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.
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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 !!

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 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

Better Questions = Faster Selling

Hi readers,

This blog is a natural fit after my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-10-best-questions-to-warm-up-a-cold-prospect/

After you have suitably warmed a suspect to a prospect, what sort of smart questions do you need to ask such that your sales cycle is reduced and you are able to close a deal at the earliest, at the same time, creating client delight.

I figured that an appropriate example would be just the right thing to explain a suitable line of action that could get you your desired result.

Questions serve three functions in a sales conversation. First, they elicit more information about the prospect, thereby allowing you to learn more about how (and if) you can help. Second, they move the conversation forward, so that you can continue to ask more questions, and learn even more. Third, they help build rapport with the prospect so that you can more easily move the entire sale forward.

With that in mind, the absolute worst kind of questions to ask are those that have a one word , monosyllabic answer. Example:

Sales Rep: What CRM vendor are you currently using?

Prospect: Oracle.

While the above question does elicit information, it does not move the conversation forward. Making the question open-ended does both. Example:

Sales Rep: What was your decision-making process when you selected a CRM vendor?

Prospect: We put together a cross-functional team which looked at different vendors. We decided that Oracle would be the best choice for us.

Sales Rep: What were the most important criteria for the decision-making?

While the above question both elicits information and keeps the conversation moving forward, it would be even more effective if it also helped build rapport with the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say. Example:

Sales Rep: The economy is tough but I’ve read that your company plans to use sales technology to help weather the tough times. How did your team come up with that plan?

Prospect: Well, we’ve been through some similar situations in the past and, when we got early warning that sales might drop…

In the above question, the prospect has essentially been given the permission to brag about his firm and his participation in helping his firm be successful. Since people like talking about themselves and their achievements, the prospect will probably warm to the subject, and the entire conversation will be more productive. And that, in turn, will make the sales cycle faster.

Personally , an eclectic mix of open ended and close ended questions worked best for me during my roles as a solutions sales specialist.

Based on the vertical that you are engaged in and the product or service that you sell, ideally a set of 10 , a mix of open ended as well as close ended questions work best to help you close your sale with your client, and leaving the client feeling that in you he has a friend and consultant for life!!

Happy selling!!

Steps to qualify your sales leads

Hi readers,

The process of sales involves turning “suspects” ( maybe he could be my client), to prospects ( aha!….I think he would buy from me if I could convince him)…to eventually , clients (YES! he bought from me …wooohoooo!!!)

BUT…in order to actually maximize your productivity, the star sales man has to learn the art of pre-qualifying the list of “prospects” as actual, warm, or hot leads…and thats an eclectic mix of art and science.

I have elucidated some steps that I think assist the sales rep to pre-qualify a prospect and to close the sale…

STEP 1. Define your target industries. Based upon your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out which industries have both the greatest need for your offering as well as the money to purchase your offering. Limit your target to one or two industries at most. Now go through the generic list and scratch out everyone who isn’t in one of those target industries.

STEP 2. Define your target job titles. Within each industry there are “natural” buyers who either purchase offerings similar to yours or greatly influence such purchases. Based on your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out the two or three specific titles that this natural buyer usually has within your target industry. Now go through the edited list from Step 1 and scratch out every remaining prospect that doesn’t have one of those two or three job titles.

STEP 3: Craft a targeted message. Based upon what you know about that natural buyer in your target industries, create a compelling message. You want a message that identifies the problem that keeps the prospect awake at night and which your offering helps to solve. The most effective messages have a high emotional content. For example- if you are selling  a video software service to a client using SMS to broadcast his marketing message, instead of saying that you are the best thing that happened after you-tube you may want to consider…” Would you consider a video software, that could compress a personal video message of upto a minute to a size that could be sent across to all your friends and business associates as a film clip, either through the SMS service or as an email?”

STEP 4: Reality-check the list and the message. At random, call four or five of the prospects on your edited list. Do not attempt to make a sale at this time. Explain that you’re trying to understand how to sell into the prospect’s industry. Ask them to confirm that the targeted individuals inside the targeted industries are actually the people you should be calling and that the message will prove effective. If there’s a disconnect, re-examine your assumptions and return to Step 1.

STEP 5: Help Marketing create better lists in the future. Make your cold calls. If you find (as you probably will) that pre-qualifying your cold calls results in a higher number of average sales per call, save yourself some time and trouble in the future. Ask Marketing to purchase or generate prospect lists that fit the demographic of your proven target. Warning: when the marketing group sees what you’ve done, they’ll probably want you to come work for them!

Happy qualifying and closing!!!