Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Social Media - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Co-Branding

Attention: All modular home factory owners, sales managers and new home builders. There is a new problem that is beginning to rear its ugly head and it’s called the “co-branded sales rep.”

A growing number of sales reps are using LinkedIn and Facebook to create a public identity that could be in conflict with your business. These sales reps are using social media to create buzz about themselves first and your company second.

Here is just one of the downsides to this. Suppose you, as a sales manager for a modular home company, need to hire an outstanding sales rep for a new territory, where would you look? You could ask some of your competitors…highly unlikely; or you could ask a recruiter to find you someone…better; but more often, you will begin searching on social media sites looking for a star.

Currently these self promoters are flying under the radar. They are mostly younger reps that have really embraced all types of social media. Without even realizing how powerful they are, they could write a book about it. Their online activities can either complement the company’s image or clash with it. If they have enough followers, especially younger home buyers, one bad word from them about your company could be devastating.

They are creating a brand unto themselves without you even knowing its happening. Potential new buyers or builders will contact them through social media instead of through normal company channels. As the rep gets leads outside his/her assigned territory and you don’t acknowledge that they got the lead, you face the real possibility of having this “star” rep jump ship and go somewhere that will welcome the new business. This will only reinforce the rep’s co-branding.

Another situation that arises is management seeing the increased business and leads coming from the social media guru rep and go to them for consulting on how to improve their business. The rep will help for a while but will start wanting compensation for this expertise. Soon the star rep becomes a star PIA!

Here are some things to be on the lookout for:
  • Does the sales rep spend more time Tweeting, texting and connecting with LinkedIn than other reps. This could be an indication that he or she is beginning a co-branding campaign. If you can, make sure that your company’s name is mentioned often in their online work. Also check to make sure they are using their company supplied email address. Using a Gmail or Yahoo account allows them to go from company to company without missing a beat.
  • Does the Star rep take credit for other’s work? I’ve had several instances where a modular project was completed by a factory and the ‘Star” sent me the info and pictures along with a request to use their email address in the story even if they didn’t procure or sell the project. If it isn’t the company’s email, I will no longer use it.
  • Does the star rep take credit for things that your company does as routine. When you read the reps’ resume on LinkedIn, does it include things that every rep in the company does or has available to them? If the star rep uses it to self-promote, then they are creating a co-branding situation.
  • Does your star rep’s social media presence mean that they should get advantages over other reps? A lot of times a star rep will go to the sales manager and demand more money, more commission, better hours, better customers and other things that they think you should provide.
  • Do your other reps feel that they are being overlooked? This is one of the big areas that will sabotage a company quickly. By either ignoring the other reps or placing the star rep on a pedestal, you risk losing business and sales reps.
  • Does the star rep have a blog or a special forum within social media channels? This is where they will forget to mention your company and strive to build loyalty for themselves. If they work on it after hours, do you have the right to censor it? If you have encouraged them to write it on company time, who owns it?

This is a new frontier for most modular factory owners and their sales managers. How you encourage your sales reps to broaden their personal marketing and at the same time keep a tight rein on them is just one of those nasty little questions that has popped up since the creation of social media.


Anonymous said...

Coach, I thought I had a great relationship with one of my top salespeople but after reading this I asked my daughter to help me look him up on Facebook and Twitter.
I found tTwo things you talked about. He doesn't use my company email and he says things on twitter that just never happened amking him look better and makeing me look bad.
I wish I had never read his comments.

Unknown said...

Why would I, if I was a sales manager looking for a new sales rep, use social media? The comment by anonymous adequately demonstrates the big problem - on social media one can "stretch the truth" to suit their own circumstances. Telling a sales mgr to look for a rep using social media is an invitation for trouble and telling them to take the easy way out.

Finding, interviewing, checking the background, testing a new sales rep is not easy. And yes, it is like shooting craps if the proper work is not done and still "iffy" even if you think you found the right person. As you know the hiring process is just one part of the process. Unfortunately too many sales mgrs think once they hire a rep their job is done, where in FTC the tough work just started.

And I ask you -- is it best to raid another company or to hire someone new and train them? I prefer hiring new and training them in the way the company does business. That way you eliminate UNtraining them in old ways they know and hopefully uncovering their bad habits before putting them in a territory on their own. Training is tough enough without the untraing process. And remember if they left their current employer to go with you -- don't you think they will not hesitate to do it to you. I call it the "Green Acres" syndrome. You know - the grass is always greener someplace else.

To all those that relay on social media and put the future of the company in the hands of good posters - good luck. You'll need as much as you can get.

Sarah Thompson said...

William, why wouldn't you use social media to help find a sales rep. Do you even know what social media is? Besides, Coach is talking about something new here and only mentioned your topic as part of a growing problem. If you are not aware that some reps are marketing themselves instead of the their company, then you need to get on LinkedIn and look at all the sales people that are doing exactly that very thing.
You say that choosing a new sales rep is the easy part but I've been a manufacturer's sales rep for over 9 years and I still haven't seen any sales manager training new reps like you suggest. I do see the type of rep that Coach is talking about every time I get on LinkedIn and FB.