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Arrive Before You Get There

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, 23% of people routinely search the names of business associates before meeting them. That means a prospect "Googles" you before one out of every four meetings. It also means your online reputation is critical to building trust and breaking through the invisible wall of apathy and resistance that exists between you and them. And, I'll say confidently, that the 23% searching today will only grow with time. Two hundred years ago, your reputation carried across town. If someone in a neighboring village heard something about you, it probably didn't matter. Technology couldn't carry your story very far and, in most cases, it didn't matter because you likely didn't do business outside your own neighborhood. That's no longer the case. What can you do to manage your online reputation?

Online reputation matters. Period.

The first step is understanding that your online reputation matters. A lot of salespeople incorrectly believe that it doesn't. They mistakenly think that they can "talk their way out of anything." Including a poor - or weak - online showing. That's no longer the case. The truth is that whatever shows up during a prospect's web sleuthing, will either: (1) Propel or (2) Repel your sales efforts. Here are a handful of things to consider in today's Google-centric society:

  1. Check yourself: Googling yourself is called "Ego Surfing." But, it's so much more than that. It's also a way to find out what people are saying about you. While you're at it, check on your company, its products, and even your prospects and customers. In sales, "knowledge is power." The one with the most knowledge wins. So go out and get it.
  2. LinkedIn: If you're not on LinkedIn, join. If you are, check out this video from Bill Rice about using LinkedIn for Sales. I don't know Bill, but he's one of the most knowledgable people I've come across in this area.
  3. Play an active role online: Show your expertise by commenting on blogs and in LinkedIn groups. I'm not going to say that you'll get business by doing this, but you will become better positioned. Regardless of what you sell, your prospects want to do business with someone they perceive as having something valuable to say. Use the web to get that done.
  4. Be intelligent, consistent, and professional: Now, more than ever, it's impossible to be inconsistent. What do I mean? I'm talking about authenticity. If you contribute to one blog by talking about how "annoying and demanding your customers are" only to jump to another to say that they "are the most impressive people you've encountered," you're setting yourself up for failure.

In short, online reputation matters a lot now. And it's only becoming more important. Manage it well. What steps are you taking to manage your reputation? Have you arrived before getting there with a prospect? Did that make it easier or harder to sell? - @JebBrooks