The toughest audience for your new brand may not be your long-time clients or future prospects. It may be your own sales force. Sales professionals can be a cynical lot. In many companies, the prevailing attitude is: Just give me a generous travel and entertainment budget, a few spec sheets, and lead-gen support, and I’ll do the rest. Who needs a brand?
It’s a tough attitude to overcome. In B2B sales, which is typically relationship driven, the power of personality – and personal persuasion – often rules the day. This is a major reason why many otherwise strong B2B brands fail: they haven’t been properly integrated into – and accepted by – the sales force.
Lead With Benefits
Selling a brand to the people who sell your products or services begins with helping them understand how a brand can help them. Every salesperson needs to understand three important points:
1. A brand is what happens before you enter the room. According to Salesforce.com, 60% of the buyer’s journey is complete by the time he or she reaches out to sales. In 2020, this completion rate is projected to be 85% or higher. This is where a brand comes into play, creating powerful impressions from the beginning of the customer journey to the moment a salesperson shows up.
2. A brand gives you a framework. Most B2B offerings are complex, with a multi-layered, nuanced value proposition. A strong brand provides a context for communicating what makes your product or service different, and better. It provides the “headline” below which all other messages fall.
3. A brand is what happens after you leave. The B2B sale is a considered decision; closing a sale rarely happens on a first call. After the first visit, and before your return, a brand will live in all communications and at all touchpoints, from emails to content to events. The brand will keep the conversation going and reinforce the most important elements of your pitch.
Make It Real
Convincing the sales force that a brand can help them sell more effectively takes more than a lecture or brand book. Salespeople are independent types who want to learn and experience for themselves. That’s why brand immersion workshops, in which salespeople are active participants in exploring what the new brand means and how it can make them more successful, can be very effective. These workshops typically consist of a variety of interactive exercises that challenge participants to communicate the brand through mock sales presentations and by brainstorming case studies that support the brand by making it real.
The Power Of The Pitch
Developing practical, brand-infused tools for the sales force is also critical to an effective rollout. While creating pitch books is no one’s idea of fun, in B2B sales, this is where the brand will be most visible. What’s more, paying attention to this much derided but ubiquitous sales tool will secure all-important credibility with sales. Within the first handful of slides, a prospect should learn what the company does, why it does it, and how it does it better than the competition – in short, the brand’s essence. One strategy for success: engage a handful of sales professionals in the process of developing the pitch book. This not only ensures that the pitch book works effectively; the process also serves as a valuable brand training session.
Bridging The Gap
The most effective B2B brands are built from the inside out. Every employee needs to be an informed and inspired brand ambassador. But the sales force plays a unique and pivotal role in activating a brand. They may be skeptical about the power of a brand. But it’s a rare brand that succeeds without their buy-in.