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.

How to Pre-Qualify a Sales Lead

Hi readers,

Apologies for the long hiatus…been busy with my travels and tours and enjoying the monsoons hit the sub-continent!

Been thinking about writing on this subject for some time and was waiting for the right impetus to do so…this impetus came to me recently when one of my key account managers came upto me and asked me…”you have written and spoken extensively about qualifying sales leads,….BUT what about pre-qualifying sales leads??”

That was it and here I am …

(Please read my other blog on the subject- https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/steps-to-qualify-your-sales-leads/)

So now you got a long list of prospects?  Don’t know where to start?

Your challenge is to focus your time and energy on the prospects who are the most likely to buy.  And that means pre-qualifying your sales leads….before you call them.

and here I believe is what you need to do..

  • Step One: Visualize Your Target. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the specific benefit or improvement of my customers’ lives that will occur as the result of them using my product? How will they feel differently because they are using it? Who is most likely to experience these positive feelings? What is their income, position, experience and level of authority? Your goal for this step is to determine your ideal customer.LIVE A DAY OF YOU TARGET CUSTOMER !!
  • Step Two: Identify Your Strengths. Ask yourself the following questions: What is that we do better than any other company? Why should our ideal customer buy from us rather than the competition? If our competitors were asked (and answered honestly) what would they say that our company does better than anyone else? Your goal for this step is to determine what’s unique about your company’s offer, so that you can match those characteristics more closely to the expectations of potential customers.DEFINE AND UNDERSTAND YOUR USP!! and repeat that USP over and over and over again…
  • Step Three: Match Strengths and Targets. Ask yourself the following question: who, specifically, are the customers who would value and appreciate what our offering does better than our competitor’s offering? Your goal for this step is to determine specific type of customer which is the best match for your offering. This is a process of elimination, not inclusion! You want to pick your shots, so think like a sniper rather than a machine gunner.LOOK AT THE LOWEST HANGING FRUIT BY APPLYING YOUR OFFER TO THEIR IMMEDIATE NEED !! its that simple….
  • Step Four: Concentrate your Sales Efforts. Focus on those few customers who can benefit the most from your company’s offering. Your ideal customer should want your product, need your offering, be able to use your offering and afford your offering. Making sales calls with customers who don’t fit the profile you’ve created will probably be a waste of your valuable time.FOCUS ..FOCUS…FOCUS…
  • Step Five: Provide Feedback to Marketing. If you’re still getting long lists of undifferentiated leads, you need to help your marketing team (or whomever is passing you those leads) to better focus their lead generation efforts.  Your goal in this step is to make the four step process above more automatic, so that you don’t have to spend your own time eliminating unlikely prospects. MAKE MARKETING WORK!!

For more blogs on sales management, career management,marketing , please go to https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

Link up with me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/the.ashishtandon

please follow me and leave your comments-feel free to use my work for your sales processes!!

How To Make a Flawless Cold Call- PART 2

Hi winners!

This is part 2 of my blog titled- How To Make a Flawless Cold Call

This part will cover points 4 through 6 and complete the series for you.

I hope that the points that I have raised have helped you make some quick notes and create a personal playbook that you can refer to, wherever you may be, which part of the world you may be working today and in the future!!

These points sure helped me succeed in India and Africa…so the logic is, if they worked in these 2 very tough markets, it should be a cinch in the mature markets of the US and Europe ….right??!!

So here goes….

STEP #4: SCHEDULE THE RIGHT TIME

You’ll never get the cold calling done unless you schedule a regular time each week to make the calls.  The trick here is scheduling your cold calling at the times when prospects are most likely to agree to a future meeting and thus become a potential customer.

The “right time” varies according to whether you’re working from a static list (like one built from the search of a database) or working on leads being fed to you from a web site where potential prospects are constantly coming and going.

If you’re working from a list, the best day to call is Thursday while the worst day to call is Friday.  In addition, the best times to call are 8am to 9am and 4pm to 5pm, while the worst time to call is 1pm to 2pm.

If you’re working from a website feed, the best time to call is within 5 minutes from the time that the potential prospect was viewing your website.  Turns out you are 4 times more likely to successfully qualify a lead if you call within 5 minutes than if you call between 5 and 10 minutes. And you are 21 times more likely to qualify a lead if you call within 5 minutes than if you wait for 30 minutes.

STEP #5: GET THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Most of your success in cold calling will depend not upon your product or the quality of your leads, but on your attitude as you approach the cold-calling process. Here are five tips to help you achieve the best attitude for this part of your job:

Use a headset, not a handset. You want both hands free so that you can talk as if you’re talking in person.

Sit up straight and smile. If you’re slumped and frowning, the prospect will “sense” it, even from a distance.

Visualize success. Think of a time when you won a big sale. Put your mind and memory and emotions in that place.

Practice your script. Practice what to say if you reach a gatekeeper and what to say if you reach a decision-maker.

Lay aside your sales goals. These get in the way if you focus too much on them. It’s about the customer, not about you.

STEP #6: MAKE THE CALLS

You are now ready to make your cold calls.  Remember, cold calling is a process of disqualifying leads, not finding prospects for your pipeline

This is a VERY important point. As my boss often pointed out to me, “cold calling” is a “discarding” or “disqualifying” process, like panning for gold or digging for diamonds. You have to turn over a lot of dirt before you find the gems.

If you fail to get this, you’re destined to get frustrated. So, rather than trying to get as many leads as possible into the pipeline, use the cold calling process to avoid wasting time and effort on people who will never buy.

Because of this, you must make a point to make every cold call into a “win.”  It’s a BIG WIN every time you can scratch a “lead” off your list, because that means you’re not going to be chasing wild geese around mulberry bushes.

 

Hope you liked my posts….keep writing and keep connected!

Ten Ways to Make Cold Calling Easy

Hi Readers,

This blog is a natural follow up to the blog that I posted yesterday which drew numerous visits…thanks for your continued interest and for the shares.

Yesterday I spoke of the ways to conquer your fear of cold calling https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/how-to-conquer-fear-of-cold-calling/

In this post I would like to touch upon the topic of ways to make cold calling easy and also FUN!! Yes Cold calling can be real fun and can help you break the monotony of your daily routine!! Dont believe me , then read on….

Many sales professionals dread cold calling, and that included me when I had just come on board as a sales rep with J&J in 1992.

And that dread, unfortunately, makes them ineffective when they pick up the phone to make the calls. If you’re not careful, you can end up in a cycle, where your fear of cold calling creates more failure, making you hate it even more.

It needn’t be that way. Fear (or hate) of cold calling is a very solvable problem,

The following according to me , are the suggested ten best ways to overcome the fear of cold calling…

  1. Make some phone calls. The fear that you’re creating for yourself is far worse than the reality of cold calling so overcome fear by doing.
  2. Make a lot of phone calls. The more calls you make, the more success you will have and the less you’ll notice the ones that don’t work out.
  3. Prepare. Know the goal, what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to represent yourself, your company, and your offering.
  4. Practice. Practice your cold calling conversation out loud and role-play with friends or colleagues. Then focus on your prospect rather than your fear.
  5. Start easy. Begin with your less important leads. Once you feel more comfortable, start working on the more important leads.
  6. Stay calm. If a prospect is rude, remember that they’re probably just be having a bad day and then move on. Don’t take it personal.
  7. Don’t project. Your priorities and your prospect’s priorities are different. Don’t read negative meaning into early conversations with your prospect.
  8. Keep your perspective. Some things are out of your control. But what is within your control is continuing to prospect and continuing to make calls.
  9. Make it a Game. Give yourself 1 point for every “no” answer, when you reach 100, give yourself a prize. (If a prospect says “yes,” that’s a bonus!)
  10. Have fun. The fate of the world does not rest on you and your telephone, so loosen up and be creative.

 

The other 5 reasons that sales hates marketing!

Hi readers,

This is the second part of my blog posted some minutes back….https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=523&action=edit (Top 5 Reasons Sales hates Marketing)

As promised, this blog covers the other 5 reasons why sales teams hate their marketing counterparts!!

REASON #5: Marketeers pose as “strategists.”

  • Description: Marketeers think they’re “brand managers” who should be directing all activities throughout the company.
  • Why It Rankles: Brand is a reflection of product and service.  If good, the brand is good; if not, the brand is bad.
  • What’s The Cure: Only reward marketeers for behavior that directly results in a measurable increase in revenue and profit.

REASON #4: Marketeers waste resources.

  • Description: Marketeers expend money on fancy brochures, advertisements, and trade show junkets.
  • Why It Rankles: The more money that’s spent on Marketing’s boondoggles, the less money there is to pay commissions.
  • What’s The Cure: Give the sales team veto power over all marketing activities that exceed a fairly small amount of money.

REASON #3: Marketeers pretend they’re engineers.

  • Description: Marketeers try to set the technical direction of the firm’s products and services.
  • Why It Rankles: In most cases, the Marketeers have never even spoken to a customer, so they’re clueless about what they want.
  • What’s The Cure: Let the engineers design the next generation based upon customer input.  Keep marketing out of the picture.

REASON #2: Marketeers force technology on Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers pressure the sales team to enter reams of customer data into the CRM system.
  • Why It Rankles: The sales team knows full well that most of that data isn’t going to help generate more sales.
  • What’s The Cure: Set up your sales tech so that it always increases the amount of time that sales reps can spend selling.

REASON #1: Marketeers pass along lousy leads.

  • Description: Marketeers provide lists of leads that are either unqualified, or unqualifiable.
  • Why It Rankles: When Sales complains, the marketeers make it personal, accusing the sales team of being unable to sell.
  • What’s The Cure: Fire any marketeer who can’t consistently provide leads that the sales team – with its current skill set – can’t sell to.

Well what do you think folks!!

Love to have your views on this and my other posts!!

 

Top 5 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Hi Readers,

This blog covers what often simmers in sales teams of the best organizations….

Sales feels “neglected” when marketing takes all the kudos for the results, and feel singed when they take the heat for results NOT delivered!!

reasons are numerous and in this blog I will take just 5 that I feel are important right now to start this discussion..

REASON #1: Marketeers act superior.

  • Description: Marketeers often have business degrees, so they think they’re better than sales reps who don’t need a degree to sell.
  • Why It Rankles: Business degrees are generally useless when it comes to sales and marketing, since what’s taught is a mix of accounting and biz-blab.
  • What’s The Cure: Require MBAs to spend at least six months in Sales before being allowed to work in Marketing.

REASON #2: Marketeers want to eliminate Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers are taught in business school that good marketing makes a sales force unnecessary.
  • Why It Rankles: Unless a product is a plug-and-play commodity, a sales rep is always a necessity.  Especially in B2B.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear in the charter of the marketing team that they are there to support the sales team, not to replace it.

REASON #3: Marketeers believe selling is easy.

  • Description: Marketeers think that they can create so much demand that selling will consist purely of taking orders.
  • Why It Rankles: Most demand creation activities don’t create demand, especially in B2B, where customers generally ignore ads and collateral.
  • What’s The Cure: Have the marketeers make sales calls – or field inside sales calls – so they can see how hard it is.

REASON #4: Marketeers are goaled on deliverables.

  • Description: Marketeers get paid when they produce leads, brochures and ads, even if none of that activity results in a single sale.
  • Why It Rankles: If sales pros don’t make sales, they don’t get paid and, if it goes on long, they get fired.
  • What’s The Cure: Goal and compensate Marketing on the ability of the Sales team to generate revenue and profit from Marketing’s leads.

REASON #5: Marketeers think they’re “driving Sales.”

  • Description: Marketeers see selling as only one tactic in a grandiose strategic campaign.
  • Why It Rankles: Sales reps know that marketing is only a service function to the sales team, which makes the uppity behavior annoying.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear that Marketing is subservient to Sales by placing the CMO under the CSO.

Please do post your views on this blog…AND i would love to have comments from both SALES and MARKETING!!

5 MORE reasons to follow …so keep watching this space!!

Do you think that before taking a marketing assignment, the manager needs to spend time in sales?

Hi guys,

This poll is being posted for assessment of 2 topics that I have touched upon in my blogs recently- these topics are

  1. What Every Manager Should Learn From Sales
  2. Top 10 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Your inputs will help me develop a much more balanced view point on this subject and to then translate this balance into harmony between sales and marketing functions in silo organization structures.

AND please do post your comments on this as well as other blogs that I have written on this subject- some of these may have been controversial, but its always good to have diverse points of view.

Actually with the diversity of all your view points, I gain much much more and get to learn a new thing every day.

This is part of my promise to my self that I will learn something every new day!!

Hi readers,

When I started my career in 1992, I was introduced to the power of the sales pitch by my mentors who came from the old school. At that time, the sales pitch was king.

The sales pitch had to be perfected to a point that you knew that pitch by heart, and that was THE critical element of hooking the client.

Well, circa 2012, and Solutions marketing is fast gaining over traditional marketing and with that , sales strategy is evolving.

Today, successful sales reps know that, far from being a “sales pitch,” every customer meeting is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to engage with the customer with a long term perspective.

there are 3 simple rules that the sales rep of today can follow in order to evolve from a slick , fast talking, fast thinking sales pro, to a more strategic thinking, solutions oriented, business partner to his customer.

  • RULE #1: Always seek the truth.  You want to find out if you really have something that can help the customer.  To do this, the meeting must be a quest to discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Quick tip: your customer knows that you’re telling the truth when you’re not afraid to say something negative (but true) about your product or company.
  • RULE #2: Always keep an open mind. When you walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your product or service, the customer will sense you’re close-minded and become close-minded in return.  If, by contrast, you’re open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, the customer will sense that you’ve got his or her best interests at heart and will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
  • RULE #3: Always have a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a mere sales call.  This means that you should be listening to the customer at least half of the time that’s spent at the meeting.  Furthermore, the dialog should be substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or chit-chat about sports.

The 10 Immutable Rules of Sales Success today!

Hi readers,

This blog is the result of constant badgering by my sales team, when I was P&L head of a CPG startup business in Africa, from 2007 till 2011.

My senior sales managers would hound me to “extract” every bit of knowledge to comprehend the elements that ensure “sure shot” success…

I was exasperated to the point of repeating myself a thousand times that …guys there is no simple mantra for sales success…a fast paced , dynamic business eco-system means that us folks in the field have to evolve into super smart, super flexible , quick thinking and quicker acting professionals and to leverage our basic selling skills to close our deals successfully.

BUT…on closer introspection, it was apparent that there were some basic fundamental rules that governed sales success across business eco-systems, irrespective of how the economy was today and what it will evolve into, tomorrow.

Here is my take on what I believe are the 10 ( dare is say immutable ) rules for sales success!

  • RULE #1: Have a sales philosophy that emphasizes relationship building.

Relationship building skills, with customers, both internal ( your boss, his boss, the production head, the finance head, the CFO, the account head, the logistics head etc) and external, is MOST CRUCIAL to your sales success. Imbibe this skills, work on it life long, and leverage it strategically and you will succeed.

  • RULE #2: Value the relationship more than making your quota.

Work on your relationship management and development skills- relationships last you a life time, and they are PRECIOUS in sales- take it from me, I have 18 years selling experience in some very inhospitable business environments, and succeeding against all odds!

  • RULE #3: Consider yourself and your firm as the best at what you do.

Be proud of what you have achieved as a sales professional and you will have generated positive aura around yourself. MOST important, believe that the firm that has employed you IS THE BEST IN ITS CLASS AND CATEGORY…( even if the CNN, WSJ rankings tell you otherwise!!). You have to sincerely believe , that you are a game changer, a winner and best in class performer, and once you have taken this route, your firm will automatically be the best place there ever was! Winning can be positive and infectious ….

  • RULE #4: Achieve a perfect job of delivering what you promised.

Perfection comes from life learning, constant improvements and practical application in different challenges that you address as a sales rep every day. Practice makes perfect, and perfection ensures that your delivery is first class every time.

  • RULE #5: Provide absolutely impeccable service after the sale.

After sales service is the success mantra of every product or service based business, BUT many times, that level of service after sale, that the client expects , is wanting. Learn to pick the slack on behalf of your other team members, and go the extra mile to serve your client , even at your own cost- not only would you have created genuine opportunity for customer delight, BUT would have served your firm well!! The satisfaction that you would have achieved after this would be worth many awards!

  • RULE #6: Help the customer build the customer’s own business.

Go beyond selling a simple product or the service- consciously evolve into a solutions sales specialist, who is able to work in a matrix, complex organization, and develop the sensitivity and perspective to understand FIRST from the customers point of view, BEFORE getting headlong into a sales pitch- believe me , all traditional businesses in B2B and B2C can be valued added for your client as a “solution” and not simply as a product or a service- do this , and you will have a client and customer for life.

  • RULE #7: Think end-of-time friendships not end-of-month totals.

Go back to Rule # 2, Relationships, first, then evolved to a life long friendship, if you implement Rule # 6. When your clients ( both internal as well external) see how you are different from the rest of the sales team, are able to think out of box, are analytical , as opposed to simply quota driven and commission driven, YOU ensure your longevity in the firm! mark my words…

  • RULE #8: Define your niche and position yourself as the expert.

Regularly conduct critical self assessment, based on what your career plans are, and see that in the context of current business eco-systems, as also the predicted and likely business eco-systems of the future. Read deep and read well and talk to those who have been in your field of work long before you ever thought of working in sales, pick on their brains, learn from them, and re invent yourself with the changing times- you would not have to call your self an expert, your clients, and peers will!!

  • RULE #9: Translate what you offer into the customer’s business results.

Again, evolve into a solutions sales professional as opposed to a quota driven sales jock- understand the value that your product or service currently offers its clientele, assess that offer versus your competitors and replacements, analyse, yours firms comparative and competitive advantages, and use that insight to re-define the offer to your client, ensuring that you peg that offer directly to your clients business results ( increase in profit , by reducing up front cost, as also total cost of ownership over a life time!!)- get your number crunching skills upto speed and you would be well on your way to the sales hall of fame!

  • RULE #10: Remember that the road to success is paved with setbacks.

There is no sure shot to success that will not have a setback or two- setbacks are like wake up calls, and the mature sales rep will learn from that episode, imbibe into his system, and develop the capability to NEVER REPEAT THAT mistake twice. The less repetition you have in your career, the more likely you are to succeed as a sales star!!