How Sales Teams Can Ruin Your Brand

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I have written previously on how sales people are undervalued.  High attrition rates are often the result of sales staff being seen as second class compared to the people that will deliver the product or service.  However I've noticed a concerning trend with sales people and their strategies.

Partly due to recent economic problems it would appear that many companies have emerged with more aggressive attitudes and strategies. It's only reasonable that if a market is tighter and customers more demanding that sellers become more aggressive in fighting for market share.

The stresses of having to meet targets means that the focus is on closing a deal rather than solving a problem or addressing a need.  Both have the same intended outcome, however one creates more focus on price, the other on relationships and value.

My recent experiences with sales people using aggressive approaches worries me because it will erode brand value for the companies they're working for.

Customers are still looking for real difference and value and not simply shopping on price.

Their perception of value in many cases has changed though, either from being personally affected by economic problems, or they've seen they can take advantage of businesses that are seen to be competing on price, not value.

Front line sales and support staff are your brand if it's your customers first or only contact with your business. 

You need to address sales strategy as part of your brand strategy.  When the two are separated, all your efforts to differentiate yourself will come to a halt. 

Disparity in this area is the greatest threat to positioning.

The problem is not usually what you sell, it's how you sell it.  So before you start engaging in a price war or using a more aggressive approach, take a step back and look at how the market perceives you. What can you do to increase your value and difference? 

 
Solutions:
 
  • Provide sales training or support. Regardless if you're selling B2B or B2C, treating sales as a numbers game or a means to an end risks higher attrition rates and diminished brand value.
  • Use your brand values for guidance on how to approach and talk with customers.  Sales conversations need to reflect how you do business, and the real value it offers in order to achieve desired positioning.  
  • Don't rely on the personalities of your sales staff.  Ensure your business as a whole offers compelling value.  Customer loyalty may be reliant on an individual, not your company.
  • Provide sales teams clarity on what makes your company different and how you expect them to promote that difference.  If you can't articulate your competitive difference, don't expect them to do it for you. 
  • Just because you're customer wants 'X' and you can provide 'X' means you've established a level playing field with your competitor.  What value are you offering besides the actual product?  Understand your market's key averages so you can promote meaningful difference and value to them.  If you do this, price will not be the biggest issue.

 

© Hamish Chadwick, Image Substation 2010

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