Last week, I heard a great phrase during a meeting with a future client in the financial services industry: Equal Business Stature. They want their reps to have equal business stature with the executives in their current and target accounts. What a great concept!
Every B2B sales professional wants to get into the hallowed halls of the c-suite. We want to get into the inner circle with top level decision makers. How do you build equal business stature with executives?
One critical (and often overlooked) aspect is building a personal brand that resonates with executives.
Do you look like someone that has equal business stature with an executive?
If you’re in B2B sales, chances are your company requires you to dress the part. (I remember my first employer required us to wear dark suits, white starched shirts, and ties. Casual Friday meant we could wear a blue shirt instead of white.) Your personal brand goes beyond how you dress. It continues through your online and in-person presence.
Insight Selling authors, Schultz and Doerr, recommend that sales professionals create a meticulous personal brand. When it comes to getting in the inner circle of executives, they caution us: “Make no mistake, you will be judged as to whether you deserve to be there.”
How can you build a personal brand worthy of executive attention? Here are some ideas:
1. Look Professional Online and In-Person
Pay attention to your online presence. Your LinkedIn profile is more than the resume that got you the job. It is your digital business card. The vast majority of executives will check out your profile to get an idea if you are worth their time. It needs to look professional and well thought out. A headshot with your job title and only a hand full of old references doesn’t cut it. Take time to craft your value proposition in the summary. Explain the education and experiences that got you to where you are today. Your profile needs constant attention. Set a recurring meeting on your calendar each month to enhance your profile.
Similarly, pay attention to the documents you use in the sales process. Do they look professional or are they hacked together Word documents? If you need help, hit up www.fiverr.com and hire someone to make some great looking Word and PowerPoint templates. The image you present signals your level of professionalism.
Be Well Connected
Bird of a feather flock together. Executives need to see you hanging out with other executives. On your LinkedIn profile, make sure to have plenty of references. Ideally, the majority of references are from other executives. Need more references? The strategy to get references: give to receive. Make sure to give heartfelt references to the leaders at your best clients. Some of them will return the favor. These are gold.
One great way to jumpstart the process of building equal business stature is getting involved in nonprofits. Build your connections by getting involved outside of your business. Non-profit organizations are a great place to start. Volunteering your time and eventually getting involved in leadership will help you establish new connections and executive stature. I’ve served on the board of directors of a non-profit for the last 16 years. I’ve also met many business owners through volunteering at my church. Not only have these helped me grow my executive network, being on nonprofit boards puts me in touch with how the world of an executive works.
Share Valuable Ideas
Looking like you belong in the inner circle helps get you in the door. However, executives can smell BS from a mile away. If you want in the circle, you better bring the goods. You better do your homework and have some ideas to share.
Last week, my article on developing business acumen struck a nerve. As my good friend, Larry Levine says, you can’t be an empty suit if you want to get in the c-suite. They’ll vet you out faster than a bolt of lightning.
Make sure to do the hard work behind the scenes to build your business acumen. Share these ideas publicly on LinkedIn and Twitter (Yes, many execs use Twitter.) Not only will you help build the equal business stature to get in the door, the ideas will help keep you there.
What will you do to build equal business stature?
There are no shortcuts here! Building equal business stature is something all of us must do if we want in the hallowed halls of the c-suite. Fortunately, platforms like LinkedIn make it easy to build a brand and share ideas. Services like Scribd (unlimited audio books!) and Udemy (college courses online) make it inexcusable to not educate yourself while you’re driving around. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section.