Brand Killer: Part II

Well, clearly some folks just do not understand that the way people want to buy products and services has changed. Imagine my surprise…well, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised…when dumb & dumber sent me a LinkedIn email in response to my suggestion that his sales spam was not appreciated.

On 11/17/10 9:52 PM, XYZ wrote:

If you don’t want to receive messages from other group members you can go to your group settings and check a box that says you don’t want to receive messages from other members of the group.  Its that simple.  Nothing wrong with Cold Calling either by the way.


Really? Instead of considering the feedback you decide to school me on how to use LinkedIn?

Here is the response that I sent this morning…

Well, XYZ thanks for taking rude to another level. You’ve certainly convinced me that I would never buy from you, and I’ll be happy to share that news with my network. I’m well aware that I can turn off messages. If you had bothered to read my profile, you would know that I’m quite experienced in the areas of social media and sales. In fact, my book was just published on the topic. I do not turn off messages because I like connecting with others, and I trust that professionals will not abuse the privilege. Sending me unsolicited sales spam is not connecting. You are simply pushing your own agenda. And, yes, there is something wrong with cold calling. Clearly, you do not understand the buyers of today. -B


Folks, this type of mentality is exactly what today’s buyers HATE about sales people. Frankly, that ticks me off, because the majority of us are very professional and understand the social rules of engagement online. What this person fails to realize is that he is doing more harm to his brand than good. But I’m not that shocked actually. He sells a sales dialing service AKA automated cold calling and in reviewing his LinkedIn profile, it’s clear he doesn’t have much of a network. It appears he’s only using LinkedIn for his own self serving agenda. That’s unfortunate, because in the long run, it will never serve him.

Should we all take bets on whether or not he’ll be dumb enough to reply again? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Sure Fire Brand Killer

Here we go again…more sales spam in my LinkedIn inbox.

On 11/16/10 2:59 PM, XYZ social sales clueless wrote:  Since you are a member of the Inside Sales Buzz group, I wanted to take a moment of your time to alert you to a fantastic sales tool that will improve your outbound calling capability by 300% (no kidding).

XYZ product is a power dialing software package that enables you to call up to four lines at a time and meets all FCC compliance rules. Its integrated voice and email capabilities can also greatly increase your INBOUND calls too. You don’t need a land line or long distance service. All you need is a computer and access to the internet.

If you are in sales, and haven’t looked into XYZ product, you owe it to yourself to investigate. It is the least expensive and easiest to use power dialing solution available anywhere. Let me know and I can set up a demo with one of our technical staff. No cost and no obligation, just a FREE DEMO.

XYZ social sales clueless
VP Business Development


Dear Clueless and Desperate,
I don’t know you, and I don’t take kindly to unsolicited sales pitches. It’s akin to cold calling. Just because we are members of a group doesn’t mean I gave you my permission to spam me. -BG

Apparently, there are some sales professionals who just do not get it. Please, don’t let that be you!

Play Nice With the Other Kids Online

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the grasp of the netiquette do’s and don’ts of communicating online is critical to your success. One misstep can be all it takes to sink your ship. Whether you are posting in LinkedIn groups, talking to friends on Facebook, participating in blogs or tweeting on Twitter, you need to understand that netiquette covers both common courtesy and the informal “rules of the road” of cyberspace. In this world, you must be even more conscious of how and what you are saying; otherwise you run the risk of tarnishing your brand, tearing down your credibility or offending people who not only won’t take it kindly, but will vigorously pass on their displeasure to everyone they know.

I watched an example of a meltdown of ego’s in a LinkedIn group discussion today. A colleague alerted me to the situation and frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is exactly the kind of thing that in an instant can destroy your credibility as a professional and put your company’s brand at risk. It started innocently enough with each person putting their opinion forth…and then it got nasty. Here are a few of the excerpts:

Guys, I don’t want to rain on your parade but…. this happens to be my area of expertise for the last 10 years. Dolly, it has nothing to do with the intended audience or whether it is formal or informal learning. Roger, when I refer to hard baked I am referring to static content which is a blob and not easily maintained or all that intelligent. Roger, I will need some time to educate you. I am not sure there is enough space in this forum to do so.

Rule # 1 - Don’t insult other people by making it personal. Everyone has their opinion. Be careful not to confuse your sales agenda with contributing ideas to the discussion. This isn’t about winning or insisting that people believe in your point of view.

After those thoughtless comments, as in everyone else is wrong but her, the game is now on. It was painful to watch, and I’m only giving you the highlights. Believe me, it was much, much worse!

Sorry Brenda, It looks like you haven’t been paying attention for the last ten years. Maybe you should find a new career. Your ideas are strictly 1997, and you clearly haven’t been looking closely at the online collaboration and learning repository technologies that have evolved in online tools such as ours, or in Rapid intake’s new online version, or in Atlantic Link etc.

As I stated Roger, there is not enough room in this forum for me to educate you. I know your system; I know Atlantic Link and the many other online authoring tools. I don’t think you are a smart as you give yourself credit for. Do your homework. LCMS’s have matured over the last 10 years. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Duh, what do you think tools like Lectora and yours for that matter use to animate objects in a browser? Scripting Languages or proprietary authoring tools like Flash. I know more about web services than you could even imagine.

And it kept going…

Wow, Brenda, I really hadn’t intended to turn this forum into a personal vendetta, your arrogance is as deep as your ignorance. You are the classic case of the salesperson becoming indoctrinated by their own BS.

And going…

Dude, can I have some of whatever it is you are smoking. It is not productive to go point on point because clearly you know I am right. I am so far from just a salesperson. You have no idea who I am otherwise you would not be so arrogant. Right, Boeing, World Wide, Enterprise Wide is my customer. They are building and managing many thousands of courses and deploying that content to 160,000 world wide employees. How many Boeing employees are you serving, LOL. Lets not even go there.

And going…

Your too funny with the founding father thing. I challenge you to find out who I am. Roger, you are smoking your own crack. No one is locked into our own authoring capability. There you go again. Do your home work, old fellow.

OMG - someone please tell this woman to shut up is all I kept thinking. She is rude, arrogant and evidently has no social graces whatsoever. This is a classic case of a sales person who ventured far, far off the reservation. She was so caught up in winning that she evidently lost her mind. Trust me, I scaled it back significantly. I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to behave that way, but clearly she was too caught up in making sure that everyone else knew she was the smartest person on the planet. She isn’t. Giving no thought to the fact that she risked damaging the reputation of the company that she represented, she kept mouthing off. Actually, she did do harm to her employer and more. For anyone reading, I have to believe that her image was forever tarnished in their minds, as it was in mine. I know whenever I see her name I will say to others - buy from someone else. That does significant damage to her company.

What happened today is a company’s worst nightmare. Some idiot employee mouthing off doing damage to the company brand. Instead of running away or saying that this is why social media should be avoided, it is an opportunity for a company to ensure that they have some guidelines for their employees to follow. I stress guidelines that come tethered with accountability. Don’t hamstring people with oversight, rigid control and micro-management, but do insist that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated.

Respect and appreciation for the diverse viewpoints of others is as critical in the online world, as it offline. I wonder, would she have really said those ignorant, stupid things if she was talking to him face to face? Would he have said those things to her if they were standing toe to toe at a networking function? My guess is not. And that’s the moral of the story. Loose lips definitely sink ships. Be careful what you say online!

You Are The Ambassador of Your Brand!

Today’s post is contributed by guest blogger David Cohen, Founder, Equation Arts, LLC I can’t think of anyone better to talk about the importance of creating, managing and promoting your brand!

This one goes out to all the good folks who are up early in the morning, going to their local chamber of commerce, hitting that networking breakfast, and doing their part to keep the economy going through good old fashioned hustle. You are the ambassador of your brand.

When you swap cards at the chamber you are engaged in economic diplomacy, and the stakes are high for you and your business. When you stand up and give your 60, or 45, or 30-second speech at that networking lunch you are in the process of setting policy and expectations for inter-business relations.

Now here’s the rub: you are you, AND you are the impression-setter for your company. You are the window by which your friends, partners, customers, and prospects become acquainted with your brand. If you are not projecting an image that is consistent with your brand then you are creating a disconnect in the minds of the people you meet; yet you must also be authentic to yourself. Of course it is easier when you own the company and you are the one setting the tone for vision, mission and values. However, even if you are working for someone else, you are shouldering the responsibility for framing the brand story for the people with whom you interact - if you are phony, it reflects on the brand, if you are impatient, it reflects on the brand, if you are overly “what’s-in-it-for-me”, that too, reflects on the brand. A brand can be a lot of things, and a person is a whole lot more complex, but you have to find a harmony that fits, that gives people access to you, and through you, to all the great value your company can bring.

A brand is in some ways an agreement between consumer and company about the value you promise, and your ability, consistency and quality in fulfilling that promise. As an individual working within the confines of your community you would call this “reputation”, but thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of social media, reputation is no longer bounded by mere geography. Reputation can carry well beyond the reach of a handshake. The reach isn’t only measured in distance, but in time. Like an elephant, the Internet never forgets, and the accumulation of information about you that becomes the basis of your reputation is hard to scrub away. You can add to the story, but almost never remove from it. Being the ambassador of your brand is acknowledging this. It is recognizing that the ripples you create will persist and reflect back on you over time. Your community is bigger than ever, yet closer than ever before.

Whether we realize it or not, the actions we take are measured against expectations created by our brand. This is true for businesses, but it is also true for individuals. In some cases expectation setting can be a slippery slope. Consider the deliberately expectation-setting tag line for Avis car rental service, “We Try Harder” - certainly this phrase leads to an assumption that the service from Avis will reflect more effort than their competitors. We infer that the extra effort will result in better service. It’s a memorable phrase, and a noble goal, but what does it mean for the individual, for the brand ambassador? That depends on the follow-through of every Avis employee you meet. If the employee adopts a positive, service-focused, can-do attitude then there is an alignment between the brand message and individual. If however, the trend is to have service that is poor, attitudes that are uncaring, or worse, surly, then the brand message collapses under the weight of the failure of the individual to live up to the expectations created in the mind of consumers.

In the age of the blogosphere, disconnects between promise and follow-through can be rapidly exposed. The lesson boils down to “walk your talk.” Sometimes the “talk”, the expectation, is set by your boss, or corporate policy, but you take on the responsibility of the “walk” every time you pass your business card to a new prospect or partner. If it is your own company you do get the benefit of being able to choose the expectations you set at a policy level, but you are also under even stronger scrutiny when it comes to follow through.

Since Avis has used the “We Try Harder” line for a long time now I will gladly assume that it has been a fair reflection of their actual brand experience. However, not every tag line is so overt in the expectations it sets. What promises does your branding imply? And do you deliver on those expectations? Like any ambassador, your role as ambassador of your brand is to promote and develop trust. Consistency of message and behavior are some of the most powerful tools in developing trust, but they require time to nurture and grow. Trust is an essential asset and a powerful catalyst to accelerate business, but it is also incredibly fragile. If expectations are repeatedly out of alignment with delivery then trust will not be established and your brand diplomacy will be a failure.

A brand ambassador is also in the business of building consensus and support amongst allies. When you go to a networking event, you take the time to dress up, you make sure you have your business cards in your pocket, you practice your elevator pitch, but have you put any thought into who your strategic allies might be in the room? Retailers put a tremendous amount of time and energy into tweaking and tuning the merchandising of stores. There is a conscious effort to setup product adjacencies that will encourage increased sales, complementary product sets, and impulse buys. Why not apply the concept to yourself at the next chamber of commerce luncheon? You probably already know some of the folks in the room - think about what they offer and how your offering would look on the shelf next to them. If you own a car wash, maybe you can work a deal with the local mechanic to offer a mutually beneficial offer that brings added value to your customers (wash & tune anybody?). By combining your strengths with those of your ally you can extend the reach of your brands and grow a larger community of consumers.

What’s your brand’s diplomatic policy? I’ll leave you with this exercise: Try writing down the 3 to 5 most important aspects you want your business contacts to recognize in your brand. Then write down the 3 to 5 perceptions you want people to have of you. How well do they align? Ask a trusted friend if this is the image you are projecting. Go over your elevator pitch, your handshake line, your stadium speech, and see if it serves both you and your brand. Does it meet the criteria you’ve written down? Keep tweaking and tuning - you’ll know when you’ve found the right balance, because it will both feel good, and will attract the people that you want to connect with: the ones aligned with the value you offer and the working vibe that suits you best. That’s the best kind of business diplomacy.