If you want to be a successful salesperson, you need your customers and prospects to trust you. Trust, that you know what you are talking about, that you are an expert with their best interests at heart and that you are dependable. How do you build that trust? Obviously, there are many important factors. How you conduct yourself during a meeting, how prepared you are, how well you understand your customers’ needs and how you keep them engaged throughout the whole sales process. But there is something else, that can help you. A secret weapon, that could really have a positive impact on your sales. Good public relations (PR).

Even if you have never had any contact with a PR firm, I am sure you are familiar with the term. After all, we have all heard it plenty of times in the news and on TV – someone had good PR, bad PR, black PR, etc. But what exactly is it? And why is it so important? Or more importantly – how can you use it to sell more?

There are many definitions of what PR is but, in its essence, it is all about reputation. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations defines it as ‘the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behavior.

If your company has a great reputation, it naturally makes your job much easier. But… that’s not something you can control, or at least it is not entirely up to you. So, instead let’s look at some of the key elements of building your own reputation – or in other words personal branding – and how you can build it to successfully influence your customers’ opinion (‘I trust this person’) and behavior (‘I want to buy from this person’).

Make a good first impression

I think it’s safe to assume that in most cases, especially in B2B sales, the first contact with a prospect is made online – for example through an outreach campaign. As a result, making this crucial first impression and human connection is much more difficult. You can of course personalize the title of the message or even the copy of an email. There are many comprehensive articles on how to do it well, so instead let’s move on to the next stage. An email gets opened and someone is interested enough to read till the end, where they can find your contact details and your photo.

What does it have to do with my reputation - you may ask? Well, there are a number of studies showing how prone people are to make a snap judgment based on nothing more than a photo. Smiling people are perceived as warmer, nicer and… more intelligent! In one study, subjects were more cooperative with strangers when, prior to brief interaction, they saw a photo of the stranger smiling, than when they saw a photo in which the stranger had a more serious expression. A different study showed, that salespeople wearing more traditional business attire were judged as having greater product knowledge and providing a better service.1

Of course, it all depends on the industry you work in – for example if you sell new technologies, wearing a suit won’t be as important as it is if you sell investment funds.

So, think about your customers and their expectations, and make sure that when they see a photo of you for the first time, it conveys the right message.

There is also a chance, that somebody interested in your offer will not only research your company, but possibly you as well. Now, the question is – have you ever googled yourself? If not, do it now! Search your name and see what comes up. If the first things you see are some of your private pictures from Facebook, think about the impression it can make on a potential buyer. And then perhaps change your privacy settings.

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