Walk down the hallway one morning and ask five of your sales reps what your company’s brand stands for. Chances are you’ll get five different answers – and chances are none of them will be entirely correct. That’s because despite all the money and effort companies spend communicating their brands to potential buyers, little is done to build the brand internally. As a result, there’s often a disconnect between what a company promises to prospective customers and what the people at the point of sale are saying, says Robert Bradshaw, director of sales for Roslyn Heights, New York-based Vuepoint, a leading training solutions provider for the sales and marketing channel (www.vuepoint.com). That disconnect, in turn, loses sales and breeds disillusioned clients.
Here’s why. "We perceive promises through a company’s branding. When I see an ad, I gain an expectation and that expectation is emotionalized,” explains Bradshaw. “Armed with my feeling about that brand, I go to the point of sale looking for confirmation of that promise. But for many consumers who go to that point of sale, the promise is not fulfilled."
It’s no wonder considering a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers study, called "Brand: The New Challenge for HR," found that 60% of senior management said there is less focus on branding to employees than there is to clients. It’s a potentially catastrophic oversight, says Bradshaw, since sales reps and channel partners "are the brand ambassadors whose behavior, attitudes and knowledge primarily determine how customers perceive the validity of the brand and products. Or to put it another way," he adds, "any employee or channel partner whose behavior is inconsistent with brand promises may destroy years of work building brand and product loyalty."
So ask yourself this: Is your sales team communicating the same promises and confirming the emotional expectations prospects receive through your company’s external branding efforts? If not – if you’re getting a hodgepodge of answers when you ask five reps about your company’s brand – it’s time to incorporate your salespeople into your company branding efforts. Start by surveying your team to determine their knowledge gaps. From there you can deliver the product and brand knowledge they need to fulfill your brand promises.
That’s what companies such as Toyota are now doing. The company’s slogan is Today, Tomorrow, Toyota and its core brand promise is quality. Thus, says Bradshaw, salespeople are trained to emotionalize the feeling of superior quality that consumers get from the company’s ads. Like the company’s external branding, salespeople aim to communicate the idea that the Toyota you buy is good for today – and good for tomorrow.
Need help getting there? Vuepoint has a technology platform called the Vuepoint Learning System (VLS) with the ability to assess and evaluate knowledge, deliver targeted training in a just-in-time manner and enable two-way communication between marketing and sales departments.
So next time your company is planning a branding campaign, make sure it doesn’t forget its most important brand ambassadors – your sales team. After all, says Bradshaw, no matter how much money is spent building external brand and product awareness, in the end it is the salesperson’s knowledge at the point of purchase that wins or loses a sale.