(Editor’s note. Once again, we thank Rob Armstrong, from Matador Creative, for contributing this week’s article…)
We all know how crucial establishing a consistent brand image is. And during the branding process, a great deal of research, strategic and creative resources are devoted to produce that identity. Then that all-powerful brand image is made public through a spectrum of communication channels—over the Web, through the mail, e-mail, and in magazines and newspapers. Sometimes, when it fits the budget and the target audience, it’s relayed via radio and television. Despite how extensively these marketing vehicles can saturate your target buyers’ minds with meaningful, convincing messages, all of it can be undermined, undone and defeated by a small yet crucial faction beyond the influence of your marketing communications team. That renegade element, my friends, is your sales force. If prospects don’t get the same vibe from the salespeople that they do from the marketing, their belief in your brand promise may be irreparably shaken. Take, for example, a destination property in Florida whose brand identity I helped to build as a writer and creative strategist. Its brand image evoked a British West Indies style ambiance. The main clubhouse featured the décor and architecture of a late 19th century English manor surrounded by swaying palms and pineapple trees. At its grand opening, calypso music played, cool tropical drinks flowed and an island-style barbecue had hungry prospects lined up at the door. About 1,200 qualified buyers eager to tour furnished model homes were snatching up brochures, maps and inventory listings over a single weekend. Yet the two-day event only produced a handful of reservations and even fewer sales. The culprit couldn’t be the marketing—it did its job remarkably well. It got more than a thousand qualified buyers to the property on one sunny Florida weekend. No… the blame for this debacle had to be elsewhere. When I popped my head into the sales center, it didn’t feel very… cool, relaxed, British West Indies to me. “You want golf? We got golf.” boomed above the din of buyers. No dulcet, soothing voices discussing Hurdzan-Fry, the world-renowned designers of the golf course or any articulate mention of the developers’ efforts to recreate the ambiance of a turn-of-the-century island plantation. Of course not. All I heard was the coarse, throaty, staccato rattling of sales people who sounded more like they should be working the floor of the stock exchange. “Yeah we got golf. That’s in this neighborhood. We have another neighborhood with no golf.” My first instinct was to slap the salesperson and demand to know if she had even read the brochure I took great care to write. I didn’t. I don’t know anyone who’d respond positively to the way the brand messages were communicated by the sales team. Had no one explained the brand strategy to them? Did they even know what they should emphasize about the property? Were they listening carefully to buyers, so that they could contribute valuable feedback to us, the marketing team, so that post-event ads could address any points of hesitation floating around out there? Sadly, no. Lost opportunity big time. I don’t know how many sales are lost on a daily basis because the sales team is never indoctrinated in the brand. They should be selling with cult-like adherence to brand messages. If that takes brainwashing and reprogramming—so be it. The most bewildering part of the scenario I described was that everyone on the sales team was an employee of the development company—not a third-party realty agency. Yet they still were never held accountable for their lack of eloquence and brand awareness at a time when every sale was precious. There is a definite dividing line between marketing and sales. Marketing drives leads. Sales closes sales. When voluminous leads don’t produce sales, poke your head in the sales center. You may find the reason as grating to your eardrums as I did.