Reasons To Believe: A Key Part of Your Brand Promise

RTB

Buyers make purchasing decisions based on a number of factors.  Sellers must understand these factors in order to create reasons-to-believe (RTB) in their brand.  RTB statements are short, concise, to-the-point statements that serve as a sound bite to the buyer.  Trident gum’s “4 out of 5 dentists” is a simple example of an effective RTB. The use of reasons-to-believe can apply to any person, product, service, or business.  Whether your are building your personal brand or your company’s, it’s your job to develop an RTB that resonates with your buyer.

How do you know what’s important to your buyer?  Do you understand the process your buyer goes through on their journey to the cash register? By mapping your buyer’s journey, you will uncover these critical insights, that are necessary in creating your brand messaging which should include some RTBs. Current pain level, budget, ability to solve the problem,  reputation of the seller, and the buyers emotional state are all key inputs into the buying decision.

The most effective RTBs are those created to align with a specific point on the buyers journey.  As the buyer travels thought the 4 emotional phases of buying including, awareness, familiarity, confidence, and conviction, she will require different messaging to continue her buying journey.  RTBs are most impactful when used in the confidence phase of buying.  During the first two emotional phases, Marketing is working to establish conscious and subconscious brand recognition.  Once awareness and familiarity are developed, a strategically positioned RTB can help establish confidence.  Some examples of RTBs include:

  1. Ford F 150 – highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gasoline powered pick-up on the market
  2. Chevy Colorado – MotorTrend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
  3. QuickBooks – 4 million business run on QuickBooks
  4. Perdue – No-Antibiotics-Ever, and an all-vegetarian diet
  5. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital– families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food

While some of these RTBs sound like nothing more than a simple statement, they in fact have been strategically developed to connect to a buying emotion.  All were created to instill confidence and provide an emotional satisfier…a feel-good reaction.  These companies are just a handful that have taken the time to study and understand what’s important to their buyer’s.  They understand that we live in an information society where cutting through the noise is paramount to capturing the buyers attention.  These direct, relevant soundbites provide buyers with an added reason-to-believe in a brand.  Do you know what your brand’s RTBs are?

 

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10 Phrases to Eliminate from Business Conversations

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As a curious, and active, participant and observer in business, I have developed a list of 10 phrases we should all strike from our business conversations. They add no value, and in many cases subtract from it.  While some of these may seem far fetched, I’d challenge you to zone into your conversations and listen for them.  They are in fact present in many business conversations each and every day.  Here they are, and what the person you’re talking to actually is hearing:

  1. Trust me – If I have to say these words, apparently I haven’t earned it.
  2. Believe me – Whatever I’ve told you must seem a bit far fetched so I’m left with this long shot request.
  3. To be honest – Up to this point I’ve been lying. But this next statement…is the complete and utter truth.
  4. I’ll tell you what – I’m annoyed with you.  You’re not trusting or believing me, so now I’ve just got to tell you how it is.
  5. Look – The ultimate smack-down.  Let me help translate this so a 5 year old can understand.
  6. It is what it is – I can’t tell if you believe me, or anything I’ve said.  I’m close to surrendering.
  7. Dude – I’m failing fast and scrambling to connect any way I can.  By the way, this is only used between guys…at least in my experience.
  8. I can’t say – Why not?  Well, this information is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know…so I can’t say.
  9. We’ll figure it out – I’m not exactly sure what your concern is and why you’re worried about it.  I’m not about to try to understand it right now but “trust me” we’ll figure it out later.
  10. There’s no way – This one I find intellectually thought provoking as I have heard this used so many times in business. To be so “negatively definitive” about anything I find quite interesting. Imagine if any of the following people heard “there’s no way”…in fact you already know how they’d respond: Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Jack Welch, John Chambers, Marc Benioff, Ronald Reagan, John Adams, George Washington,  JP Morgan, Thomas Edison…shall I keep going?  There’s always a way.  The question is NOT if there is a way, but instead, am I willing to do what’s necessary to find a way?

What are your favorites?  And what phrases get under your skin that I didn’t capture?  Looking forward to hearing!

4 Tips When Selecting Sales Training for Your Team

Ponder

Sales training is one of the most important resources you can provide your team. With companies spending an average of $1,500 dollars per person each year on sales training, it’s no wonder sales managers continue to look for ways to justify the spend. Even more challenging, how do you measure the effectiveness of the training itself? How can you prove what, if any, lift was created by this training.

It is reported that less than 30% of the training sales people receive, is incorporated into their selling efforts. While sales leaders look for candidates who possess the ability to adapt and flex with changing circumstances, when it comes to how they sell, sales people tend to be quite resistant to change. Many believe, and operate, with the “what got me here…” mentality. If you’re the Sales leader, how do you decide what content you want your team to learn? What’s the best approach that aligns with your buyer’s journey? How will you distribute the training content? Online, classroom, a combination of both? Who will produce and deliver the sales training content to your team? These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask as you evaluate your options. Here are 4 tips to consider before selecting your training program:

  1. Your personal selling philosophy? What’s your background? How do you approach a sale? Are you a relationship builder? A challenger? Are you a scrappy, street brawler? Your own philosophy on selling, mixed with your ability to evolve and change, should be considerations as you select training for your team. After all, you’ll be accountable for your team’s results which will produce the ROI results you’ll be sharing with your CEO. A note of caution: it’s both challenging and frustrating to deploy a sales methodology  that is in direct conflict with your abilities to teach it and support it. This misalignment will create frustration for your team and for you. Take the time to do some deep thinking relative your personal selling beliefs.
  2. Sales CRM. Are there tools and a process in place to reinforce the sales methodology you plan to deploy? Do you have a sales CRM? If so, is it capable of being customized enough to track and report on the key metrics required to execute your selected sales approach? What templates or frameworks have been created for your sales manager’s to assist them in reinforcing this training? Training can only be effective if it’s able to be reinforced, and results measured.
  3. Buyer’s Journey. Have you mapped out your buyer’s journey? Do you know the steps your buyer goes through on their purchasing journey? How do they educate themselves? Where do they do their research? Who are their trusted advisors? Is the sales training you’re considering aligned to this journey? I have been exposed to dozens of different sales training philosophies throughout my career. Some I have liked, others not so much. As I’ve grown and evolved as a sales leader I have learned how to customize sales training, taking some aspects of one method, and blending it with others in order to arrive at a solution that will work with my specific buyer. Note of caution: I do not believe there is a silver bullet for sales training. One method may work with a specific buying journey while others will not. I realize this statement may create some controversy but none the less I have found this to be true throughout my career. Whatever sales methodology you decide upon as the Sales leader be sure to consider your buyer FIRST and then your team’s capabilities second.
  4. Current Sales team composition. Are you building a sales team from the ground up? Are you focused on improving the production results of an existing team? Do your sales people sell face-to-face or via an Inside model? Are you in the B2B space? B2C? B2B2C space? Is your solution sold directly to the end user or is it through a channel, an influencer, or trusted advisor? Are your existed sales people and managers continuous learners? Are they consistently reading, sharing new ideas with the team? What traits do they possess that suggest they can absorb, assimilate and practice new ideas? Do you have access to profile tools and assessments like the Caliper, DiSCForte, Kolbe, or Myers Briggs?  Once you understand how your buyer buys, understanding your team’s abilities to execute on a specific sales methodology is critical.

One last consideration, that I’ll explore in a future blog post surrounds Sales Enablement. Your sales enablement capabilities, or lack there of, should also play into your selection process. There’s a lot to think about and consider. With both time, and money at stake, sale training is one of the most important decisions a Sales leader will make for the company.

 

Becoming a Brand Master: Lessons Learned From Taylor Swift & Jony Ive

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift gets branding. In fact, I’d put her up against most of today’s “branding experts” as being a true master brand manager.  Swift is an artist but also a great businesswoman.  She has a clear vision of what the Taylor Swift brand delivers.

Jonathan (Jony) Ive, the world renowned industrial designer at Apple who is largely credited with the iPod’s sleek design and UI is also a master brander.  He has a deep understanding of what buyers need, and want, and focuses his efforts, and those of his team, to deliver products that meet those needs.

JonyIve

While Swift and Ive may have taken different paths to be becoming brand experts, both share some common characteristics that all marketers can learn from if they desire to become master branders.

  1.  Establish clear goals for your brand.  Is your goal to appeal to the mass market or to a niche? No brand can be everything to every one.  Taylor Swift may be a great musician and artist but there’s still those who prefer heavy metal to her country-pop. Ive’s iPhone may have an awesome design but there are millions of buyers who prefer the Android operating system over iOS. Pick your lane and nail it.
  2. Focused intensity.  Once you’ve identified your goals and they are in clear sight, go after them with focused intensity.  Having focus is wonderful, but having intensity with focus will drive you to reach your goal quicker.
  3. Always be kind, even when acting otherwise would be completely acceptable.  Every brand is susceptible to negative comments.  Can anyone say Kanye? Buyers are always watching your behavior. Be honest, be transparent, and take the high road. It doesn’t mean rolling over or not defending untruths, but do it with a smile.
  4. Be a perfectionist.  Branding is an art, and we all know art is not perfect, otherwise it wouldn’t be art. But being a perfectionist relative to executing your branding strategy is something that sets brand masters apart from those that tinker in branding.
  5. Stay above the fray, operate with a touch of paranoia.  Looking over your shoulder isn’t always a bad thing.  Two things I learned growing up that that help with this concept are; nothing good happens after dark, and what would your grandparents think?  Your brand is your own and you can do with it as you please.  Just make sure you’ve thought through the implications of acting or speaking a certain way and then accept the outcomes. If someone in your company does something that has a negative impact on the brand it’s up to you, the brand master, to take action and deliver consequences.

These may appear to be small things.  Maybe even trivial things.  And while much of what we experience in life would suggest we NOT sweat the small stuff, when it comes to our brand, nothing is too small an item to not sweat.

 

3 Ways To Be Remarkable And Win In Sales

Remarkable

So you want to make the sale.  You want the plaque, the commission check, the trip, the recognition…you want it all.  Great sales people know that winning a sale doesn’t happen by shear force of will.  Sure you need to be persistent, tenacious, focused and disciplined.  No doubt.  But there are 3 things that will make your sales presentations stand out and create a remarkable experience for your buyer.  These things that make you remarkable are the exact things that put you in a position to win. While you may think these are basic, I can assure you that I continue to be amazed at just how often these 3 things get overlooked, drowning out any chance of the sales person appearing remarkable.

  1. Be early.  Urban sprawl has created a great excuse for showing up late to a sales appointment.  I’ve worked in every major city in the United States over the past 20 years.  Whether its Atlanta, Philly, NYC, Boston, LA, Seattle, Phoenix or Dallas, traffic is the perfect excuse for being late.  But it shouldn’t be.  Plan your day to anticipate traffic. If you’re on time, you’re late.  I’ve been on ride-alongs with sales people where we’ve been late to an appointment because of traffic and it throws off the entire cadence of the call right out of the gate.  Get there early and it will give you time to focus on the buyer rather than focusing on finding a parking space because you’re already 20 minutes late.
  2. Be prepared.  This is a big one.  This speaks to everything from knowing some details about who you are meeting with all the way to having any materials you will be handing out ready, organized and crisp.  Do you know if you’re connected to the buyer?  Did you check them out on LinkedIn?  If what you’re selling requires an online demo?  Have you tested it? Will it work over cellular or will you need a WiFi connection?  If the latter does the buyer know you’ll need this when you arrive or is the plan to surprise them when you ask for the office password to log in?  Do you have an agenda for what you plan to cover?  Have you shared it with the buyer in advance? The better prepared you are, the smoother the conversation will go. And, in the event you are late due to some cataclysmic event, you’ll be better able to flex and adjust seamlessly with the buyer.
  3. Use the buyers name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on sales calls where the sales person never uses the buyers name after shaking their hand.  It could be a 30 minute call or 3 hour call.  How can something so basic continue to be such a common miss amongst sales people?  Isn’t that one of the first things we’re all taught?  Smile, have a firm handshake and use the buyers name.  Here’s a quick test. Next time you’re with your family or friends pay attention to the conversation.  Listen for how often names are used.  It’s actually quite often.  Using someones name throughout a conversation builds a bond. It’s a sign of respect as much as it is a sign of caring.

Focus on doing these 3 things on every sales appointment and observe the change in your buyers behavior.

Why Hiring Up Pays Off

SteveJobs

Building a high performing team is the #1 responsibility of all leaders.  It requires vision, skill, intuition, conviction and a clear understanding of the company’s objective and purpose.  It also requires courage.

Early in my career I received some hiring advice that was worth its weight in gold from my boss.  She said “hire people you wouldn’t mind working for in the future.” I have lived by this advice throughout my career and it has served me well.  Here are the two major take-aways from living this hiring philosophy:

  1. Your focus should be the candidates capacity, and desire, to learn new things and not based solely on what they know today.  To a large extent your focus should be on their attitude not their aptitude.  With the right abilities, the proper does of desire, and some passion, any one can accomplish anything.
  2. The circle of life is more than just a famous line from the movie Lion King.  Work in a management or leadership role long enough and you’ll experience people coming and going, and moving up and down.  I see it as a blessing that I have been able to provide leadership to many who have risen in the ranks, some even faster than I.  Being able to develop a new generation of leaders is something I’m most proud of.

By hiring up, you demonstrate confidence as a leader.  We’ve all seen leaders (I use this term loosely) who hire a warm body.  A robot.  Someone willing, and able, to take orders but not capable of having an individual point of view.  And then there are those leaders who everyone else wants to work for.  These are the people who hire up.  They look for those that are smarter than they are, have more ideas than they do, and who see the world through a different lense.

Assembling a team of talent that surpasses your own, demonstrates your leadership strength. I’d much prefer to be surrounded by people smarter than me than to be the only one with any answers.  There’s great truth to the saying, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” Build a team that can teach you as much as you teach them.  A team that can generate ideas faster than you can on your own.  A team that is willing to take on any issue, problem, or challenge because they know they have a better chance of winning by leveraging their collective brilliance versus trying to win with a single idea from just one person.  Hire really smart people and then get out of their way. I think Steve Jobs was onto something here.

Hire up.

 

 

Winning the Sale Requires Marketing

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To win a sale requires a number of factors all aligning properly at the right moment.  The buyer’s need, a good story, the right product, and of course, an easy fulfillment (sales) process.

I’ve led marketing and sales teams for more than 20 years.  Neither could win without the other, yet each feel confident they reign supreme when it comes to closing the business.  However, there is an increasing body of work that suggests the role of the sales person, relative to closing the business, is decreasing.  Buyers are self-educating themselves all the way through fulfilling their own purchase.  Think Amazon.  You sign in, check out the product your interested in, perhaps read some reviews, and into your cart it goes straight through to check out.  If you’re Amazon Prime, 3 days later it’s in your hands and ready for use.  As the buyers journey continues to change, it’s up to the sales leader to adjust and learn new strategies that will increase their effectiveness; adding the right ingredients, at the right time, to achieve the desired outcome – a sale.

Nothing gets sold without a product, price, place or promotion.  I’ll add process in there as well as the 5th “P” of Marketing.  Combining these 5 P’s into a single offer that results in a sale is where the true beauty, art, and science all come together with marketing and sales.

Marketing is the lead function in any organization that is charged with providing an end-to-end view of the buying process.  Beginning with product development and ending with the sale, Marketing’s role is one focused entirely on creating a remarkable experience for the buyer on his journey to the cash register.  Much like a cardiologist confers with an anesthesiologist prior to surgery, a sales person should consult with Marketing.  No matter how great a heart surgeon is, she would never go into the operating room without the help of a strong and competent anesthesiologist.  If she did it would be disastrous.  If a sales person meets with a prospect without understanding the marketing behind the product the outcome can be quite disappointing.  And while I’m certain egos exist in the OR, I’m equally aware of the egos that exist within Marketing and Sales.

So here’s my challenge to Sales leaders interested in improving their team’s results…

Partner with Marketing to truly understand the offer.  I’m sure some heads are shaking right now and perhaps worse tempers are flaring.  Sales leaders by nature are confident with Texas-sized egos.  But the great sales leaders know it’s all about being a continuous learner.  Without learning you can’t be strategic, and without strong strategy skills

you’ll never improve your results.  You’ll simply go about doing things as you’ve always done, getting what you’ve always got.

Instead, I’d suggest sales leaders meet with their marketing peers.  Ask them questions surrounding the 5 P’s.

  1. What are the 3 most important features of this product and why?
  2. How did we arrive at those features?
  3. Tell me what went into our pricing for this product?
  4. What’s the impact to our brand if we discount the product?
  5. Are there any unintended needs that our product addresses? (think Post-It notes)
  6. Where in the process would my help and involvement, from a sales standpoint, yield the greatest end result?
  7. Where in the buying process do you feel there is room for improvement and can I help?

Questions like these will accomplish several things including: establishing trust between these two functions, educating each other by expanding insights and perspectives, fostering collaboration, and most importantly, if done right, this interaction will keep the conversation, efforts, and resources focused on the customer.

So to all the sales leaders out there, open your minds, focus on the customer, and be excited about the possibility of learning something new and connect with Marketing today.