Monday, December 7, 2015

Brands and Salespeople

Not much has been written about this topic. Salespeople are in the field selling your brand each and every day. They are motivated financially to sell, sell, sell. As a vice president of marketing, I have worked with sales forces quite a bit. For many companies, they are the front line manifestation of your brand. 

Because salespeople are so strongly motivated to maximize sales and because that is their primary (if not only) objective, not much else is of concern to them. Often, this leads them to say anything to close the sale. They will promise things the brand cannot or does not want to deliver - products or product features, services, even a certain level of responsiveness. They might also talk about the brand in a way that is "off strategy" to get the sale. Many salespeople will promise whatever it takes to get the sale. Another problem is messaging. If your organization is decentralized and your salespeople have a lot of latitude in creating localized marketing materials, the messages can be way "off strategy."

I have encountered situations in which the salespeople have presented premium brands as discount brands and vice versa to make the sale. Think of the confusion this might cause. I am not implying that every salesperson is "off brand" in his or her approach to selling. I am saying that they need extra help to stay on message because of their strong incentive to sell no matter what. 

Here is what you can do to help them. First, create a digital asset management system that allows for the right amount of flexibility in locally created marketing materials. This system will insure that the brand's identity is presented correctly and that key brand messages remain intact. It also gives the brand manager visibility to what is being created in the field. It is a useful feedback loop that can result in productive discussions with the sales force. Second, create detailed selling scripts for the brand and for each family of products. Train the sales force in using these scripts. Integrated the brand's elevator speech in the selling script. Make sure each salesperson can articulate the brand's elevator speech correctly. Finally, work with the sales force to develop the most useful brand collateral materials and other selling tools.

If you do these things, you can transform your sales force into strong brand advocates. 

And, don't forget, your sales force is your front line. They interact with your customers daily. They are a great source of competitive intelligence, informal customer research and feedback on whether your brand position and messaging are working. They can help immensely in informing the the refinement of your brand's position. 

The sales force can be a great partner in building the brand if you provide them with the proper tools and messaging. If you do not, they may work against what you are trying to accomplish for your brand. When managing your brand, don't forget about the sales force.

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