Your Reputation in Sales is Now Eternal

Last Updated Sep 9, 2009 10:39 AM EDT

Reputation has always been important in sales, especially in markets where referrals play a large role. However, in the past it was possible, if a sales rep screwed up his reputation, to "start anew" in a different territory or industry. No longer. Any client who want to know all about you, can find it out pretty darn quickly. You can run, but you can't hide. Not any longer.

Let me give you an example. While recently subcontracting a marketing initiative, I ended up interviewing a personable middle-aged woman for the job. She presented very well and was quite professional, but something didn't quite "feel" right. I had her business card, and she had a web site, but I wasn't satisfied, so I did used to search the ownership of her cell phone number. I then took that information and did some follow-up Googling. Here's what I found out:

  • Her real name (she'd changed it).
  • Her hobbies, some of which were decidedly "flaky."
  • The names of two failed businesses she had owned.
That was enough for me to decide that I didn't want to hire her. However, in the process of finding the above, I also discovered more than I really wanted to know:
  • Her exact birth date.
  • Her current home address.
  • Her former addresses going back to the 1970s.
  • A list of her personal friends who knew her by her real name.
  • The high school she attended.
  • The grade school she attended.
  • A photo of her apartment building.
  • A photo of building where she kept her office.
  • About fifteen photos of her, showing different "looks"
To tell the truth, I was a bit appalled that it was so easy for me to dig all this up. It only took about 10 minutes, total. Pretty scary, eh? And, remember, she was trying to hide her real name!

The lesson here is that, unless you've been living under a rock, you've been leaving an audit trail on the web that allows any future customer to find out all about you.

Because of this, your reputation as a sales professional, which was precious in the past, has now become incalculably valuable.

If you screw up a customer, or do something unethical, it's going to follow you around for the rest of your life. You can run, but you can't hide.

I'm not saying it's good, and I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying that's the way it is.