Friday, February 19, 2016

Don't Let Your Sales Force Get Ahead of Your Brand

A talented salesperson could sell an Eskimo snow. This is an extremely important skill set to have at your disposal. But be careful. Salespeople are driven primary by making the sale. And sometimes they will say whatever it takes to get that sale. Brands need to deliver on their promises. Brands that don't get into a lot of trouble. Brands also must act with integrity. Promising something that may not be available or making quality or performance claims that are questionable at best also do not serve brands well. 

Salespeople must be carefully scripted so that they do not over promise or make the wrong brand promises to customers and potential customers. Over promising something may lead to a sale but it is equally as likely to lead to customer disappointment and diminished customer loyalty. It can even lead to customer defection. 

Strong incentives to make the sale are fine as long as they are established within solid brand boundaries. 

I have witnessed companies that have had bad financial results because their salespeople found it easier to sell the company's least profitable products. I have heard salespeople lie about competitors' products to sell their own products instead. And I have witnessed salespeople selling luxury products as value products and vice versa to make a sale to the wrong customer. I have also seen salespeople sell to customers who are poor credit risks. I have heard salespeople promise products that are not available. And I have heard salespeople promise customer benefits that the brand does not deliver. 

Clearly, not all salespeople will get your brand into these types of trouble but it is possible given the nature of their role, their personal motivations and the incentives to which they respond. Make sure your salesperson hiring practices, incentives, recognition programs, selling scripts and training programs reinforce the brand advocating behavior that you desire. It also helps to establish "integrity" as a core organizational value. 

If designed and managed well, your sales force can be one of your organization's most valuable assets. If not, they can detract from the brand and its equity.

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