How is branding important in consultative sales and how can you make the best use of your brand?
Entire books have been written about brand – what they mean and how you get one. Some people think that it’s as simple as a logo, while others talk about the entire experience people have when they interact with you in any way.
Branding can be looked at very simply for our task of consultative selling. You just need to ask how your customers and prospects feel about you?
If they like, admire and trust you, that’s great. That’s the place you want to be.
That’s what many modern internet influencers have built a business on. They know that if you listen to their podcasts or read their blogs and find that what they tell you or show you is good then, when they eventually ask you to support them by buying something, you’ll be much more likely to want to reach into your wallet.
It’s very clear when people do something because they want to help you and when they do something because they want to help themselves.
Take the Tim Ferriss podcast, for example. It’s one of the most widely listened to business podcasts in the world.
Tim started it as a distraction when his previous book, which he’d worked on really intensely, failed to take off. Burned out, he started a podcast, interviewing successful people and trying to find out the routines and habits that helped them get where they were.
Now, if Tim mentions a product on his podcast, it sells out within days. That’s because he offers a trusted shortcut. He’s done all the work needed to find information, test it and bring the best bits to you. Now all you have to do is take those results and use them.
The best blogs and podcasts and companies make you feel a certain way about them. These days it’s increasingly not about what they say, but about what they show you.
That’s an area where companies that keep a tight rein on marketing struggle. They can’t make themselves more human and, let’s face it, no one is really interested in what a company does. They’re interested in what it means for them. And they’re nosy – they want to see what other people are up to.
So, an easy way to develop a brand is to be radically honest. Show it like it is. Show your work, show what you do, give people a peek behind the scenes.
This is vital in consultative sales, which happen only when people trust you. The more you show of yourself, the more information they have to judge whether you’re consistent, authentic and trustworthy or an opportunistic con artist.
So, if brand is how you make people feel, the products you offer are what you help them do. The product is the hammer you’re selling.
Take a site like Monevator, for example. That started as a finance blog about getting rich slowly. The authors have put a lot of work into making it easy to understand the options open to you.
If you want to start a pension or choose a collection of cheap index trackers, the site tells you how you can do it quickly and easily. You can save thousands by making a few simple decisions, starting with actually opening an account.
Once you use and trust a site like that then there is a good chance you’ll buy products that they recommend. In my case, it’s often books. It takes me seconds to decide to get a book if it’s recommended on a site I trust. That’s the power of its brand.
The biggest mistake people make about branding is thinking that brand is about the physical things in front of you – the logo, the fonts, the packaging. And it is that – but it’s more. It’s about what sort of feelings you evoke in the people you work with.
In consultative selling, this comes across in the way you act with a prospect. The biggest problem with selling something intangible is that people can’t judge whether you’re any good or not. You might just be good at talking. You might be showing work that someone else has done – but they’re not sure whether you can actually do it yourself.
If you insist on someone signing a contract before you’ll show them anything at all, you’ll find the task of selling to them much harder. The secret is having lots to talk about. Lots to show and tell about what you’ve done.
Here’s the thing. Advice is cheap to give. Ideas aren’t worth much. In a consultative sale, the money comes in because you are hired to execute – to deliver on a promise. To get hired, you have to show that you know your stuff, and that comes from good old show and tell.
The way in which you do your show and tell – in front of a customer and in the various media open to you – will set up and reinforce the brand you’re trying to create. Ideally, you want people to know you before you talk to them. If that isn’t possible, you want them to feel good about you quickly. The worst thing is to have people feel apathetic.
The approach to take in modern consultative sales is probably this. My advice is free or low cost. I give it away on my blog and in my books. My time is what you pay for – and paying for my time is well worth it because of the results I’ll deliver for you.
In other words, spend all your time creating your brand. The products you sell can come later in the process, when your prospects are comfortable with you – even if you’ve never met them in person.
As a reminder, this is the third post in a series that I’m planning on eventually collecting into a book. If you are reading this and are interested in this topic, please let me have any feedback, good or bad, so I can make this as useful and easy to read for you as possible.