Editor’s note: Paul Kirch is CEO of Actus Sales Intelligence, a Fort Worth, Texas, business and sales consulting agency, and Actus-360, a technology services provider. He can be reached at 214-295-6111 or at pkirch@actussales.com.

Who are you? What is your credibility as a person and as a brand? I’ve been fortunate and my career has allowed me to do things to give credibility to my name, which makes the questions above easy to answer. If someone looked me up, they would find content to support my abilities and confirm that I’m the person I claim to be. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect or that I haven’t had challenges but rather that I’ve worked for companies that promoted staff involvement in the industry and built teams of people who gained industry exposure. I’ve embraced writing and speaking. I have volunteered to support industry organizations and events and served on industry boards, in various roles.

I’m not bragging or trying to pump myself up. Rather, I’m promoting the benefits of putting yourself out in the industry and becoming known and trusted. There is a true disconnect if you want to be seen as a consultative salesperson but no one can validate your credentials. A salesperson who does not have a credible personal brand tied to his or her own name may struggle to convince prospects that they are differentiated. That being said, they can earn trust over time by working with existing accounts. That’s the hope. However, I argue that putting yourself out in the industry through volunteering, speaking, writing, interviewing or leadership roles gives instant credibility. It’s an investment of time and energy and a company must have the vision to see this as a benefit. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s a true game-changer.

Earlier in my career, I worked in the operations side of The Gallup Organization. Within Gallup there was a feeling of exclusivity – the firm really did not support involvement in the industry beyond serving clients. It wasn’t until I left that I really discovered the research industry. Once I moved into a sales role, I was thrown into volunteering and given an opportunity to grow through exposure to people who transformed my way of looking at research. I fell in love with the industry because I saw amazing opportunities and met supportive figures. I’m grateful to that time and truly have become one of the biggest supporters of encouraging employees to put themselves in the limelight. So few firms support this and even fewer employees understand the value of it.

I recently wrote an article about consultative selling and in it I stressed that your personal brand must be seen as credible when someone looks you up in a Google search. Clients should be able to look you up and find information that shows you are respectable, trustworthy and someone who can support them. My online presence is not something I take lightly and I’m often protective of the reputation I spent years developing. This isn’t about perfection. As any human being, I’m far from perfect but I do believe blunders can lead to the greatest learning and development opportunities.

My question to you is simple: What are you doing to support your own personal growth and promotion? What about your team’s development?

I’m now doing a series of research-specific interviews that bring in guests who are leveraging research or supporting our industry in some compelling ways. This series helps people from our industry find a different way to approach business or to grow professionally. It also helps me grow as a professional. While I spend time writing and interviewing to give back, I believe it is worth putting in the time to help provide credibility to what I do.

I hear this from companies all the time: “We should be doing more on social media.” Or, “We post some stuff from time to time but not with any regularity.” These same companies will spend thousands of dollars on advertising or sponsorship without any way of driving a return on that investment. The best part of putting yourself out there is that it’s a high-value opportunity with little or no investment beyond time and effort. While cost of investment is usually next to nothing, it is important to do the research on any technology that may be needed to support you. My podcast, for example, is not free to manage or produce. The technology investment, while minimal, was something I had not anticipated.

In the end you must become more than a salesperson who asks questions. Put yourself out there and become a known entity. It’s not hard but it does require time and commitment. It isn’t always easy to juggle everything but the payoff is evident. You are wrong if you believe no one wants to hear from you or no one wants a research supplier writing articles. Everyone’s voice matters. The individuals who commit and write regularly are the ones who reap the benefits. Stop claiming to be consultative and differentiate yourself by establishing credibility and expertise. Put your money where your mouth is. It’s guaranteed to leave a good taste in your mouth and your client’s.