The World’s Best Brand – Yours!

Those of us who make our living in sales and marketing appreciate the value of branding. Whether it is the brand of the products we sell or the company we represent, we know full well that a recognised, consistent, and respected brand will give us a head start. As we march down our career path, we may get to represent a number of different brands along the way, but the one that means the most, the one that never leaves our side, is the most important brand in the world – our very own reputation.

Yet too often, this personal trademark of ours, our very own intellectual property, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. To put it into perspective in my sales training workshops, I generally break the issue of branding into three components – product, company, and salesperson. Let’s start with the product:

Product Brand

When we are selling products and services, we readily accept that the brand plays an enormous part, particularly when quality, reliability, and support for the product is an issue. Knowledge of the supplier and a show of branding support from us tend to build buyer confidence, and can be the catalyst in their purchase decision. So whenever we depend on the reputation of our branded suppliers to lend credibility to our selling effort, particularly to attract a pricing premium, it is almost unforgivable not to become an absolute authority on them and to proudly and confidently present ourselves as their advocate. After all, they have already spent a fortune to do the ‘pull’ marketing for us, so the ‘push’ on our part is comparatively easier.

Company Brand

On the other hand, I regularly work with some of the larger retail buyers. It is no secret that brand status is top of mind for them, too, when they sit down at the negotiating table with their supplier salespeople. Their aim is to sublimely take a position of authority in their negotiations by knowing more about their supplier’s product, operations, and competitors than even the supplier salespeople themselves, then pitting it against the size and reputation of their own retail brand. This makes for an interesting dogfight, and that old expression, ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog’ comes to mind.

For instance, consumer awareness – product brand versus retail brand – can be a significant factor in determining the rules of engagement, and is the reason why so many small retailers gravitate to branded buying groups and franchise chains to leverage their buying power. For example, if we are a multi-national supplier selling into a small local retailer, or a large retailer buying from a fringe supplier, we will have a fair bit of clout.

From the seller side, this is known as a Unique Selling Proposition (‘USP’), a prime reason why the buyer must consider our offer. From the buyer side, this is often referred to as a Unique Buying Position (‘UBP’), a combination of distribution advantages which positions us as a preferred outlet for the suppliers’ products. But beware the negative side – a danger that we rely too much on this big brand ‘clout’ factor. I have detected this indifferent attitude in some of my trainees, where too much is taken for granted as they lean on their market presence to buffer their proposition.

But it’s not all one-way traffic. Being the underdog usually provides a natural stimulus, and many of my small business trainees, manage to use the ‘size versus flexibility’ advantage they usually hold over their ‘big brother’ negotiating partners to gain an edge. It’s a case of dynamics over mass, meaning that even the combination of product and company brand is not necessarily the ‘be all and end all’. Not surprisingly, whether we happen to be the David or the Goliath in this battle, it will inevitably be our ability, dedication, and reputation – our very own personal brand – which must address the balance. All too often, it is the injection of this third brand into the equation which becomes the tie-breaker!

Personal Brand

Despite this, it pains me though, to find that many of my sales trainees don’t give the same attention to the third part of the branding mix – their personal proposition. Even some of the most experienced of them have the odd relapse, failing to keep in mind that, as well playing a team role in promoting their employer’s brand day-by-day, they remain the sole caretaker of their very own personal brand year-by-year.

Yes, our reputation follows us throughout our lives, wherever we go, whatever we do, and with whomever we share it. We owe it to ourselves to relentlessly build, proudly cherish, and selfishly protect this individual brand of ours. We mustn’t overlook the fact too, that our personal stature enjoys the ultimate copyright protection. Nobody else can borrow it or take it from us. There will be times when others will influence it, even try to tarnish it, but in reality, it is we – and only we – who have the choice, and the right, to use or abuse this exclusive trademark of ours.

There is no escaping reality here. Remaining consistent and blemish-free can be a hard call, but it comes with the territory. Our greatest asset as a career salesperson is our reputation, based on how we present ourselves and how we conduct ourselves. There is simply no room for black marks on the report card. They will be noticed, they will be remembered, and over time they will be accumulated.

On the surface, others will acknowledge our politeness, our naturalness, and all those ‘in the moment’ things, but deep down in their subconscious they can’t help but form impressions that will last a lifetime. They will be judging us on critical things like trust and believability, irrespective of the company we now work for, or the brands, products and services we now represent. Even to a stranger, this personal brand of ours will be revealed through our attitude: it is reflected in our presence, our poise, our self-confidence, our manners, our openness, and our enthusiasm… it will shine like a beacon!

So forget the likes of Mercedes, Nike, and Shell – it is this unique personal brand of ours that is truly the priceless one!

About the Author:

In a distinguished career spanning half a century, Keith Rowe has managed the full journey from shop floor to boardroom. Along the way, he has headed the Australian sales and marketing operations for three of the world’s largest Consumer Electronics manufacturers – Toshiba, Sanyo and Sharp.

Helpful Pet-Friendly Travel Tips That Every Dog Parent Should Know

Whether you’re flying across the country for a vacation with your dog on an airplane or simply riding the bus to bring him to the vet, the experience always poses some challenges. Aside from making sure that they eat or do their business at the right times and place during the trip, you should also consider their safety and well-being.Here are some easy yet effective pet-friendly travel tips to follow:For car ridesWhen it comes to traveling with your pet in your car, it is best that he remain still rather than free and roaming inside the vehicle for safety purposes. There are plenty of pet-friendly safety travel gear available in the market such as seatbelt harnesses, carriers and crates. According to experts, it is important that your dog has had the opportunity to stretch his legs and had his daily dose of exercise before being placed in a crate, especially for long drives. This way, he will be more inclined to rest, stay still and behave as he has already burned off his excess energy. Be sure to also make the crate as comfortable as possible for your fur baby – bring a nice, cozy blanket, some toys and plenty of treats.For airplane ridesThe Humane Society highly recommends to only travel with your pets by plane when absolutely necessary. If you must travel with your dog by plane, it is crucial to call your airline company ahead of time to know what their restrictions are when it comes to flying a pet. Some has restrictions about size as well as the number of pets. Some also require that a pet has certain immunizations, so be sure that your fur baby is up to date with his shots and have the proper documentation to bring with you at the airport.For bus and train ridesSimilar with airplanes, bus and train companies have different protocols when it comes to transporting pets. Those that allow animals on board usually require pets to be transported using a carrier. To be sure, do some research ahead to find the best pet-friendly transportation options in your local neighbourhood.One more important thing when traveling with your dog is to be responsible for their mess – always have a poop bag and disinfectant spray handy or make them wear diapers. The last thing you want is to have people complain about your dog’s mess while on a bus, plane or train ride!

Freelance Photography: How to Begin Your Career

Photography is a vast world. There are many different types of photography and many different kinds of people that enjoy it. It’s a hobby that be relatively inexpensive or one that you can invest a lot of money on. Photos are so special because they give us memories of times and places and events in our lives. We can hold onto these memories forever with a photograph.As much as people love photos, many people love taking them even more. Whether it’s a mother who takes photos at every of her children’s moments in life (first smile, first step, first spaghetti meal) or maybe it’s the father who never forgets his camera for a football or basketball game, or maybe it’s the young girl who loves nature hikes with her camera; these people are not exceptions. They all have an eye for those special moments and they all appreciate the camera’s ability to capture that moment and freeze it in time forever.- What is Freelance Photography?What if you love photography so much you wish you could do it for a living? I mean, you actually get paid for your photographs! But you work solely for yourself, selling each photo or series of photos individually. You don’t have a boss. You work sometimes on assignment and you may sell to magazines. That is freelance photography.Freelance photography may be your entire career or it may start out as something you do in your spare time but begin making money from it. It’s just like freelance writing in this sense that many people turn it into a career and enjoy the freedom of working essentially for themselves on their own time and making money doing something they love doing anyway.- How to Build a PortfolioTo start getting jobs as a freelance photographer, you need a portfolio. A portfolio will show samples of your work. Even if you have never had photographs published or publicly displayed, you can start a portfolio of your best work and then add onto it if you win photography contests or start receiving paid work.- How to Get JobsAs we mentioned, building a portfolio is the first step in submitting your work for pay but when it comes right down to it, it’s the quality of the photo that will determine if you get paid for it. Some people have more of a natural talent for taking great pictures than others but it is a skill that anyone can learn. There are schools dedicated to the art of photography and you can even get a degree in it. If you are just getting started, you can look into classes provided by your local community center or community college. Some cities have photography groups that meet to share photos and tips. There are also many groups online dedicated to photography and freelance photography.You need to view as many famous photographs as possible. Take a look at what is getting published and compare it to your own photos. This allows you to compare and learn from other’s work. It takes more than just point and shoot to get a great photo. You need to learn about focus, lighting, colors and backgrounds and much more.Once you start learning about photography and creating a portfolio, you can start submitting your photos to contests and magazines. Get a list of photography markets and start submitting to ones that accept your type of photos. Don’t expect to make it to the big times right away. Few people actually achieve this but you can start small and eventually make your way into a nice living from freelance photography.