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Selling value to the employee

“If you can’t advertise yourself, what hope do you have of advertising anything else?” — David Ogilvy. This saying by the great advertising guru can also be reworded in my own words to fit the sales industry: “If you (as a company) cannot sell yourself (to your employees), what hope do you have of selling to strangers”

By Tendai Sharlynn Chimanda

I believe that the first person you must convince of the value of your product or service is the employee. As marketers, internal selling of the brand is the first step to empowering employees to be unflinching brand ambassadors. The employees have to be in it with everything they have, convinced even in their dreams that their product or service is the best thing to ever happen in their life. An employee has the power to make or break your product before it even hits the shelves. I have come across many employees who speak ill of the products or services provided by the companies that they work for. When this happens, it is a clear sign that the organisation has failed to get through to its first customer: the employee.

The employee is the face of the brand and the first human interaction your clients or prospective customers have with your product. So many times we have walked into stores to be ignored by the merchandisers or shop attendants who seem too busy chatting to even notice you standing by the product. You come into contact with sales representatives who at worst do not have an idea of what they are selling, let alone how to assist you. The sales consultants of the company have little idea of the product or services offered and they are actually amazed at how much you know of their company. This brings up the question: whose fault is it?

When hiring sales personnel, companies should keep in mind that they are not just hiring human talent, but they are hiring their favourite customer. This “customer” should not only be attracted to the company by the perks and salary, but also by the value of the brand. How many times has human resources brushed aside the fact that a prospective employee knew very little or nothing about services provided by the company? He may have a bit of generic knowledge, but is not as enthusiastic as he should be. This must be a clear sign to the recruitment team that this person has no interest in the brand, so how will he make other people interested in the brand?

Selling value to the employees comes as the first priority to an organisation. The employee has to know and appreciate the value that the company is offering. He has to be convinced that the offering is that good, so much that he will do anything in his power to defend it. I had an experience where I went to seek the services at a certain school and as I was talking to the sales consultant asking him why I should study with their institution instead of institution B, he abruptly told me to go ahead and go to institution B if that is what I wanted, a clear indication that this particular sales consultant does not appreciate the value of what his organisation is offering. I called him after a few minutes and asked him if he was able to talk to me to which he agreed. I then told him how important it is as a sales representative of his company that he should be proud of what they are offering and that he should he convince any potential client that their institution is best.

Just knowing the products on offer is not enough, the sales consultant has to know every inch of the company in relation to the product or service. Sometimes it’s wise to even know a bit of history about the company, as this comes in handy when you have to defend your products and services as having stood the test of time.
As marketers we should know how our employees are communicating the brand with customers. Based on the current competitive environment and social media tools that quickly extend the brand to wider channels in the blink of an eye, we need employees who will speak gloriously about the company. Employees should have an emotional connection to the brand or services of the company. this way they do not undermine the messages sent out by advertising and marketing campaigns.

According to Lisa Fortini-Campbell in Kellogg on Marketing (2010), employees must fully engage in living the brand positioning otherwise all the branding work will simply become attractive but empty window-dressing rather than what it was intended to be — a banner under which a company transforms itself. Without full engagement, I would say even the product or service is as good as not sold. This is most unfortunate in the service industry where the sales consultant interacts more with potential client. without complete buy-in from the sales consultant, the company products will have lost their biggest cheerleader. Of course, a service company that has created a stellar reputation for itself over the years may boast that its name sells itself, but rest assured one negative comment from one of their own and the clients will run away in different directions.

l Tendai Sharlynn Chimanda is a sales consultant with a regional transport and logistics company. She writes in her personal capacity. She can be reached on tendai.chimanda@gmail.com

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