People Judge a Book by its Title

How we describe ourselves, and how others describe us, can go a long way to influencing how we are perceived.  Consider some politicians’ affinity for attributing derogatory nicknames to their opponents and adversaries.  For some people, how they hear someone described can help form an initial opinion about that person.  In politics, the primary objective of doing this is to minimize the opponent’s legitimacy and credibility.  It’s an extreme case, but imagine if your credibility was equally suspect from your prospects’ perspective just because of your job title – not exactly helpful when you’re trying to build their trust to select your company to work with.

Are You Undermining Your Own Messaging?

When I first started selling Sales Performance Management (SPM) solutions, I was the first “Presales Engineer” at my company.  With no software sales experience at the time, I wasn’t aware of how something as simple as a job title could potentially undermine my chances at success before I even started my demos.

Sales Performance Management solutions are almost always sold through the lines of business, not to IT.  We primarily targeted the sales, HR and finance departments that each stood to gain the most from our solutions.  Using a technical sounding title to present to these business user audiences isn’t necessarily a problem in isolation.  The issue was that one of our top selling points was ease of use, enabling non-technical business users to break free of their over-reliance on IT departments to get things done.  Having a technically titled role deliver that message undermined its credibility.

The Easy Fix!

The good news is that there is an easy fix – simply pick a job title that aligns with the messaging and make-up of the audience you’re delivering to.  My personal favorite when selling SPM was Solution Consultant because of its overall neutrality – it could apply to almost any audience without introducing any negative biases.

Building trust and empathy with your prospects is critical to sales success, and picking an appropriate job title is only one tiny example of how to do that.  One of my long-time SPM colleagues, David Irving, reinforced his credentials as a non-technical business user by informing prospects that his background was in accounting, not development or IT.  By letting the audience know that he was ‘one of them’, he instantly gained more credibility in his claims that they too could successfully use and manage the solution.

In some roles, your job title is specific and inflexible.  In sales, that’s almost never the case.   So make sure your title isn’t a hidden liability and pick something that will reinforce your role as a trusted advisor.

  • Consider Context – Make sure your selected job title isn’t just appropriate for the audience you’re presenting to, but also within the context of the messaging and content you’re delivering to them.

  • Be Consistent – ensure all your public personas that a client or prospect might see (e.g. email signature, LinkedIn Profile, business cards, etc ) each reflect the appropriate job title.

  • Simpler is Better – while you can certainly change your title for different homogenous audiences even at the same prospect organization, remember that most audiences are mixed (e.g. IT and LOB), and consider a title that can be universally appropriate.

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