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Building your own personal brand and reputation in a new industry is both challenging and rewarding. From day one in my new career I faced the conundrum: how do you build a great reputation as well as attract clients without having either to begin with, and how do you do it quickly?
From introverted scientist to disenchanted sales agent, I was like a deer in headlights before I got to understand the true meaning of sales. Treading into the ‘dog-eat-dog’ world of real estate and thriving in a commission-only role in an industry still widely unknown in Australia was the last thing I saw myself doing.
After graduating Animal & Veterinary Science and considering a PhD, as life has it, whether by chance or providence, a few strange occurrences led me to make a peculiar gut decision. I went completely out of my comfort zone in 2014 and joined Cohen Handler, Australia’s largest buyers’ agency. I met with our CEO, Ben Handler in what we now call the ‘Garage Meeting Room’ at head office and it was here where I was told there would be endless opportunity, so long as I put my mind to it.
Here are some tips on how to build your reputation from the ground up.
Understand your ‘WHY’
The personal brand you cultivate for yourself and the reasons for ‘why’ you do what you do comes down to being clear about your purpose. Whatever those reasons may be, being clear on your ‘why’ on a daily – or even hourly basis is crucial. If those reasons are not strong enough to you, I’ve learnt it’s highly unlikely you will be able to communicate these as meaningful to your potential clients.
Understanding exactly why a client would even need someone like you is the simplest yet most critical step to building your personal brand. My first three to six months were the most trying as I wasted a lot of time working with the wrong types of clients. Taking on the wrong client for your business for the sake of having a client can be the fastest way to waste valuable time and effort.
Belief in the value of your time and in the services you provide enables you to take a very non-confronting and consultative approach rather than a ‘salesy’ position – I know exactly when clients are a right fit for what I do and why I am worth it.
Network, connect… and get uncomfortable.
Coming from a junior sales associate to starting my own business within Cohen Handler meant that I had to get my head around what it really meant to run my own show – and quickly. A lot of small business owners spend their time getting work done and may excuse themselves for not ‘having the time’ to network in order to find more business. Time is your single most valuable asset and joining a business referral network with like-minded business owners was one of the best things I did two years ago to build a network and my reputation amongst peers in other fields.
I have learnt to never underestimate the power of connecting, networking and in the process, the value of pushing my own boundaries. Networking and referrals remain the least expensive and most effective forms of my own personal marketing. A glowing reputation and strong recommendation is one of your most valuable business assets.
Align yourself with inspiring people and never stop learning
You need to be willing to work hard and be prepared to fail too. In my first year at Cohen Handler, I only bought homes for four clients, and it was certainly a huge challenge for me. However, by simply not giving up and being surrounded by a supportive team, I have managed to turn it around completely securing almost one house per week in recent months.
However success isn’t just moulded by your own determination, but also by your willingness to learn from others, so make sure to surround yourself with hard working mentors and people you admire. They can offer valuable advice and take you through their personal experiences on what worked and what didn’t for them, which you can then learn from.
Training and development are also vital, and I have made good use of the programs provided at Cohen Handler. We have weekly team meetings and some of us participate at weekly Yoga sessions along with ‘mindfulness’ meditation courses. There is always something to learn from someone within our ever-growing team and our culture and environment has helped me transition into a progressive industry with new courage. It has allowed me to embark on an incredible and rewarding career change that I have never looked back on.
Showcase the genuine passion you have for your work and people will rave about you
When you do great work for your clients, they are just as excited to tell others about you. Creating a referral based business, where you’re consistently getting leads from your current clients, has multiple benefits. It helps cut down your marketing time and costs, it gives you more opportunities to provide great service and it can help you grow your network exponentially.
To date, approximately 85-90 percent of my business is self-generated and I have recently had the pleasure of representing what I like to call “third generation” clients (those who have been referred from a past client who was referred by a past client). I truly believe this is due to the genuine love I have for what I do, which comes out in my work.
In every meeting you arrange, in every dealing and action you are involved in, showcase your personal brand and strive for a business that is 100 percent referral based. If you reach that, you’re not only working hard, but your clients are proof that you genuinely love what you do, because they are telling everyone about you.
I have been running my own business within Cohen Handler for the past two years after overcoming psychological barriers, self-limiting beliefs and commencing a career in a completely unrelated field. However, from science to business, my formula remains the same – integrity ,trust, hard work and the ability to constantly learn. This will put you in good stead when starting out on a new career journey. You will build your reputation in no time if you’re passionate, determined and always willing to adapt – and you can be brave too.
Rachel Cruz is an Associate at Cohen Handler
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