The Best Place to Start Is at the Beginning
When Glenda, the Good Witch of the South, said to follow the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy was confused at first. She wasn't confused about what she was supposed to do or where to go. She was confused because change is always hard. But a little song and dance helped get her on board in no time because she knew the path.
I would imagine this scene from the 1939 classic movie is just like what we see in so many corporate gatherings.
You've probably experienced it yourself. Some visionary CEO type offers the team clear guidance with a demonstrated path, and everyone across the organization suddenly breaks out in a song repeating the lyrical vision – "Follow the yellow brick road." The communal dance and the unison voices ensure your brand vision and business strategy are carried out by your whole team of munchkins, especially those who introduce your product to customers directly – the sales team.
As a brand manager, I'm sure you recognize one of these scenes, perhaps with fewer munchkins in your case. A good song brings a constituency together, and your brand strategy succeeds because of it. Or it doesn't, and no one sings along, and there's one guy standing next to the town coroner clapping awkwardly.
Before you can get everyone moving in unison, uttering the same words, you have to build buy-in with your team. If you are implementing big changes to your primary sales message (your brand positioning), everyone needs to change their language and change the way they sell. This is a big change, so your team needs to be ready to navigate the change. So, how do you know you are ready to dive into a new sales strategy and change everything for your whole team?
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
When the direction is unclear, salespeople, and for that matter, all humans, will default to the path of least resistance. When the line striping on the highway is painted out, people mindlessly stay within lanes. Not because they have good habits or bad habits but because it is the path of least resistance. It is the most clear option. When clarity like this does not exist, people follow other lines, whether they are ruts or crowds.
The path of least resistance may be what they've always done or what is being validated by the business culture. It may be what they did at their last job.
You know the habits I'm talking about – focusing on product features instead of value-add or presenting a brand for your grandma instead of a brand that is gram-worthy. They're pitching small business services when you want to be the business-critical solution.
Your sales team is focused on closing the deal, so if price was the conversation in the past, they are working on pitching the best price. If it was about beating the competition's narrative, they are focused on defensive selling instead of building trust in what unique value you offer. To overcome this, building buy-in will only happen when you have a yellow brick road. A clear path to follow and a shared song to sing.
Building buy-in with your team is not something you do before you build your brand strategy. Building a brand strategy is how you build buy-in. You surely lead the process as a brand manager (a business owner or a communications leader or consultant), but there is only one way to build this path to success and it is to build it together. One song and one path, carved out by you but laid by everyone, one brick at a time.