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Building a Personal Brand (Part 1)

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
13 min read

It won’t happen overnight, of course.

This is Part 1 of my personal branding series and in this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why a personal brand is critical in sales
  • The 4 Pillars of a Personal Brand
  • How you can start building your personal brand on LinkedIn and Bravado
  • How you can ramp up your presence
  • Ways to create content even if you’ve never done it before

Your personal brand is a vivid indication of the best you have to offer – the performance, contributions, and value your customers can expect from you. Personal brand can help you stand out from the crowd, it’s a professional, ongoing process for distinguishing yourself and the special skills and attributes you bring to the table.

Building your personal brand isn’t about self-aggrandizement or shameless self-promotion. There are 4 core pillars in building your personal brand: people, persona, position, and presence. You need to know your market, what parts of your personality you want to showcase, what you stand for and how you can help, and the most important part is that you regularly show up not only to share content consistently but also to help your audience.

Posting content is the best way to ramp up your presence. You could begin with the simplest contest idea you have in mind — like, share or comment to participate. To build strong and lasting relationships with your audience, you have to care. People appreciate if you take the time to respond to them or to initiate conversations with them, it makes them feel special and gives them the impression that they will be cared for by your brand.

Knowing your true self is the key to effective self-branding.

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Building a Personal Brand (Part 1):

Full Transcript

You may have never heard of The Blue Chipper, but I promise you know who this is. He’s a former division one football player, who graduated with a bachelor of general studies in criminology and physiology. He is Dwayne Johnson, who you probably know as The Rock. As a wrestler, he became the most popular in the world with lines like, “Can you smell what The Rock’s cooking?” But now he’s the highest-paid actor in the world, grossing $120 million in 2018.

Sure, he’s good-looking. He’s funny. He’s charismatic, but plenty of other wrestlers have had those same attributes, and one of them are successful actors. What The Rock has is a personal brand. He has 145 million Instagram followers. According to The Guardian, he gets one million extra dollars per movie if they want him to tweet about being in the movie. Imagine that, an actor getting paid extra to promote the movie, which has historically just been part of the job. But you see, as the brand, The Rock has a built-in audience of fans who want to see his movies.

Now you don’t have to be The Rock to have a personal brand, and you don’t 145 million Instagram followers, either. More and more, salespeople need to become marketers, even, dare I say, self-promoters. In part one of my personal branding series, I’m going to talk to you today about the power of a personal brand before pillars to building yours and where to start if you’re building your personal brand from scratch.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Building your personal brand, in the old days of selling, there wasn’t much of a point to doing it, and it was hard. Now, all you need is LinkedIn and some creativity. You see, people trust institutions less and less. That includes companies. Companies lie to people and get away with it. This may not be coming as news, but it should factor into your thoughts about personal branding.

You know what? People know that companies lie to them. They understand that companies need to market and sell themselves, and they know that companies can survive a tarnished reputation. So, a lot of people just don’t trust companies as much. Plus, buyers are doing more and more research before engaging with sales.

Depending on the study you look at, buyers are doing between 60% and 80% of all their research, and maybe even going through that much of their sales cycle before they engage with sales. This is a problem if you are in sales. So, what I would urge you to do is be part of that research process. That’s the value of having a personal brand.

In addition to people losing trust in companies and in addition to buyers doing more and more research before engaging with sales, sales cycles are taking longer. What a personal brand gives you is a reason to stay in touch. You can be valuable to people, even when they’re not ready to buy from you, and you can do it at scale.

If people aren’t turning to companies, one other group that they’re turning to, of course, are gurus, thought leaders, experts. These are all synonyms for people, individual people, just like you, just like me. You’re listening to this podcast, after all. I’ll go ahead and break the fourth wall there. People look for good sources of information to solve specific problems. Of course they do, and that’s where your personal brand comes in. This is especially true if you’re selling something highly consultative, complicated, complex, requires a lot of expertise to apply and deliver, and get it right. These are areas where personal branding is especially valuable.

Today, I’ll be talking to you about the basics of personal branding, how to get started with it if you don’t have a strong personal brand already, or if you want people on your team to start a personal branding effort, this will apply to the people on your team, and feel free to share it with them. Next week, I’ll be talking about some more advanced things you can do to build your personal brand.

Now, the basics, let’s start with the four core pillars of personal branding, and they are people, persona, position, and presence.

People are those that you want to reach your audience or market. This is who you want to pay attention to you. It doesn’t have to be your company’s ideal client, but it should be yours, and you should think about it in terms of who you want to attract in the long run, because remember, you get to keep your personal brand wherever you go. So, make sure you’re attracting the right people.

Second is persona. How will you show up in these places? What parts of your personality do you want to highlight or showcase? Are you going to be funny? Are you going to be nerdy? Are you going to be informative? Are you going to be self-deprecating? Are you going to be totally sure of yourself? Or will you be on a journey along with the people who are reading and paying attention to you to learn things as you go? All of these things can be conscious decisions, but I assure you, you don’t need to make all of these decisions upfront, I promise. This is something that will become increasingly apparent over time as you start your personal branding journey. So, that’s number two, persona.

Next up is position. What do you stand for, and how can you help? I think of position as having three core questions. What do you stand for or believe? What can you give, and to whom? And what motivates you? I have, personally, strategically built my brand by answering those questions as follows. Number one, I believe our learning is never done, that science and psychology should be directly applied to business, and that fairness and ethics should permeate everything we do. Number two, I can help salespeople, managers, and business owners sell more effectively by applying those beliefs. Number three, I don’t want to make better salespeople. I want to make people better. That is the position that I, personally, am building for myself.

The fourth and final pillar is presence. Where do you show up? How often do you show up there? And what are you giving to people in those places? You have to show up regularly to help your audience. This means making and sharing content consistently.

We may even add a fifth P as persistence, but you know what? In the beginning, this is way too complicated. You don’t need all of this to get started. If you’re in B2B sales, here’s where I want you to start. Don’t worry about people. Don’t worry about your persona. Don’t worry about your position. Just focus on presence, and that all starts on LinkedIn.

The best way to establish your presence is through your LinkedIn profile. I know I’m telling you something you already know, but I’m going to go into a little bit more detail here to give you some ideas about how to get your LinkedIn profile up to speed.

For most reps, account executives, client services professionals, your audience is going to be B2B buyers, so LinkedIn is the absolute best place to start for a multitude of reasons. I won’t bore you with them now, but you should just know that improving your LinkedIn profile can go a long way. I’m still very surprised at how many people are accomplished professionals in sales who have crappy headshots, incomplete profiles, and no social proof of recommendations on LinkedIn.

That’s where you should really start. Have a professional headshot. If you have a friend who has a modern smartphone, you can do this without paying anybody else. Just make sure you get the lighting right and you have a background that is fairly simple, and bam, you have a professional headshot. No big deal. Have a client-focused summary and complete profile. Add recommendations that show your ability to help clients and convey social proof.

Another place you can build this is a website, called Bravado, which essentially functions as a place where salespeople can be reviewed by their clients and showcase some of their client recommendations, as well as logos of companies they’ve worked with. I like starting with LinkedIn primarily, because it’s relatively easy to do it. There’s over 500 million people on LinkedIn. People are there searching for others, and most people, you included, dear listener, I promise, can accomplish a refresh of your profile in just a few hours, certainly in less than a week.

Again, here’s what I want you to do if you don’t have this together already. Get a good-looking headshot. That doesn’t mean you have to put makeup or anything. Just good lighting, you’re dressed professionally, there’s a very simple background, and it’s a high-quality photo. Have a client-focused summary and complete profile, meaning you put down where you went to school. You have keywords. You have skills listed. You have your full job listing. You can leave off the theme park you worked at in college, but all of the professional experience you have relevant to your current clients, you’re going to want to add that to show some history, and then you’re going to ask people you know for recommendations.

You should have some clients who you can ask to write you a recommendation, but you can also ask friends, and colleagues, and people you work with to write recommendations. One of the best ways to get people to do this is to write them a recommendation, and then ask them to return the favor without the expectation that they’ll actually do it, but just so you know, reciprocation, if you do something for someone else, they’re more likely to comply with you. So, you’re very likely to get your recommendations in order if you do that.

Once you have your profile together, that’s kind of week one of your personal branding effort, the next thing you can do is start connecting with your current and past clients, your active prospects in your top targeted accounts. Now Sales Navigator makes this incredibly easy to do, but a free account will suffice, too. If you have someone’s email address, if you know where they work, if you just know their name in many cases, you will be able to find them on LinkedIn and send them a connection request.

Expanding your network will help you gain visibility into your VIPs. Those people who already pay you money are who you want to attract. So whenever you post content, whenever you comment on something, whenever they post content, whenever they comment on something, you’ll be able to see it, and you can kind of keep tabs on what’s going on in this market. Actively growing your LinkedIn network will expose more people to you and your company, and it will help you gather critical information about your market, and that’s especially true when done strategically in combination with producing content, which I will cover right now.

Posting content is the best way to ramp up your presence. You know a lot of things that can help your clients. You’re privy to new content that your company puts out. You know about compelling industry reports or compelling stats that maybe have been making the rounds on your team. You’ve seen and read case studies that your clients might also like to see, too. Maybe you’re reading news, and you understand something about your competition that would be insightful to your clients, as well.

Ensure you know things that your clients want to know. Building a brand requires publishing content in some form. Remember, a lot of people think of personal branding as thought leadership. Now I’m not urging that you have to become a thought leader, but certainly, it’s one of the most effective ways to build a personal brand. If you’re publishing content in some form, you’re going to be better off, and it’s going to fast track you to success in your personal branding efforts.

Now, I’m sure I know what you’re thinking, and that’s something like, but I don’t know what to say, or I don’t know how to write, or I don’t know how to use all of these tools. Trust me, I totally get it. But, I have an answer for you. It may be helpful to think about content in phases, starting with kind of the easiest way to get into content and moving, stepwise, to the hardest parts of content, which I’d say you’re probably listening to right now. I’m not asking you to start a podcast, but the three levels of content are curation, collection, and creation.

Curation means finding and commenting on material produced by others. Your company has some piece of marketing collateral, or a whitepaper, or something, and you could go ahead and share that, but also comment on it. What’s interesting about it? Why should your clients pay attention to it? Should they skip to page seven and to this particular section, and note something that’s in there? Right? That’s what you can add to your content creation and material produced by others. You don’t have to make it all. But, there should be something additional, and that additional thing is your comments, or your insights, or what you found useful about it.

Number two is collection. Collecting and organizing quotes, books, studies, or even firsthand interviews that provide value to your clients that is greater than the sum of the parts. Now, collection goes a step beyond curation, because collection starts to piece together disparate pieces of information out in the world to tell a greater story. And so, if you’ve done no content creation before, I do recommend you start with number one, curation, but collection would be the next step up.

Finally, 100% brand new creation. Now, of course, no idea is original. I agree with that, and yours won’t be, either, but coming up with original content with a focus on insights and fast path to value, this is kind of the hard stuff. This is what most people think about when they think about content creation. They think about making this podcast, or writing an article, or shooting a video, which, by the way, shooting videos can sort of follow the same path here.

But, the core thing I want you to know is, creating a long form big asset, like this podcast that you’re listening to, is not where you should start. Where you should start is the curation bit of it. As you curate and pay attention to more content, you will learn what works about it, what doesn’t work about it. What are people responding to? What is your point of view as you comment and try to drive insights out of the content that you’re sharing? Those are the three steps: Curation, collection, and creation.

If you want to skip ahead to the collection part or the creation phase of content, two things that I like are email newsletters or LinkedIn articles. Those are great things to do. Of course, I love podcasts, too, but this is not where I would recommend you start. The reason I like email newsletters and LinkedIn articles is that there is almost no technological barrier to doing them. Tiny Letter is an easy way to send email newsletters. You could also just BCC people in your email client and send them a newsletter that way. LinkedIn articles are there for you. They’re totally free. You can post them there. You’ll have to have a way to promote them, but you don’t need a website, in other words, to share something that’s longer form.

I get one email newsletter once a month, and it’s just a Google Doc. The guy doesn’t have a website, just a signup form to receive an email, and then he sends a fresh Google Doc once a month. That’s it. That is a totally acceptable way to create and distribute content. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and I actually think focusing on the quality of the content that you’re sharing is much more important than putting any flash on it when you do send it.

The key takeaways for this episode are that having a personal brand allows you to build trust one-to-one with buyers, stay in touch with them, and become part of their research process. You can have people actually asking directly for you.

There are four pillars to building a personal brand: People, persona, position, and presence. I implore you, start with presence. That’s the easy way to do it. Work on your LinkedIn profile. Fill it out completely. Add recommendations. Add a better headshot if you don’t have a good one now, and link to important work that you’ve done.

One way you can ramp up your presence on LinkedIn is to start publishing content just as basic LinkedIn posts, not as articles. Start with curation if you’re not sure where to start, whereby you’re sharing stuff made by other people, and you’re commenting on it.

Next up, in next week’s episode, I’ll talk to you about the other pillars of personal branding and how to address them without making it a second full-time job. If you aren’t already subscribed, please do so by clicking the subscribe button in your podcatcher app. It helps me get the word out if you share this podcast with your colleagues, or your friends, or anyone else looking to build their personal brand, and it would be especially lovely if you shared this episode on LinkedIn.

Finally, if you’re looking for help training your team to sell more to big companies, I can help you with remote and onsite training options. Just head over to my website, Click the contact button, and you can fill out a quick form to begin the conversation. Of course, I do have my own email newsletter. If you’d like to get it once a week, just head over to You can sign up, and I’ll send you one email every week.

Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill of Serve Don’t Sell, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

Modern Sales Podcast