each of us sells something more than our company’s product or service. Each of us sells a certain set of attributes and intangibles that create meaning and value.
As salespeople, we have to behave consistent with what it is that we sell. We have to behave in a way that is consistent with the message of our personal brand. It isn’t enough that the product or service performs; that is only part of the sale. We also have to perform and we also have to stand for something.
Salespeople represent their company’s brand as well as their own. They must behave and act in accordance with the values and meanings of those brands. Their ability to walk the walk makes and keeps clients. Acting inconsistently with those brand promises is a fast and certain way to lose clients.
1. What is it that you sell?
2. What does your personal brand stand for?
3. What are the behaviors that prove you act in accordance with your brand’s meaning?
4. What behaviors would conflict with your personal brand?
5. What does your company’s brand stand for? What are the intangibles, the meaning behind the brand?
6. How do you as a salesperson have to act to be consistent with your company’s brand promise?