How Sales and Branding Complement Each Other


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Solving for B°
How Sales and Branding Complement Each Other

Episode Outline


**This transcript has been edited for readability

Chris Wilks: Hi, and welcome into Solving for B, I'm your host, Chris Wilks. And I'm really excited about today's episode, because today we're covering a topic that I don't think gets enough discussion. We're talking about the impact that brands and sales have on one another. To help me break that down, I'm excited to be joined by author speaker and founder of ExtraBold Sales, Catherine Brown.

Catherine Brown: Thank you so much. I'm really excited about this opportunity.

Chris: Great to have you. And we're also joined by chairman of BrandExtract, Jonathan Fisher.

Jonathan Fisher: Hey Chris. Always a pleasure. Thanks for having me back.

Chris: Thanks for joining us today, guys. So I want to start by introducing Catherine. Tell our audience a little bit more about you, and your background, and maybe how you got to where you are today.

Catherine: Thank you. I think that for the broad audience, the most salient points about my background are that as a career recruiter turned sales professional, I've had the opportunity to sell into almost every conceivable industry.

And I know that sounds crazy, but for over 15 years prior to starting my current sales training firm, I actually had a lead generation prospecting company.

So people would hire my sales contractors, to sound like them, look like them, and have their email addresses, but they were contractors, and they would prospect for other companies. And we served a couple hundred companies over 15 years.

And the things that I learned from that are what informed my conviction and desire to start a sales training firm. Because a lot of people who have been in sales a while might think, "Why do you need another sales training firm?" But there were some patterns that transcended all industries that I started to see that I felt like I was uniquely equipped to address.

And so I love selling, I think it's an honorable and important profession and I like helping people in as many industries as possible to be more successful with it.

Chris: Awesome. Well, we're excited to have you join us today. So let's dive into the meat of the topic.

Good Humans Sell

Chris: The first thing I want to start with is that there's often a negative stigma with sales, right? You mentioned in your book that people think of sales as a little icky. Why is that misguided? Why is that not the case?

Catherine: That is a great question. And I think that I have to say, unfortunately it's not always misguided. It's actually an earned accusation still.

You don't have to spend very much time on LinkedIn to see people complain about the solicitations they are getting in their email, right? Cold solicitations, that don't feel valuable, that don't feel personalized.

Most people that you interview will say, "Well, I fell into sales." Because unfortunately, in some cases it deserves to be criticized. But there's so many things that are beautiful, wonderful, and purposeful about it. And those are the parts I like to explore so that people have some tools to reframe how they think about selling since it's essential to business.

Chris: Yeah. I love that approach because like you said, it's sometimes an earned and sometimes not earned, but the way that you discuss sales and the way that you position sales is like we are helping folks right?

As your book says, "Good Humans Sell," Right? And those are effective. Those are, in my opinion, the most effective salesmen. So I love that approach to it. 

I do want to ask a little bit about the relationship between a brand and their sales strategy. How do those two things align, or do they align?

Catherine: I love that topic. So there are so many things we can say about this. I'll start us out by saying, when a business is not well known by their corporate brand because they're a startup or in a very early stage, then you're probably getting those sales calls booked because of your own personal professional brand.

It's your own credibility as a person and how you present, because you don't have a lot of history. But then things start to change as companies get bigger.

Jonathan: Yeah. I think it depends upon the awareness, and the brand equity that's in the marketplace.

I work a lot with professional service firms. And one of the things I love to ask the sales people when we're talking with them about their brand, is, "Were you excited to join this organization?" And they'll always say, "Yes, I was."

And that tells you how much equity there is in the marketplace for that brand. Because I think it's a symbiotic relationship between corporations brand and the individual's personal brand. And I think both can lift each other in that process.

I'll use a sport's analogy. You see a sports team go out and get a celebrity player for their team. And suddenly everybody thinks the team's going to be better. Or you see a young player joining an organization that has a great reputation and you think, "Oh man, that player's cache just went up, personally for them."

So I do think there's this very symbiotic relationship that you have to manage on both sides of the equation that Catherine and has brought up here in that process.

Chris: Yeah. And that symbiotic relationship, I would assume it cuts both ways, right?

Like if you are a bad actor or one of those "icky salesman," and you're representing a brand that is revered and thought of well, that's going to start to chip away a little bit at the brand. Would you guys say that's also true?

Catherine: I think when we were preparing to do this podcast, Jonathan brought up the example with Enron. Talk about going both ways, right? There were a few bad actors, and some will struggle to get work for the rest of their life. And then the name Enron is synonymous now with tragedy.

And I'm also thinking too, about what it's like when someone who is that sales professional, sometimes the company benefits because that person brings the clients with them. Or the very fact that they align themselves with the brand.

If it's a brand, a corporate brand that the salesperson's former customers haven't heard of, they will then think, "Wow, this must be good." They wouldn't have gone to work for them. And they wouldn't be selling for them if it weren't good because they have so much trust built up.

The Promise of a Brand

Jonathan: I think what builds brands on a personal level, and to an extent on a corporate level, is that the impressions are formed over and over again through the experiences.

And when the experiences are all positive then that person's going to take away and associate that reputation accordingly. And what erodes a brand is the inconsistency of that process, right?

Because that's what a brand is at the end of the day: it's a promise. And as to the degree you fulfill those promises as a corporation with your product, with your quality, with your service, whatever it might be, your reputation goes up, and your reputation goes down when you don't.

And that's the importance of brand organization, is to align those expectations with the sales people's results and vice versa. I think the sales people have to be very careful when taking on these new roles, because you might be promising one thing and find out the company can't deliver it.

And nobody wants to be over promised and undersold. It's always an under-promise and over-deliver.

Catherine: Yes. Exactly.

Jonathan: I just had an experience yesterday with a company here in town and I made a sizable purchase in the about $7,000 worth of goods and they promised me something.

And in return, I got a call from corporate office two days later saying, "Oh, sorry, they misspoke. We're not going to be able to deliver on that. And by the way, we're going to take 40% off the promise that we initially offered you."

And they were not other than just mildly apologetic to say, "Oh, sorry, they just told you the wrong thing." And I'm like, "That doesn't work for me. You have my money at this point. We're going to have to come up with something better."

They were not empathetic at all. Eventually she conceded and said, "Well, I think we can do a little better than this." And then she came up and kind of met me in the middle where they needed to be, but I was surprised at how hard I had to work.

So in my mind, that's not an inconsequential activity now. And I'm pretty disappointed with this brand. The old school analogy is that when you have a great experience at a restaurant, you might tell three or four people. When you have a bad experience, you might tell 10 people.

Catherine: That's right.

Jonathan: Now, in today's world of social media, you can multiply that with many zeros on the end of it. Because a tweet can go viral, but it's surprising to me how many companies are not sensitive to those experiences and how easily they are shared positively or negatively in today's environments.

By today's standards, you would think every action would be closely monitored and managed. Because you manage a brand. That's what we tell clients these days, you don't control a brand because you can't control what other people do and say.

So you manage your brand and those conversations will happen with or without you. So you might as well be in the game and pay attention to those processes and procedures and rules of engagement. 

Building a Personal Brand

Catherine: One of the things that I'm becoming increasingly passionate about is for every salesperson that I get to work with to recognize the power for good that they have with their individual professional brand.

And I am pretty surprised actually, what a small percent of salespeople take advantage of what they could be doing. I'm mostly talking about LinkedIn here. And you all can tell me if this is true, but I read recently up said that 90% of all the people on LinkedIn, like all the people who have a profile, 90% don't do anything at all.

Chris: That's probably true.

Catherine: 10% are engaged by likes and comments. And 1% post.

And so if you are a 1% poster as a sales professional, whether it's your own company or you're an employee, to me, there's a huge opportunity to stand out among peers and competitors, by having even an occasional thoughtful post about thought leadership in your domain.

And I find it shocking how little people do. Often what I'll see within that 1% is the salesperson sharing the company posts that was shared, which is often product marketing driven. And it's not even veering into their personal opinion or something that ties to innovation or industry news.

In my opinion, it's not that hard to add value and grow your professional brand for the benefit of all the companies who follow you. And yet it's still happening so little, even 20 years into this.

Jonathan: So here's a tip people, follow Catherine and do what she does. She's a rockstar. Catherine, one of the things I love that you do in your post, is you actually tag other people when you make your post. Your stuff will constantly pop up in my inbox.

Catherine: So there, I'm doing my best to be thoughtful and tag you when based on something to know about you. I think that you'll have an additional point of view to add.

So it's important to say for our listeners, we're not randomly tagging people. Yesterday, my post this morning tagged the three people that I was in a discussion with yesterday in a public forum that I knew that they enjoyed it and that they wanted to continue the conversation.

And I wanted to highlight them to my followers. And so I specifically referenced yesterday's conversation. So it's not just random or going through the alphabet. But I am a pretty assertive tagger.

Jonathan: Well, and good sales people always pay it forward, right? They always give before they get, that's a philosophy that was taught early in life.

And so when you are giving of others and raising awareness of others in the marketplace, they will reciprocate. And so that, it's kind of the virtual world of referring these days, that's out there.

And also, brands are built by association, not just from within the organization, but how they choose to behave as good corporate citizens in the marketplace. Personal brands are built through association. Just the way professional brands are built through association.

And both brands are built through referrals because referrals are almost always the number one best practice, lowest cost of customer acquisition and entry for organization or for a salesperson personally, right?

To go out and get a referral from somebody, be it a client or another professional representative in the industry. Those are always going to be much warmer and easier and better than the cold leads that are brought in through the traditional marketing channels that are out there. So win-win when you follow Catherine's strategies in her life.

Catherine: One more thing that I teach people in my classes, is that I like to ask the question, "What do you sell?" And then people say, "Oh, we sell these services, these services, we do graphic design, we're a management consulting firm. We do blah, blah, blah."

Great. And then they say, "Okay, what do you really sell?" And that leads into the conversation of addressing prospects, concerns, their motives and values, their status, their personal and professional goals. All those other reasons people buy.

Well, people will buy based on their values. You have the opportunity as a sales professional to say, "How do I believe I'm perceived? And how do I want to be perceived?" So we have exercises that we do where we say "I actually want to be recognized as a person who is known as X."

So part of my tactic, Jonathan, is that I truly enjoy highlighting the successes of people who are in my orbit. I want people who follow me to follow my friends, who I think can add value to their life. I do that very easily, very naturally. It's not manufactured.

And so that value desire that I want to have for my brand is this reciprocity thing happening. Because if I act generously, it does tend to come back that way in the form of referrals, in the form of how my circle enlarges, and opportunities are created.

But I'm also saying it's on purpose because I looked at what's easy for me, what I'm good at, and I say, "This is actually the way I want to be known while selling."

And other people don't have to be that, by the way, you can be amazing in sales. And you can say, "I want to be known as the consultant. I want to be known as the listener. I want to be known as the expert." And you would choose be behaviors that go with that in a deliberate way to purposely cultivate your brand.

Chris: Yeah. And I was going to say that. That is you defining your brand, right? That is you taking control up to the extent that you can.

Jonathan mentioned that at the end of the day, your brand lives in the mind of your audience and the customer. And that feeling they get when they work with you, but you can work toward being a certain type of brand and projecting that. And I think that's a really good point.

Jonathan: Well, you're managing your brand. You're doing what we were talking about at the beginning of this call. Corporations have mission, vision and values. People have the same when they are proactive, like you're describing and building a personal brand.

Whenever I talk to somebody about building their personal brand, I treat the same frameworks that I do for corporations. And like you, we've worked with over 250 brands in the marketplace across every industry.

And we use the term brand attributes. What are those attributes you associate that we want to associate with the product to service of the company? Those are intentional. And they're part of the marketing strategies that are put out there.

And so those behaviors, those interactions, those messaging pieces, whatever those assets are that are building the brand up, are framed and managed and consistent in that process. And for individuals to be successful in sales, they have to be thinking about it as managing their personal brand and aligning those and behaviors with what the market drivers are.

Catherine: Right.

How do Brands Motivate Sales?

Jonathan: We always talk about how customers purchase and motivate for only two reasons: They need it, or they want it. It's left brain, right brain. It is never any more complex than that. And I will go to the mat on that with anybody who wants to challenge me on it, but you can break down every business decision based on, "Is it something I need, or is it something I have to have that I want?"

So you have to know how your product or service accordingly addresses their concerns, because some are desires, and some are less. I like to say, what keeps you up at night? That's a simple way of envisioning that need or want.

I think from a salesperson, if you can figure out what's keeping them up at night, and you can speak to how you are going to help them achieve that and be part of that, then you're going to be valuable to them and you are not going to be selling them anything. Because they have already made the decision to buy.

Catherine: I always say you can approach from the negative and the positive. There's a lot of psychology and research that says that really about 50% of the population is promotion oriented. And about 50% is more prevention oriented and people will choose vocations based on this.

So you want your bridge engineers, your attorneys and your CPAs to be more prevention oriented, because they're going to say, "We are going to keep harm from happening." And that's awesome.

Jonathan: Risk management. Yeah. Don't want the bridge to fall or break.

Catherine: Yeah. That's awesome. You want those people doing that. Right? But some people are more promotion-motivated. So I think equally, a person can begin to want what you're selling because you have painted such a beautiful picture of what's possible.

So they didn't actually have an acute need, but over time of following you they say, "This person really loves selling. I have never met someone that loves selling so much. They actually believe you could enjoy this."

And it starts to cultivate a desire that perhaps wasn't there before. And that's just part of our marketing and education. So it can be pain remediation, and it can also be vision or hope for the better future. 

You want someone to say, "I'm getting all the way to the very top of what I want. And you seem like a guide who can get me there."

Jonathan: Exactly. "I'm going to play a critical role in making those dreams happen for you or letting you sleep better at night." I totally agree. And I think that's good for listeners to kind of have all this context in their heads of this process.

The other thing I think is important, you touched on this kind of early on, is that I think that you personally have to be inspired and believed in what you are truly delivering the market. So can you touch base on where companies maybe miss with that?

You're Not Selling What You Think You're Selling

Catherine: I love this topic. Because what I find so fascinating is that what might be boring to me, just outright boring to someone else, it just makes their heart sing.

And I think for example, Jonathan and I have a mutual friend who is all about financial reporting. This would be the worst job ever for me; the level of detail that's required and the level of attentiveness to detail to the database, I would lose my mind.

But to hear him talk about his work, it makes his heart sing because he derives ridiculous joy in helping people make their current accounting systems actually spit out the data that they really want to make good business decisions.

And in my book, in How Good Humans Sell, I talk about one of my favorite clients that illustrates this point. He was a hot tub manufacturer and I'm kind of a germaphobe. And so I'm not a real fan of hot tubs, especially in public places, because you just can't put enough chlorine in them as far as I'm concerned.

So they're not my favorite thing. But every time I spend time with this guy, I want a hot tub, because he knows he doesn't sell huge buckets of warm water. He sells a way for people to be together there and have an experience.

And so watching him in action literally on his manufacturing shop floor was the most awesome experience for me to see this example played out, because his love for it was infectious. And so I think it's interesting because almost anything can be something a person could be passionate about if they understand the real value that it brings and it's their thing.

Jonathan: Yeah. I like to tell people you're never selling what you think you're selling.

Catherine: So true.

Jonathan Fisher: And when you sell, we use a model called a brand pyramid and it's a simple model. You can think of the cheap real estate at the bottom of the mountain. There's lots of it. It's plentiful. There's no view.

On the bottom of brand pyramid tends to be what we call the features and the functions and the core competencies of the company. It's frankly, the easiest place for most people to start their sales conversations. Unfortunately, it's the least valuable real estate they have to work with.

So you have to get above the tree line, right? And so as you go up the mountain, you become more strategic. If it's something that they need or want that keeps them awake, it's the moon and the stars, right? 

Therefore, if you start your conversation at the summit and build backwards and support it with all these things that are lower, more tactical on the mountain, then you've made your argument.

If you try to tell your story from the bottom of the mountain up, this is an exhausting hike up that mountain to get to the strategic value propositions that you need to make in the marketplace, to answer their questions, to get them inspired and happy and motivated.

So if I'm the hot tub sales guy, he's spot on. He's not talking about the tub, right? That's the thing at the bottom of the mountain, he's talking about the thing that they really aspire to, that they would love to have. And he's just giving them the means to make that happen. Starting his conversation at the summit.

That's our mountain and building backwards. And eventually you do get to the buttons and the widgets and the features and functions.

Catherine: "You have this many jets, or this many seats," yeah.

Jonathan: Yeah. But you never want to start those conversations at the bottom of the knot.

Catherine: To round this out, back to the 1% example for, say a LinkedIn post, the way you would differentiate is my post would say things like,

"Nobody grows up thinking they'll become the kind of parent that sits at the restaurant with everyone staring at their cell phone. You fall into that. You wake up one day and find out you don't really talk in your family. What if there were a way for your family to connect where devices didn't make sense?"

And then you have a picture of a happy family where the teenagers are actually there and you're sitting together in this giant hot tub. Or you could go after it with, "I want to be the house where the teenagers bring their friends." "We want to be that kind of house."

To me, that's top-of-summit aspirational. And then you drill down to, "Well, how many baths and seats do we want in the hot tub? So how big is this going to be?"

Jonathan: Oh, yeah. Right.

Catherine: What's it going to cost? And what I'm saying is in the 1%, most people are thing about the baths and seats and the manufacturer. And hardly anybody is saying, "Wouldn't this be awesome? I can help you get there."

And yet we just did this in two minutes. You said, that's the summit. And that's what, to me is the epitome of that professional saying, "I'm a guide who can help you decide what is the right version of this for you."

Jonathan: Yeah. Be a Sherpa. Tell them what the mountaintop looks like.

The Proven Path to B2B Sales Success

Chris: All right guys. Well, look, I've learned a ton. You guys, this was great. I do want to ask you one quick question on the way out, Catherine.

You have your book, How Good Humans Sell. Can you tell us a little bit about like who that book is for and maybe what to expect from that book and even maybe be where some of our listeners could maybe find it if they're interested?

Catherine: Thank you so much. Yes. So right now the book is available on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle. I'm sorry for my audible listeners. It's not on audible quite yet, but it's on paperback and Kindle.

The subtitle of the book is The Proven Path to B2B Sales Success. And I really did write with the B2B business owner who sells in mind. That being said, I have had opportunities to talk about it with nonprofits and actually with direct sales multi-level marketing companies.

Chapter Four, which is about not giving up in selling and how you continue to deliver value in ways that allow you to come back again and again, has resonated with people more universally than actually I was expecting.

It's been very delightful to me to see that there have been enough broad principles that have been useful to just about anybody in selling, but that product or service company that's selling into the hard-to-get-into business was my initial target.

Chris: Yeah. And I'll say this, that I'm not directly in sales, but there's a lot of takeaways for me in consulting with clients and trying to get them to see the value in what it is that we're providing. So I think there's something to be taken away from this for almost anybody.

So Catherine, Jonathan, I can't thank you enough for your time. This was really informative and a great session. So thank you guys very much.