What You Need to Know About Branding Strategy as a Brand Manager

Hi Readers,

During my stint as the P&L head, business manager of the CPG start up in Africa, Marketing was directly managed by me. In a span of 5 years, I launched 3 successful brands in 3 different categories.

As I understand now, brand management is as much an art as a science.

Most CEOs understand that Sales= clients= revenues (YES!!!), HR= people related issues and systems (necessary evil!!), Finance = bean counters, penny pinchers ( Cant liev with them, cant live without them!)

Marketing confounds them the most!! They are extremely nervous about signing off checks that give the marketing teams their bugets.

When I look at what passes for marketing out there, hell, I’d be nervous about funding it too. I mean, what do you get for all that money? How do you know if it’s working or not?

And branding, that’s even worse. It doesn’t help that the name conjures up images of branding cattle, or somebody being branded a criminal. How about that, branding has a branding problem. Ironic, isn’t it?

Here’s how branding works.

Your company and its products and services have associated attributes that affect customer buying decisions, employee morale, and investor confidence. They also affect your company’s market share, profit margins, and bottom line. THATs THE EASY PART!

Branding strategy enables your company to measure and change the perception and affect of those attributes.

Here are five things that i think that every manager needs to know about branding strategy.

  1. Customers experience thoughts and feelings when they consider your company’s product or service. It’s the same thing with potential employees and investors. It’s called brand reputation or perception and it exists whether you do anything about it or not. (Be aware, these are my definitions. Some differentiate on symantics; I don’t.)
  2. Brand reputation is a function of experience with your company and its products. It’s the sum total of many things, including product features, quality and reliability, customer service, even executive presentations. It goes way beyond marketing, PR, ad campaigns, and websites.
  3. Branding strategy is not a one-off; it’s a component of your overall corporate strategy. Hopefully that begins with some sort of strategic planning process that defines your company’s vision, goals, and key strategies. Branding strategy is integrated and aligned with those.
  4. Contrary to what the name implies, branding strategy is not about names per se. It’s about using certain tools to achieve strategic and operating goals. For example, branding can be used to position similar or the same products in different market segments, typically at different pricing levels. That means changing perception without changing the product -a neat trick.
  5. There are a myriad of decisions and tradeoffs involved in developing the right branding strategy for a company and its products and services. There is method to the madness. For example, a product line’s goals, market requirements, and value proposition will lead to a unique branding strategy. At least it should.
Advertisements

The 1 Minute Sales Success Checkup

Hey there…

During my recent field trips with my sales super stars working with me at http://www.ourvivaha.com, I noted that very often some basics were missing from their preparations before a sales call.

And THAT set me thinking on doing this piece for my team as also for the benefit of all my brethren in sales …

So here goes….

As with any great art, success in sales is a matter of mastering the basics.  Here are four simple questions that measure your grasp of the basics:

  • QUESTION #1: Can I describe my ideal customer?
  • QUESTION #2: Do I spend time with customers matching that profile?
  • QUESTION #3: Can I articulate how I can meet that customer’s needs?
  • QUESTION #4: Can I articulate value to the customer in 25 words or less?

If the answer to all four question is an emphatic “YES!” then you’re poised for success in sales.

However, if you have the slightest bit of doubt about any one of them, you need to spend time on the basics. Here’s how:

  • If you’re unsure about QUESTION #1: Review the customers that have bought in the past, either from yourself or other reps.  Look for the characteristics that identify a likely prospect.  Write them down, so you can remember them.  Then keep your eyes and ears open for customers that match that profile.
  • If you’re unsure about QUESTION #2: Start tracking the time that you spend on various sales activities.  Look for areas where you’re spinning your wheels or doing things that aren’t really connected to serving the customer.  Then increase the amount of time you spend on really productive selling.
  • If you’re unsure about QUESTION #3: Learn more about the customer’s business model and how your offering gets used in the customer’s environment.  The best way to do this is to spend some time with a customer who is actually using your offering.  Ask plenty of questions, because you’re sure to learn a lot.
  • If you’re unsure about QUESTION #4: Write down your value proposition and then edit it down to something short and sweet.  The most important thing here is that it must describe something of value to the customer — not just a description of your products and services.

Wanna read more on sales management, then please follow my blogs on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

you can also connect with me on FB at https://www.facebook.com/the.ashishtandon

as also on twitter @taurus13 AND @ashishtandon

Have a great weekend and keep those comments and recommendations coming !!

4 Key Rules to Make Sales Calls More Effective

Hi folks!

Been traveling again and hence the delay in this post.

This one came about after I worked with my sales team stationed at Delhi…these awesome girls are doing a commendable job with our wedding services platform http://www.ourvivaha.com

I noted that there were a few fundamental mistakes that they were all committing during their sales calls; mistakes that were completely avoidable and if left unattended would hamper a perfectly good opportunity.

So i decided to write this simple -to-follow guideline for them and for everyone else who would care to analyze and then amend their process and improve the ROI on sales.

So here goes…

  • Rule #1. Pace the conversation so that the customer is never overwhelmed. The average customer can listen to only three sentences before becoming overloaded. If you become an information fire hose, the customer will simply shut down and say “I’ll think it over” at the end of the presentation. (And then you’ll call back three days later and the customer won’t even remember your name.) Instead, use questioning and requests for feedback to pace the conversation. I am tempted to name my wonderful sales intern who has everything going for her…she is very pretty, good with numbers, analytic…BUT very aggressive when talking to her clients or prospects…and when I noticed that, I sat down with her, counseled her…she mellowed down, the the results are spectacular!!
  • Rule #2. Listen intently to build trust and rapport. When the customer talks, listen. Really listen, don’t just sit there thinking about what you’re going to say next. The golden rule of selling is to sell to your customers the way you’d like to be sold to yourself. Listening carefully also allows you to better sense the customer’s true attitude and mood. Connecting with the customer in this fundamental way is the key element of turning a sales presentation into a sale. Here again without naming my sales star…young kids, eager to get cracking on the targets, just forget to LISTEN….and again counselling really helps…and once that is done ( enforced if need be ) , the results are delivered automatically !!Try it …it really works …
  • Rule #3. Discover if the buying decision will be made soon. One of the biggest mistake that salespeople make is focusing on customers who aren’t really going to buy. The best way to get this information is to ask a question like: “if I show you exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price, what kind of time frame will it be for you to make a decision?” NOW …this one comes only after a long list of “trials and errors”…the trick is to shorten the learning process and to inculcate a certain judgment maturity in the process…
  • Rule #4. Push inevitable objections off the table. If you’re reasonably certain that a particular objection is likely to surface, preempt it by admitting it before the customer surfaces it. Example: “Some people say that our product costs a little too much, but…” Admitting the “cons” to your offering as well as the “pros” also enhances your credibility and positions you in the role of an advisor rather than a salesperson. THIS one is often the most difficult to get done, because we as people are programmed to never admit that we were wrong….it takes serious courage of conviction and maturity to do this and once you have mastered it, I guarantee you that it really works and earns the long term respect of your clients who will value you for your brutal honesty even at the expense of losing that all important sale !!

Please read more blogs on sales management only at https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

AND you can also follow me on https://www.facebook.com/the.ashishtandon

and on twitter on @taurus 13  AND @ashishtandon

How To Sell by Word of Mouth

Hi there,

This post follows the one that I just posted some minutes back…https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/how-to-screw-up-a-referral-sale/

WHY?

Because in this post I am talking about asking your clients for referrals at the right time !!

But in this post I am also touching on aspects of a successful sales strategy that the intelligent sharp sales rep can deploy to maximize his outcome from his referrer..

Here’s how I believe that a successful sales rep could win by selling using WOM

Nothing sells better or faster than word-of-mouth.  Sales generated through referrals are larger than those resulting from other lead-generation activities.  Why?  Simple.  By making the referral, the “referrer” is eliminating uncertainties like “can this rep be trusted?” and “is this rep worth my time?”  The sales process builds momentum more quickly, resulting in an easier, faster close.

There are three rules to developing sales opportunities through word of mouth:

  • Rule #1.  Ask for a Referral at the Right Time. Reps typically ask new customers for referrals when the first sale is closed, as in: “do you know of anyone else who needs our product?”  That’s dumb.  Why should an existing customer – who has already stuck his or her neck out by buy from you – stick it out further by risking their own business contacts?  The time to a referral from a customer is AFTER your product has produced a measurable benefit for that customer’s firm.
  • Rule #2. Ask Your Source to Take Action. If all you get is some contact information, you’re just setting up a cold call.  Instead, ask your current (happy) customer to call or e-mail the contact.  That way the current customer is essentially “endorsing” you, which will jump start your sales process.  IMPORTANT: Ask your current customer to give you a heads-up when they’ve sent the email or made the call.  Without this confirmation, you won’t know the best time to call the contact, which is within a day (preferably less than an hour) after the referral has taken place.
  • Rule #3. Keep Your Source in the Loop. Your existing customer is likely to have ongoing commuication with the prospect, and can help you move the sale forward simply by remaining involved as a interested spectator.  So follow up!  Contact the referrer within a day after the promise to send the email.  Express gratitude and (if necessary) gently remind the customer of his or her commitment.  After you meet with the new contact, send another e-mail with a thank-you and a status report. (E.g. “You were right; Fred’s firm does have a need.”)  Finally, if the referral actually results in a sale, be sure to send another thank-you.

If you found this blog useful, please visit me on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com and follow me !!

Feel free to write in to me at ashish.tandon@gmail.com

How To Screw Up a Referral Sale !

Hi followers!

Thanks for all your comments, suggestions and critique ! These help me with my writing and the topics that seem to be in vogue and demand…

Referrals as we all in Sales know is a great way to get a foot in the door and eliminate the first 3 -4 steps of a prospective sale.

BUT as young sales reps we have certainly done our fair bit of screwing up a referral sale and this piece is an attempt to help the newbies in their sale careers!!

I have identified 4 instances of how we can potentially screw up a referral sale and used these descriptions to teach young budding sales stars to be mindful of this intricate process..

  1. You provided a detailed quote without a quid pro quo. If you’re going to do any significant work for a client, you must be “paid” by some concession to you that leads towards closing the deal. You should have demanded to present to personally to the CEO — or something else that might have given you an inside track.
  2. You didn’t differentiate your firm or your offering. While you may consider yourself to be a “boutique” firm, you obviously didn’t convince the prospect of that, because you ended up in a discussion of price. If you actually were a boutique firm, you’d be charging the highest price, and the customer would be happy to pay it.
  3. You bid on a deal without local resources. Since web development tends to be something of a commodity product, one of the few differentiators available to a provider is the quality of the sales rep. You needed a warm, personable body working the customer personally, in order to stand a chance of competing.
  4. You didn’t take the hint that you lost the deal. If the prospect is consistently blowing you off, they aren’t going to buy. Period. You’re just fooling yourself if you think that you’re still going to get the deal.  Any resources that you expend pursuing this deal further is wasted.  It’s over; deal with it.

To read more blogs from my pen, please visit my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

and follow me!!

How to Respond to “It Costs Too Much”- the 12 questions mantra !!

Ha!!

This one had to come up one way or the other !!

Budgets are tight…contract negotiations are tighter still !!

My sales stars are sweating when their prospects retort at quotations saying ” you are pricing yourself out of the market!!”

So in order to address this very real problem, I decided to write about this..hope this helps scores of you out there facing the same dilemma and resistance from your buyer as my sales team is.

“it costs too much.” in todays times, you all would have heard it all too often !

This universal but ubiquitous objection is the bane of many a sale pro’s existence, so we are now going to destroy its power over you, forever. There are twelve classic “comebacks” that will not just neutralize the objection, but keep the sale cycle, going. Here they are:

Prospect: “It costs too much.”

Sales Pro: “No problem. Just out of curiosity…

  • …when you say it costs too much, what do you mean?”
  • …what has been your past experience with solutions like ours?”
  • …how do you know that it costs too much?”
  • …what do you know about us or our industry?”
  • …what has been your past experience with companies like ours?”
  • …what are some of your priorities around _________?”
  • …what if our solutions weren’t really expensive at all?”
  • …what if it turned out that we didn’t really cost as much as you thought?”
  • …what if really could solve the problem of __________?”
  • …what if we really could generate a measurable business value?”
  • …what if we could help you create a competitive advantage?”
  • …what if we could show you how our solution would actually save money?

Create you sales playbook with my blogs and empower yourself and your sales teams…would like to hear your stories if these ideas made a difference to your top line contributions and your bonus !!

You may also like to read this blog of mine https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/how-to-read-a-customers-mind/

and read all my blog only on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

How to Read a Customer’s Mind !

Hi guys,

Trust that this blog finds you all well at work and play….

The subject of this one came up today as I was talking to one of my smartest sales reps. She was talking to me about one particular prospect who responded exactly as would be expected of someone who would be keen to place his order ..BUT at the last moment , would apparently back down and the “deal” would go bust !!

So I dug up my best from the last 20 years of sales and marketing experience and came up with this..hope it helps you guys as well…so here goes

A seasoned sales professional categorizes customers into four basic styles of behavior, based upon their tolerance to risk (recognition vs. security) and attitude towards work (goal-oriented vs. process-oriented). These four basic styles are:

  1. DOER (results oriented, needs recognition). Tends to make decisions quickly, prefers brief presentations, and resents time-wasters.
  2. TALKER (process oriented, needs recognition). Desires social approval and thus will avoid making a decision until everyone is happy.
  3. CONTROLLER (results oriented, needs security). Highly logical and analytical, and will generally look for what’s wrong with any situation.
  4. SUPPORTER (process oriented, needs security). Seldom looks at the bottom line but instead is more concerned with getting a job done.

According to my experience, customers have a primary and secondary style of behavior. For example, a CEO might be a Doer when dealing with underlings but a Talker when dealing with fellow CEOs. Similarly, a bank manager might be a Controller when it comes to writing loans, but a Supporter when it comes to working with top management.

In order to “read the customer’s mind”, you watch and listen carefully for clues about styles of behavior when interacting with a customer contact.

A Doer, for example, will often wear flashy or distinctive clothing and is likely to communicate in short bursts. Similarly, a Supporter will tend to dress conservatively and use catchphrases like “the way things are done here” and “the powers that be.”

Once you’ve determined the customer’s primary style of behavior, it becomes easier to predict how they’ll react to various situations that might come up in the sale cycle.  For example, a Controller will probably surface objections quickly and frequently.

That information allows you to adapt your sales approach. For example, when selling to a Doer, speak quickly and get right to the point. By contrast, when selling to a Supporter take the time to explain, in detail, how what you’re selling fits into the status-quo.  With a controller, you play devil’s advocate and let him argue against you, thereby selling himself on your product.

If you’re going to use Willingham’s conceptual model effectively, it helps if you’re aware of your own natural style. If you have a technical background and tend to naturally fall into the Controller style, you’ll need to take on more of an air of authority (become a “doer”) when calling on a CEO, for instance.

Top sales professionals can not only intuitively sense the customer’s style of behavior, but find the corresponding style in his or her own character that best matches the situation.

Obviously this is not a panacea for all sales strategists and it is an acquired skill that becomes a part of your persona as you mature by listening and learning throughout your career!!

To read more blogs about various aspects of sales that I have covered in earlier posts, please visit https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com