If you’re a salesperson or a business owner with an awesome product or service but no recognisable or credible brand behind you, how can you realistically compete?

In 2016 global advertising spend reached nearly $500 billon (USD), so clearly despite there being a slow-down in this growth on ad spend (as reported by CNBC), companies are still investing heavily in it. Whilst advertising spend is only part of creating and promoting brand, it is one way that the mega-corporations exert their power and dominance over the smaller players.

So, if you’re a salesperson or a business owner with an awesome product or service but no recognisable or credible brand behind you, how can you realistically compete?

Do brands have our trust?

In many cases they do. You only have to see the army of Apple devotees who line up outside the stores when a new product is released to get their hands on some new shiny kit. But where does this trust in a brand come from? Let’s take a look at this trust in brands using David Maister’s Trust equation, and see which areas we may be able to effectively compete with, against an established brand. Maister’s trust equation is that our Trust equals our Credibility plus our Reliability plus our Intimacy,  all divided by our own self-orientation (i.e. we don’t trust people who act purely for their own benefits.)

Don’t play the credibility game

For starters, established brands bring an enormous amount of credibility. We’ve heard of Microsoft and increasingly many will have used their products from school through to their business careers. The operating systems and software are a go to for many and are extremely credible. Same goes for the other big organisations you can think of. It isn’t a good idea to try and compete as a smaller organisation on credibility, yes you need to be credible but you can’t differentiate here. As an example, you may run a fantastic accountancy business but it will be very hard to prove that you have more credibility than PwC or Deloitte.

Be at least as reliable as them

In the examples I’ve given above, there’s a loyalty to companies who’s stuff just works. You know when something does what it says it’s going to do. Like many Kiwi’s, I love Air NZ, and their App. It’s awesome, I can check-in via it, I can even order my coffee in the lounge via it. I trust and rely on this App, it does what it says it will do.

Now this is not an area as a salesperson that you may be able to obviously differentiate but you might. If you make it your mantra to be the most reliable person your clients and prospective customers interact with then they’ll appreciate it. If you say your going to send something – then send it, send it straight away. Keep people informed. Make it your mantra to be the guy or girl who always does what they say they will do. You can control this, in some big companies, people get passed from department to department – you may just find your ultra-reliable service is better and more personal.

Differentiate by being more intimate!

Great brands – think Nike – do speak to our emotions. People tend to buy on emotions, not facts. However, all our emotions are not consistent and it is therefore hard, if not impossible, for a brand to speak to all our individual needs. This is where you can really differentiate. Being intimate with your targets and clients is about taking the time to understand what’s important to them. What are their ambitions? How do they view success? Take time to get to know them and help them with what’s important to them, whether that has anything to do with your offer or not.

You don’t need to push it

It worked for Salt n’ Pepper, and brands are created and enhanced through pushing out a message. “Buy our product and you’ll be super-fast or awesome”. Does this benefit you or the brands bottom-line? Here’s where if you truly build a trusted relationship and act in your customer’s best interests, again you’ll start to differentiate.

Bringing it together: making the cold-call with no brand

Make your approach genuine and offer to provide help or value in your call, and do not even try to pitch your service or product. That’s why people hang up.

Why not try saying something like:

“I was looking at your industry and wanted to share some insights on how we’ve seen others grow, perhaps you can let me know a bit more about what you’re trying to achieve and then hopefully at the end of the conversation or meeting you may at least have a couple of ideas that could help you.”

Now the above needs to be more specific to them – no cold-call should ever be generic, they won’t work if they are. However, it is a small introduction into a process we call “I We U” – which is all focused on building trust and rapport and has about a 70-80% success rate in getting meetings.

Because the reality is, people get the greatest value from engaging in strong relationships that are founded on trust. Building this will make you knock the big brand out of sight.


Ben Paul is a coach, facilitator and mentor, and the director of The Business of Trust New Zealand.