Suck At Sales? Then Don’t Sell. Build A Brand Instead.


The problem with the word “branding” is that it means many different things to different people. Industry pros are always defining it in esoteric ways, and business owners mostly think of it as the process of getting a logo, a fancy website, pro photography and cool fonts.

And that’s exactly why lots of business owners don’t think they “need branding.”

Let me ask you this: do you need people to buy things from you? Well, guess what…

Branding is just an efficient way to sell things.Click To Tweet.

If you have a business, and somebody has come to you to purchase something from you, you’ve already “done branding.”

Sales and Branding

The difference between branding and selling

“Selling” is defined as an activity that leads to a transaction: cold hard cash in exchange for the product or service you’re offering. We usually think of it as being convinced to purchase. Right? With me so far?

But think about the last time you were “sold” something.

For me, it has to be the time I went to Hawaii and was seduced into buying a timeshare I didn’t need and couldn’t afford but oh my gosh, Hawaiian vacations for life! 

But most of the time it works like this:

We aren’t sold a pair of shoes, we buy the Converse All Stars we’ve been coveting.

We aren’t sold eyeshadow, we buy the Urban Decay Naked Palette.

We aren’t sold a car, we buy a Prius.

The salesperson is mostly there to answer your questions and ring you up at the cash register, not to convince you to buy.

The brand did all the selling.

Now I know you’re thinking, “I know that people buy brands, but I’m not a global brand, I’m a consultant. What does this have to do with me?” 

Branding works the same way for any business, and you can build a brand in any category.

Just ask water. (Hello, Fiji!). Or coaching. (Hello, Marie Forleo!) Or book jacket design. (Hello Chip Kidd!)

No matter what industry you’re in, I bet you can name someone with nary a salesperson in sight who has clients flocking to them to buy. It’s not about selling, it’s about the customer’s perception that there’s no other person quite like them.

Getting to the heart of why there’s nobody else quite like you and then communicating that consistently (through words and visuals and actions) is branding.

Think about the last time you hired someone — whether to help you in your business or to mow your lawn. Did those service providers “sell” you their service? I’ll bet you did some research, visited their website, looked around at some other options and compared them, checked review sites or comments left on their Facebook page… and because after all that, you felt good about them, you reached out. Yes?

You can call this a “sales cycle” or a “buyer’s journey”… it doesn’t really matter how you label it. What matters is that you understand that there’s a psychological process people go through before they decide to buy something from you.

Most people who buy your service aren’t going to be “sold” your offering, even if you try to sell it.

It’s branding that facilitates the sales process.

Branding is what creates the good feeling that leads to sales.

(Please note that I’m using verbs. Branding is a verb, not a thing you buy from a designer.)

Everything a company does contributes to the brand building process, so you’re already “doing branding.” The question is, are you doing those things deliberately?

How Exactly Does Branding “Sell”?

When your customer is making the final decision to purchase from you, they may reach out to you and schedule a sales call. But that’s mostly just so they can get some reassurance, and your main job is not to blow it (meaning that you live up to the promises and expectations you’ve established up until that point). More than likely, they’re already ‘pre-sold’.

By the time they get to this stage, they’ve gone through a psychological process that went like this:

  • They became aware of you. They were struggling with something and you offered them a solution to that problem. You spoke their language, you understood. They formed an opinion and felt a certain way about you right from the get-go. Maybe it was how you dressed or wore your hair, or how you spoke, or how helpful your website was and how easy it was for them to find useful things there.
  • You appeared on their radar again and they began to recognize and remember you; their opinions and feelings about you grew stronger; they started to trust you.
  • When they were out looking around at all their other options, it seemed like nobody else was offering quite the same thing you were. Those other guys didn’t “get them” the same way you got them. They didn’t feel the same way about the other options.

Everything that happens in the mind of your customer that leads them to a purchasing decision is influenced by the way they feel. And the way they feel about you is your brand. Branding is the “stuff you do” to influence those feelings. 

[At this point, you might be wondering, “Well then what’s ‘marketing’?” Branding and marketing are interlinked, but you can think of it this way: marketing is brand building.]

If you believe that buying something is in any way influenced by emotion, then you believe in branding.Click To Tweet

No matter what kind of business you’re in, no matter how tiny, branding is what influences people to notice, choose, and purchase from you.

Building Your Brand Deliberately

The first thing you need to brand your business intentionally is clarity, and that’s hard to get on your own. If you’ve pushed the notion of branding to the side — “I’ll get to that later” — I’ll bet it’s either because you weren’t clear about the purpose branding serves (or that you were already doing it), or you weren’t clear about some aspect of your business, like:

Your customer.
Why they should choose you instead of your competitors.
The experience of what it’s like to work with you.

These are things I help my clients understand as part of their client-attraction strategy. And I call it that rather than “branding strategy” because I work with service-based business owners who need clients and I don’t want it confused with “picking out colors and fonts”. The end goal, make no mistake about it, is sales.

When you’re clear about your brand — what you’re about, what makes you different, what makes you the clear choice — then you’ll begin showing up in a consistent way, and you’ll become known for a thing. And that’s how you get clients coming to you to buy.

Want a bit of help getting brand clarity? Check this out 👇

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