shutterstock_145006477When we talk to students about entrepreneurship, we are often asked, “What courses should I take in college besides entrepreneurship?” Entrepreneurship classes do a great job providing students with the structural and operational tools required to build their business. But ultimately, all businesses are brand building.

Eventually, it’s the value of the brand that finally becomes monetized, generally through an acquisition or merger. That value is measured in large part by market share, customer loyalty, and rate of growth – all essential elements of brand building. In other words, brand building is ultimately based on the success of your sales program.

Sure, you must have a high quality product with a compelling catch phrase and a recognizable logo. You can augment this with matching stationary, web site design and social media presence. But none of that actually builds the brand. They are merely tools – unless they are skillfully orchestrated into an effective sales program.

Most sales programs begin with cold calling prospects who have varying cultural, social, language, religious, philosophical, historical and even psychological differences. How can one relate properly to prospects with such diversity?

During the critical start-up phase, and for several years thereafter, it’s the business owner who personally has to make most of the sales. These are the crucial years when you either reach cash flow or fold. They are also the years when your brand gets the reputation as a “hot mover,” an “up-and-comer,” and “the latest thing;” or a “slow mover,” “hard-to-get,” or worse, “a loser.” Your reputation during these early years, when your brand is most vulnerable, depends on your ability to make sales happen.

To accomplish this, most businesses must establish positive relationships with gatekeepers at every level of the distribution channel. Otherwise, even the most compelling artwork and promotional copy in the world will never have the chance to show its stuff, because it will never get in front of the end-user.

When we were building the famous Barefoot Wine brand, we were one of many new brands vying for the same limited and coveted shelf space in the retail market. We had to call on owners of distribution companies – as well as their sales reps, and retailers – as well as clerks who replaced our products on the shelves. We then went out into the community to “sell” our product to the end-users. These were all different people with different backgrounds who bought for different reasons, and each one required a different approach.

The greatest advantage we had that enabled us to get from “Hi, you don’t know me,” to, “buy my product,” was a deep appreciation for who each one of them were as human beings – their culture, psychology, history and philosophy. All that can be learned in college.

Known as the Liberal Arts, Liberal Studies, or the Humanities, these courses are essential to brand building because they give us the knowledge to break the ice with common ground, give and gain respect and trust, and ultimately forge the lasting relationships necessary to make sales. Buyers don’t buy your product so much as they buy you. The more you know about them, the faster they will give you the access and support you need to build your brand.

So dust off that often neglected course of study that seems to have taken a back seat to the sciences and technology. Reacquaint yourself with the courses that make a difference in sales success. You will be much more likely to get purchase orders when you relate to folks in a way that shows respect for their differences. When you are dealing with humans, it is a good idea to learn the humanities!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at www.thebarefootspirit.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.