Making brand experiences dynamic, consistent and effective requires highly trained and motivated employees

It usually takes the business world a while to catch up and understand the value of new ideas and innovative practices coming from the academic community. The intrinsic value of internal branding has been discussed for many years on campuses around the world, but it finally took a five-year study to prove the point fiscally. Recent studies prove that effective communications plays a significant role in delivering a total shareholder return of as much as 29.5%. These numbers are powerful proof that employees like to be involved with the business in many ways. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Organizations with poor communications have a negative 15% total shareholder return against comparable businesses.

Businesses spend tens of millions of dollars on external marketing communications plans only to have leads sit on a desk or the prospect under-whelmed by the first impression of a colleague. We all sit and wonder why the ad campaign didn’t work, the finger pointing begins and the ad agency is fired or even worse, you are.

Internal brand communications is certainly not a difficult concept to grasp, however the methods by which we communicate and what we share may be. Keep in mind that this is not a marketing or human resource issue, it must be a company wide initiative. Employees want to know where the company is headed strategically, financially and from a community standpoint. Employees like to see their names in newsletters and in e-mails, sharing the news connect people to people. You will find that throughout this post, we site specific methods of sharing information by well known brands and the importance of such communications in corporate structures.

Many of us have experienced eyewitness accounts of colleagues and employees not delivering the company “brand promise”, it can be both frustrating and more importantly financially draining to the business. We’ve all experienced walking into a retail environment only to be disappointed by the way we were treated, we tell our friends and family and they spread the bad news. The ripple effect can be devastating to the business.

So how do we change it? Strong leaders, across the company buy-in, making the emotional connection, communicating a million ways and holding people accountable are the keys to a successful and effective communications program.


Cold calling is alive and well, survey finds

Those who have been sounding the death knell for cold calling may have to reconsider their thinking. Customers are still receptive to cold calls. 

A recent survey of 1,000 executives, ranging from Fortune-ranked companies to small- and medium-sized businesses, conducted by DiscoverOrg showed that nearly 75% of decision makers took a call or gave a salesperson an appointment as a result of a cold call.

The data makes a strong case for the effectiveness of cold calling at a time when skepticism has been placed on the cold call and increasing attention has been devoted to social media, blogging, white papers and search engine optimization.

Keys to success

Of course, the decision makers surveyed weren’t high on all cold calling. It has to be done right. And the opening minutes of a cold call are the most critical. The challenge is to get the prospect past the “I’m not interested” or “I’m happy with my present supplier” responses.

The best way to do that is to get prospects interested enough in your opening statement to give you time to make a presentation.

Here are five tips that will help your sales staffers open a cold call successfully:

  1. Establish rapport immediately. Studies show that getting an appointment during a cold call depends 65% on the rapport the salesperson establishes with the prospect and only 35% on the product or service. Unless you get the prospect’s attention quickly, having the best product or service won’t result in a sale.
  2. Identify key problems. Prospects become customers when salespeople solve problems for them. The difficulty with problems is not in finding them but in getting prospects to admit to them. To overcome the initial barrier of resistance, try to find out exactly what’s important to the prospect and why.
  3. Distinguish the prospect’s goals. A salesperson becomes invaluable to the prospect when the salesperson shows that he or she understands the prospect’s goals and has the ability to help the prospect reach them.
  4. Develop the ability to persevere. Once problems are identified, back up your solutions with persistence and determination. Don’t consider the possibility of failure. The ability to persist is what it takes to overcome the most difficult obstacles in opening new accounts.
  5. Understand the objectives and strategy of the prospect’s current supplier. It’s not enough to think about how to convert a prospect into a customer. You also have to think about winning the battle with the present supplier, your competitor. Try to evaluate the present supplier’s position, strengths, weaknesses, strategy and resources.

Demonstrating credibility

It’s not enough to tell prospects you offer better service or quality than your competitors during a cold call. Prospects want to hear specifics about why you’re better.

Here’s a formula that helps show the difference more effectively:

  • Present unique qualities. What can you offer that nobody else can? Try to convert the value of your products or services into financial results.
  • Highlight advantages. What do you do better than the competitor? Give prospects what they need to understand the unique qualities of your product or service.
  • Establish parity. If there’s little difference between you and a competitor, look for minor ones that may add up to a competitive advantage.
  • Offset disadvantages. Are there areas in your product or service in which competitors have a definite edge? Focus on the advantages you do have to offset these disadvantages.

What prospects want and need

Cold calling can’t be successful if you don’t know what prospects want and need, think and feel, like and dislike. It all boils down to getting information. It’s not enough to ask questions. You have to prove to the prospect that you’re listening.

Two tips that may help:

  • Paraphrase. Repeat in your own words what prospects say. It lets them know you’re listening and have a clear idea what’s being said.
  • Summarize. Repeat in your own words one or more main points the prospect has made.

It takes courage, discipline, practice, patience and desire to make cold calling pay off. Attitude drives all of these behaviors. We behave as we believe. What we feel on the inside, we generally demonstrate on the outside.

That’s why pessimists have such a poor record while optimists excel at cold calling. Even when turned down for an appointment, cold calling encourages salespeople to do more research on a prospect and come back with a successful approach.

Adapted from the book “Lessons from 100,000 Cold Calls,” by Stewart Rogers, a sales trainer.


It’s all about the people!

Marcus Lemonis was the guest speaker at this month’s Latin American Economic Development Authority (LAEDA) dinner at the Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center in Camden. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lemonis, he is the chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, and the star of CNBC’s The Profit, a reality show about saving small businesses. One of his key themes of the evening was the responsibility that comes along with running a business. Giving back to the community was a key topic, but during the course of the question and answer period, someone asked him about return on investment models and how he decides whether or not to buy a broken business. To our surprise, Lemonis said he doesn’t really factor return on investment into his decision-making, but instead looks more at people, process and product.

I couldn’t help but think that what’s driven our business over the last twenty seven years and the fact that “committed” people are an essential part of our company’s success. Profits always follow good business practices driven by good people!

So, from a billionaire to a struggling entrepreneur there is another valuable lesson to be learned . . . care about your people your business will flourish.

People Problems and Your Brand

I recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation made by Noam Wasserman of The Harvard Business School and sponsored by Edison Partners of Lawrenceville NJ. Professor Wasserman spoke about his bestselling book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a StartupFounder's Dilemmas, which resulted from over a decade of research and collaboration, studying business entrepreneurs and why their companies failed over time.

Wasserman concludes that over 65% of businesses fail as a result of poorly defined roles and responsibilities. In addition, there is a lack of clear understanding about leadership roles in the new company.

Poor communications is an issue that rarely goes away. If you understand that many businesses fail due to poor internal communication, you can look back to the development of the brand and why the brand is important to the employees of the company. This effort requires a diligent process of understanding the language stakeholders use when describing the product or service. Once we’ve distilled the common words and phrases used in the research, we begin the process of building the brand positioning statement which becomes the touchstone for all communications going forward. The communications I refer to includes all internal as well as external communications. The message being delivered to internal and external stakeholders must be consistent and true, factual and steady. Consistent messaging and by-in by employees can only help the advancement of the delivery of the brand promise.

The lesson here is that it is always difficult to talk about issues that confound and frustrate us, but like the proverbial elephant in the room, the topic will come back to haunt us. Be prepared to understand what people want and distill the message into thoughtful, consistent language and you will go a long way to insure your company is successful.