Brand recognition describes the extent to which a consumer can recognize a brand by it's attributes. In the hyper-transactional B2C world, it’s safe to say that large, well-known brands have an edge over small and newer brands. Familiarity plays a significant role in our decision making, especially for everyday purchases. However, in the B2B world, there are some different dynamics at play.
At Funnel Clarity, we’ve studied, researched and taught selling best practices at start-ups, SMBs, and all the way to Fortune 100 companies. The data reveals some fascinating trends around getting a new prospect’s attention, both when a company has zero brand recognition or when their brand recognition is significant with most of the marketplace.
Strangely enough, sellers often report feeling at a disadvantage in either situation. Smaller or midsize companies fighting for market share have the attitude that they must overcome a lack of buyer awareness. Sellers who work for companies with high brand recognition lament that as soon as prospects hear their company name, those executives make a whole lot of (incorrect) assumptions about the reason for outreach and topic of conversation.
With new prospects, credibility is a critical component to getting in the door– but it has a lot more to do with the competence of the sales person than how well the prospect recognizes the company name. Here are some approaches for handling these two types of brand recognition reactions.
Brand Recognition Scenarios
"Never heard of you..."
You may not hear this on every prospecting call– in fact, it will probably be less than 5% of the time. However, sellers for small and mid-size businesses often fear that because the prospect doesn’t know their company’s name before the call, they’re about to get shut down.
A common response is to open the call by saying “Have you ever heard of XYZ company?” – knowing the answer will be no – and use that as an opportunity to give a pitch about how great their company is, marquis customers, accolades, etc.
Let’s think about that approach. The call starts on a negative; the first opportunity for the prospect to participate is to say that no, they haven’t heard of you. Then, they have to sit through a description of your company (if they are even listening) with no context for why they should care.
Again: credibility is about the sales person. Rather than allowing the conversation to hang on the merits of your company, turn the focus of the conversation on the prospect you are talking to! Reference a trend or change happening in their business, or introduce some commentary and questions about your prospect’s role. The seller’s role in this interaction is not to relay knowledge, but to give your prospect the impression that you understand his or her world and can be trusted.
"I know what you do -- we're all set..."
The Law of First Knowledge states that humans tend to believe what we learned first, even in spite of later knowledge to the contrary. For a prospect, this might mean “I associate your brand with printers” – even if your original breakout product is now a small percentage of the business you do. Combine this with the gut reaction to hang up on sales people – and they have a convenient excuse to end the conversation. It may come in the form of “we’re all set…” or it could be “I’m not the right person for you to speak to.”
Sellers calling on behalf of a “household name” shouldn’t rely only on brand to generate credibility in the conversation. Expect that your prospect will assume you are calling about a different topic and will tell you they are not right for you to speak with. Rather than telling a story of the new way your organization is doing business or a new product line you have, turn the conversation to your prospect!
For example, acknowledge that the prospect wasn’t expecting your call and prove to them you are worth listening to by making an observation or comment about their challenges that they wouldn’t expect you to know. Sellers have many more valuable and insightful conversations with their prospects’ peer group than their prospects do!
Interestingly enough, the brand recognition selling advice is very similar whether your brand is largely unknown or recognized by everyone. The practice of engaging new customers and gaining trust from buyers at the beginning of the sales cycle is largely independent of where you are calling from. By doing research prior to your outreach, and preparing for common objections you will make considerable progress towards demonstrating credibility.
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