As I’ve said before on many occasions, hitting a threshold can be a good thing if you harness that energy and do something with it.
Two years ago in November 2008, I did just that!
I knew I had to create a “Paul Castain” brand, but had no clue how to do it. So I did what any impatient sales dude would do.
I simply began.
Here are some action steps that served me well:
1) I took a tremendous amount of time thinking about what I wanted to stand for. What would my “main thing” be? What did I want people to think about when face to face with my brand and most importantly (and this is a huge question we all need to ask) What do I want people to say about me behind my back? And just in case you want to think about some deep stuff, the most powerful relationships in our life are expressed by feelings, often unarticulated. What feelings did I want to invoke with my audience?
2) I made a decision that at the core of my strategy would be a concept of giving, upfront, unconditionally and without a scorecard. This, quite frankly was counterintuitive to my wiring as a sales professional but the response was (and still is) overwhelming. People find it refreshing! I made it a point to model my behavior after others who were living this practice. I read and decided to own the principals in The Go Giver. I made a decision to take on a role of “matchmaker” to those in my network, connecting people who needed to know each other. Additionally, I decided to begin each day with a guiding question “How can I make someone look like a rock star today?”
3) I read The Brand Called You (free article) by Tom Peters and was blown away by not only the awesomeness of the content but by the fact that it was written way back in a far away time called “1997” which (if I recall correctly) was a time when people didn’t go around dropping the phrase “Personal Branding” too much.
4) I quickly realized that I would need to build a stage for myself. Sounds rather self centered but on the other hand, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that stage to be built for me, so what the heck. Thanksgiving weekend, 2008, I started my blog and wrote my first post on a free blogger account. Note: I started the journey knowing that I would eventually find my voice and refine it. One mistake I made was allowing my language to go over the top more than a little bit in those days. Upon further reflection, I came to the conclusion that this violated my commitment to keep my main thing the main thing. So I grew up and changed that along the way.
5) I became active on Linkedin and got myself front and center in every sales related conversation I could. Note: At first, I felt like I was in middle school all over again with all the cool kids ignoring and rejecting me. I thought of quitting no less than a hundred times. I kept showing up and delivering regardless. About a month or so (might have been 2 or 3 but my memory isn’t clear on this) the same people who ignored me, were saying (publicly) how much value I contributed.
Note: This is a really cool time to take a time out and take note of something important I discovered. There were some people out there that I truly didn’t understand. In the whole scope of things they had about 10 minutes worth of experience and didn’t give anything tangible to their audience. Being a very competitive type of dude, it aggravated me until I got smart and discovered their secret sauce.
These dudes and dudettes kept Showing Up. They were building stages for themselves on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Article Websites etc. They were performing several times a day, every day!
Truth be told, they were utilizing something advertisers are all over:
Repetition is the key to the subconscious and quite frankly our deepest relationships are nested in the subconscious in the form of feelings.
With that, I have a confession to make. I introduced several things and repeated the heck out of them from that point on:
Rock Star References such as “Rock on” rock graphics, phrases like “double rock horns of appreciation”.
Star Wars References. Do you think its an accident that I use phrases like “Sales Jedi” and the graphics I do? I do it because its fun and certainly more entertaining than a bunch of boring sales graphs and used and abused sales axioms!
“Uncle Paul”: This was a nick name from my classroom when someone kept calling me this. I asked why and was told “You’re like that cool Uncle that gives you great advice, you have a great time with but then you realize he’s been schooling you all along” To that I respond “Guilty!”
I started signing all of my letters, emails etc with “Respectfully”. Put that word in front of your name enough times and people begin to associate you and the word together.
6) I started to get frustrated with several of the groups on Linkedin and felt a need, once again to build another stage so on March 4 2009 I started my Linkedin Sales Playbook group. So with my Sales Playbook Group and Sales Playbook Blog, I decided to use all my other efforts in a manner that would always point everyone back to one of those stages without taking on an “infomercial” type of vibe. A key part of this strategy has been creating a community within those two stages. Why? Because people dig being a part of something. Everyone has a story and wants to be heard and communities can turn into armies of brand ambassadors if you play your cards right! Note: This is where that crazy thing called “patience” comes in because it really doesn’t happen over night!
7) I quickly realized that this was just an overwhelming amount of work and I no longer had time at lunch time and early morning. I decided to start moonlighting and have been very happy with the results. As Gary Vaynerchuk says “I work my face off”!
8) I realized that while brand “Castain” was growing quite rapidly, I needed to transition these virtual relationships to real time. I set a weekly goal for myself of taking 5 online contacts and speaking with them in real time (as in off my computer screen) Not being one to settle for one means to an end, I started hosting virtual mixers with my online network. This is simply inviting 5 people from your network to an interactive conference call where we all get to know each other and have a discussion on a relevant topic.
9) I hired an awesome graphic design firm to create a new stage for me and this blog and spent a whopping $1500 for what you see here today. I had them create the “Free Stuff From Uncle Paul” button so I could create downloadable, free content for you on a much higher level. I even got sneaky with that content and use the last page of those PDFs to point you back to one of my many stages. Oh, and every good sales person asks for referrals, so I always ask for people to pay the content forward to their networks. Go figure!
10) I started using more visibility strategies such as asking and answering questions on Linkedin, doing daily status updates, commenting on other status updates (people love it when you “like” their stuff) and sending monthly resources (non salesy ones) to my network.
11) I recognized that everyone has their preferred method of learning so I launched The Sales Playbook Podcast and plan to utilize video in 2011.
12) I decided to open my life up to my readers. I have openly shared my stories from my personal life including losing everything I had and rising from the dead back in 1995, stories about how I met my wife, stories about my kids, my 30 years of guitar playing etc. Why? Because the best relationships are multi dimensional.
13) I created a new twitter account just for The Sales Playbook. I even created the #salesplaybook hashtag that our community actively tweets on.
14) I identified and introduced myself to people who I believe command large armies of followers. And when I did, I did it in a “how can I help you” vibe instead of a “help me” request! Note: I’ve seen this one abused in numerous ways and perhaps the most insulting is when someone only pays attention to the other rock stars. As far as I’m concerned, everyone is a rock star (if not today, then perhaps tomorrow). I’ve seen way too many people get caught up in some artificial “internet fame”. Not good for your brand unless you are striving for A Hole!
As lengthy as this post was, there’s a ton more I could tell you but I’ll leave you with the most valuable lesson I’ve learned (and have even struggled with recently).
This business of building a personal brand and the trust that goes with it, takes lots of effort and some time. In fact the plan I created is actually a 4 year plan and we are only just coming up to the halfway mark.
The process has taught me Patience!
Not easy for an impatient dude who wants to conquer the world today but we’ll get there!
To be continued over the next two years . . . or so
And thank you for your part in this wonderful journey!
With respect and appreciation,
Paul Castain < A work in progress
Paul Castain works with organizations and individuals to achieve higher levels of performance. He is so good that he was granted permission to talk about himself in the 3rd person. For more information on how Paul can help you and your company click here dude.