Advertising is the must-have tool of consumer brands. For B2B brands, it is your sales force.
Sales people are the key to building your brand. They are your eyes and ears and your voice. They operate in the real world of the market every day and own the client relationship. They have an ear to the ground to hear what people say about you and your competition. Through their words and actions, your sales force conveys the meaning, feeling, and experience of your brand to clients and prospects. Sales plays the critical role in creating your successful B2B brand.
Unfortunately, sales and marketing too often live in different worlds. Marketing creates ads, drives pr, makes brochures, and foists “brand” on sales in the form of policies and procedures. Many sales people don’t really understand what branding means or how to use it. They aren’t part of the branding process and they don’t see the concrete benefits it provides.
Marketing and Sales Work Together for a Strong B2B Brand
To create a strong B2B brand, you need to break down the walls and work together. Here are some ideas how:
- Get the sales force formally involved in brand strategy. They are your ultimate market research resource for market trends, competitive activity, brand reputation, and more.
- Listen to them to hear how ideas are expressed in the real world. Reps can give you straight-from-the-street insight into the words clients use, the tone and manner of their expression, the metaphors employed. You’ll have an authentic voice that genuinely resonates with your public if you can speak the same language.
- Testimonials that your sales force provides animate dry feature and benefit lists and inject energy and personality into what your brand has to say.
- Your sales force can tell you what marketing tactics work and which don’t. Measurement is important, but sales gives you anecdotal insight behind the numbers.
- Marketing will work better, your sales force will sell more, and your brand will be more powerful if you institutionalize frequent and ongoing dialogue between marketing and sales.
Integrate the B2B Brand into the Sales Process
When brand is an add-on, sales people can resent and neglect it. They want to sell your product, not build your brand. Work closely with your sales teams to understand how they develop leads, go through the sales cycle and maintain relationships. Together you can find out where and how brand can be used to open doors, build relationships, and close sales. Make it intrinsic, not incidental.
Show How the B2B Brand Helps in Selling
Don’t assume that sales people will automatically understand how brand helps them achieve their objectives. Tell them clearly and frequently what brand can do and gather real world success stories. Some common sales benefits of brand include:
- Pre-educate prospects; creates positive initial impressions
- Open doors, gets calls returned
- Shorten sales cycle
- Help cross-sell and up-sell
- Facilitate selling higher to more powerful decision-makers
- Protect price premium, reduces sensitivity to price increases
- Reduce appeal of competitive offerings
- Provide foundation for ongoing relationships
B2B Brand Training Should Focus on Spirit, Not Rules and Regulations
Training that dictates what PowerPoint template to use, what colors and fonts are permitted, where to use taglines, and how to go through an approval process doesn’t teach people about brand. Regulations and “brand cops” can’t put brand in the hearts of your people. Effective training is as much inspiration as education. Tell the story of the brand, its history, values and emotions, so people feel it and are motivated to be part of it. Then empower them with the tools they need to make it happen. Training should be ongoing, with regular refreshers, supported by facilitated idea sharing, with recognition for exceptional programs.
More on B2B Business Brands:
Business Branding: Toward A More Effective B2B Brand Approach
B2B Business Branding: The Emotion Quotient
Business Brands vs. Consumer Brands: Differences and Implications
B2B Brand — The Importance of the Sales Force
B2B Brand Case: Rebranding Proxios