Transparency is a core value at Element Three, and has been since the beginning—so I feel okay writing about a topic we’ve written about in the past (like, 4 years ago...we’ve been on this train for a while), and try to live out in our work each and every day. Why does transparency matter so much, both personally and professionally? Because deep down people can feel when the truth is being manipulated to fit a particular situation. This sort of gut feeling kills deals, ruins working relationships, and brings in wrong-fit customers for your product or service.
If you really want 2020 to be the year your business grows by working with and for the people you truly want to be serving, transparency in your brand, transparency in your marketing, and transparency in your sales process will be key to making it happen.
1. Transparency starts at the brand level
We’ve talked before about transparency in your brand—you can’t just walk into your office and choose brand values that sound cool. You have to take the time to actually understand who your company is, and what values legitimately represent you.
Why take this time? Because without it, you’re going to attract customers you either cannot or do not want to serve. Seriously, we spend more than 90,000 hours of our lives at work—shouldn’t you be doing work that matters and is fun? You’re never going to get there if your values attract the wrong sort of people.
Think about it this way: if Tesla wanted to get the classic F-150 truck buyer into their Cybertruck, do you think they would have designed it the way they did? I’m not friends with Elon or anything, but the sheer different-ness of that truck (and honestly, Tesla itself) indicates that Tesla is looking for a completely new subset of buyers—and doesn’t really care about attracting traditional truck owners.
As the fastest growing section of the American automotive market, it is obvious that more and more people are buying trucks, and Tesla has clearly positioned itself as the tech-forward truck for people who maybe wouldn’t normally buy a truck. It looks more like a vehicle from Halo or Goldeneye 64 than it does your grandpa’s trusty Chevy, and that is not by accident.
When you’re going to market with your message, you need to be just as clear about who should and who should not work with you, and that begins with your values. But it doesn’t end there—it continues into your marketing message, as well.
2. A transparent brand shows up in marketing messaging
When you fully understand what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for, it becomes significantly easier to have a unified marketing message across all channels. This keeps the flywheel spinning, and you keep on generating leads from the types of companies—and people—you want to do business with. Sounds really easy in theory, right?
Like usual, what is easily said is much harder to do. Here’s a brief list of all the things that impact your ability to maintain a transparent message and effectively grow your company in the way you want to:
- Slowdown in lead generation
- Team member(s) leaving the organization
- Your biggest competitor’s latest marketing campaign
- Fear that you “got it wrong”
- Marketing trends you mistake for principles
- Dips in revenue
Some of these are marketing obstacles, others are big business issues like revenue and retention. All of them will make you want to follow the trends and show up how you think the market wants you to show up, rather than as who you are. And who leads the charge in showing up as who you are? Your sales team. At the end of the day, your sales team is the group interacting with the outside world more than anyone else in your business. They are the front line for your brand messaging, and they need to be educated by your brand experts (that’s your marketing team) about what to say and when.
3. If your sales team isn’t transparent, nothing will be.
I can speak firsthand to the temptation to mold things to your advantage in a sales meeting. You’re having a great conversation with a prospect. You’ve connected on a personal level, there seems to be a culture fit, and you believe you’ve served businesses with the same challenges as them in the past. Then, the prospect mentions a key deliverable your team is not built to support. What do you do?
The temptation is to either gloss over the issue, or to highlight how you’ll make it happen. You get all salesy on them and talk a bunch about how great your team is and how this won’t be a problem.
The right thing to do is to be extremely clear and honest about how you’re not built to support that particular deliverable. You might be able to help them hire internally for it while supporting them for a period of time, or you might be able to manage a third party to execute it, but you need to be up front and honest about this reality. Why is it the right thing to do? Because when you shadow parts of the truth chasing the rush of a new deal and new revenue, you end up serving your new client poorly. That leads to no referrals, a lack of trust, and an overall negative reflection of your brand.
4. Transparency means buying, not being sold to.
Buying and selling are not as difficult and stressful as many people make them out to be. At the end of the day, you’re simply coming together to understand a challenge, determining whether you can help solve it, and then effectively communicating the process for the solution so that buyer and seller both understand in full clarity the value the solution brings.
The buyer-seller relationship still gets molded into an “us vs. them” scenario far too often, and it’s often due to a lack of transparency. While this begins at the sales team level, it extends deep into the organization, all the way down to your core values. Every time a potential customer interacts with your brand, they’re developing a categorization of who you are, who you help, and ultimately whether you’re the right fit for them. They call your sales team when they want a first date, but they are stalking you constantly to decide if the marriage makes sense. You want a long-term, happy, and successful marriage? Make transparency front and center in everything you do.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This advice has served Joe well as he’s worn many hats throughout his career – from college soccer player to marketing expert to Business Development Manager. He’s passionate about using big ideas to build mutually beneficial partnerships, because “to help yourself is to help others.”
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