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2022 PSLC Symposium: Developing a Personal Brand for PreSales Professionals

About Devin’s Career Journey

Devin went to school to be an English teacher, but he took a turn into SaaS sales for six years. He had an epiphany where he was doing well in sales but thought he could have a different impact because he saw how content was impacting the world. He thought, maybe I can take this perspective of helping people, which is what sales is all about, and do it at scale. He pitched Udi at Gong on a podcast, which didn't end up happening, but he did a live Linkedin show instead for 20 weeks. He found he loved it, and it became his bridge into content strategy. 

Now he runs a team of six people, and their mission is straightforward - build brand awareness and pipeline through content. 

He tried to make a leap into marketing in his previous job and in the interview process, he was told he failed a personality test - he wasn’t curious enough.  At first he was confused and angry but he thought about it and realized he had a decision to make - he could accept he didn’t have what it takes to get into marketing, or build what it takes by freelancing. So he started learning how to write for B2B, emails, blogs, and more. He decided to take everything he learned at Gong in hypergrowth and made the next person’s life easier by starting a free newsletter called the Content Strategy Reeder (a little dad joke). Last August, he launched a Linkedin content strategy course to help people go back to basics and create great Linkedin content. 

Why Personal Branding Matters

Personal branding is really your reputation or what you’re known for. 

PreSales is a growing profession, with a murky global understanding of role and scope and title. How can you create a personal  brand for a relatively unknown job? The best thing to do is to identify a problem and how to solve it. If you talk about a problem, people naturally assume you have a solution. 

And that fluid title is a challenge but also an opportunity. First identify what goals you have - are you a leader looking to gain customers or recruit new hires, or an individual looking to recruit or build an audience to help people? Luckily, the strategy for both is pretty much the same and comes from your experience and perspective. 

Run towards the ambiguity, and find your niche as well. Start with the basics and educate your market - people will start to follow you for that information. Devin has reviewed over 300 candidates for an open role recently , and he always goes to their Linkedin profile before he looks at the resume. It shows him how seriously you take this. Do you have a photo, an about section, a complete profile? He has hired people who don’t have that, but talking about the role you want to get hired for shows you’re serious. 

Impact on Recruiting Process 

Having a personal brand means that when opportunities are knocking, your personal brand opens doors before you even reach for the handle. As an individual, Devin will probably never have to apply to a job cold again. Branding lets you write your own career journey. 

And as a hiring manager, don’t worry about someone’s personal brand making it easier to poach them if you treat people right and let them grow. Your employees will leave eventually. But what makes someone stay is when they feel valued, like giving a shoutout and visibility on social media. The truth is they’re going to leave if they want to. 

And as a leader, with a good personal brand people will reach out and say they want to work out for you. People in sales roles will reach out to Devin after they’re hired to say his efforts make Gong seem like a great place to work - he’s the reason they applied. 

Tactical Advice

It takes a couple of years to build a strong personal brand, and that was true for both James and Devin. You don’t trust someone right off the bat most of the time, at least not fully, and that applies online as well as in person. A personal brand takes time and it’s not going to be built with a few posts. Commit to the long-term game, and you’re in the lead because most people won’t do that. 

And if you don’t know what to say, think about what you want to be synonymous with. Look internally and at your niche knowledge. Be specific about who you are and what you know - and what you aren’t and don’t know. Devin knows brand and content really well, so he digs in there. People love a story and information and perspective. What problems have you solved in your career and your life? You want the 5% of people who care, and you’ll build this tight-knit community of those people by getting really clear on what you can offer and what you can't. 

Making Memorable Content 

You don't need 10,000 hours of practice or to be a VP to start sharing what you know. Even in a few years, you can accomplish and learn a lot. And own what you’re not too because that’s relatable. What are your passions and hobbies? Devin focuses on his other interests too, like sneakers and basketball, even though they don’t get him paid because people love that kind of content. 

You don’t need to have an expert in-depth post every day - you can, and should, talk about your life as well. You can be as personal as you want and you don’t need to overshare to be authentic. But on Linkedin today, personal content is making a big push, so you can tie that into your expertise to build a well-rounded and relatable personal brand. 

Ensuring Real Authenticity 

Authenticity is about finding your voice - your real one. Leave your professional polish behind - people don’t want fake or phony or jargon in their content. And genuinely have fun! If you’re not enjoying the process of writing, no one will enjoy the process of reading. They’ll get more value out of it as well. Don’t overthink it. And you’ll get immediate feedback on social media (for better and for worse) so you can iterate to perfect your brand over time as you see what resonates. 

Biggest Personal Branding Mistakes

Not committing to the long-term game is one of the most common mistakes. Not measuring the right things is another, like only paying attention to follower counts. That’s where your clear goals come in. And a lack of confidence hurts you too - you are an expert in something! At the end of the day, it just comes down to how, and what, you want to write. 

Balancing Personal and Company Brand

Eventually you’ll leave your company - their brand is not yours. You can help promote each other, but you only leave with your personal brand. Your company is a pitstop on your overall career journey, so be mindful of that. 

And anything you say can and will be screenshotted if you’re a jerk online - your company will see it and they have a code of conduct you need to abide by. But you can also reflect your company brand in a positive way by being a helpful and interesting person, and that boosts you both. 

How Long Brand Building Takes 

It’s very subjective, and depends on several factors. The best time to start was yesterday, but the second-best time is today, as the saying goes. 

It took Devin nine months to see a tipping point - meaning that people are not just commenting but sharing and direct messaging after he posts. He was posting just once or twice a week at that point. If you’re really clear on your goals, or a really good writer, or you post more, it can be faster. It just takes time to figure it out, and that time is different for everyone. 

Having External Eyes on Content 

It’s helpful to get marketing or writing advice from other people, but make sure they know what they’re talking about. There’s so much advice in the world, we need to be good about what we pay attention to and what we filter. There’s also free and paid resources you can piece together to make it your own. And go look at people you follow and respect and see what they’re doing - that can be great inspiration. 

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The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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Sorry, this content is available for Members only!

The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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