Before you read any further, I want you do a little exercise with me. No stretching or running or anything like that. However, this exercise may actually be a little more painful.

Here's what I want you to do: Pretend like you are your own prospect and research yourself. You know, Google, LinkedIn, website, the whole bit.

So, what did you learn about yourself?

  • Did you show up on the first page of the Google search?
  • What were you talking about on Twitter?
  • Does your agency website sound just like every other agency website?
  • What recent business books did you find out (via LinkedIn) you are reading?
  • What skills/expertise are you promoting on LinkedIn?

Did the Virtual You give yourself a compelling reason to take a meeting?

I'm not sure I can adequately stress the importance of the Virtual You. The exercise you just went through is the same exercise your prospects will take themselves through when deciding whether or not to agree to a meeting. This same exercise will also set their expectations for any meeting they might take.

What you communicate through Virtual You, you will either tell your audience how you are different from your competition or reinforce the perception that "you are all alike". This second perception is one you can't afford to have applied to you.

Here's why.

I was recently having lunch with a friend who is an insurance broker. Over this particular lunch, we were catching up with one another, but also because he was looking for some advice on a hostile prospect he was meeting with the next day to talk about employee benefits.

He had met with this prospect a couple of months earlier on their P&C coverage. His first meeting had been with the owner, and everything seemed to be great (at least on the surface). The owner seemed to love him and was anxious to introduce my friend to the person in charge of all of their insurance. Turns out, she wasn't nearly as excited as the owner.

Thinking things were initially looking positive because of the owner's seemingly enthusiastic response to their meeting, my friend was more than a little surprised to be accidently cc'd on an e-mail from the owner to the benefits manager. Basically, the email said,

"I'm not sure if this guy is full of [crap] or whether or not he can/will do anything he says. What do you think?"

To which the manager responded,

"I've been doing this for 25 years and the brokers are all the same. None of them are worth a [crap], they'll tell you a bunch of lies, and then deliver nothing."

So, is that a fair stereotype of our industry? Maybe, maybe not. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter whether or not it's fair. It's an all too common perception and one you have to overcome.

If your online presence and your in-person reality don't clearly demonstrate what makes you different, you're going to be lumped in with everyone else. If you Tweet about the same topics, promote the same skills/expertise on LinkedIn, and have the same conversations as everyone else when you show up for a meeting, then don't be surprised if you are assumed to be just like everyone else. And, unfortunately, that's not necessarily favorable company to keep.