Selling in the Work

January 22, 2013  

Selling in the work

Some call it socialization, some call it seeding. We call it selling in. (And it’s exactly the opposite of selling out.) 

It happens when you’re nearing the end of a long, smart, thoughtful branding project. The only thing left to do is make sure you’ve got an army of support behind you, whether that’s your board of directors, your leadership team, or the associates on your brand’s front lines. It’s a critical step in any branding process. Yet without careful planning, it can bring a windfall of pain, and possibly destroy all of your brilliant work. Here’s our guide to doing it right.


One quick caveat: We’re making a few important assumptions about where you are in the process and what you’ve already done:

  • You’ve gotten input from key stakeholders up front, during the information-gathering phase, you’ve hashed out differences of opinion, and you’ve agreed on a singular, clear direction.

  • The project has been guided by a small core team whose members represent all of your organization’s constituencies.

  • You’ve built your creative work on a strong strategic foundation.

  • You’ve tested alternate creative concepts and positionings, if necessary.

  • You’ve sneaked no surprises into the final creative.



How to set up for selling in.

  1. Offer the necessary background. Don’t assume that everyone speaks your language. Discuss what makes a strong brand and what makes good creative.

  2. Ensure that everyone understands the initiative’s purpose. Why are we doing this project, anyway? What are our goals?

  3. Review the process that has gotten you to this point. Share the approach and list all the people who have been involved. This brief look backward will set you up for the present.

  4. Communicate where the brand stands today. This can be a simple situation analysis. Remember, you’re setting the stage for the strong work you’ve created.

  5. Share the competitive landscape and where you fit in. You might include where you sit now, how you compare, and where you want to be in the future.

  6. Define the brand’s audiences and what you want each to learn or do. Then talk about what success looks like: both the measurable (actions and purchases) and the less measurable (perceptions and awareness).

  7. Show who is doing it well. Run through a few case studies, in your industry or outside of it. These can be powerful inspiration for your listeners, helping you quietly raise their standards.

  8. Define the exact type of feedback you’re looking for. And manage expectations about how that feedback will be used. At this point, you want minimal tweaks that will enhance the work, not water it down. (See the lists below.)

  9. Beautifully present the evolved brand and its supporting strategy. By this point, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand.  


  • Sharing rationale
  • Building pride
  • Seeding the story
  • Generating buzz
  • Encouraging and increasing ownership
  • Finessing
  • Revealing small changes that will make the work even stronger



  • Testing or focus groups
  • Design by committee
  • Asking for feedback about personal preferences
  • Giving leaders a chance to fulfill their long-lost aspirations as creative directors
  • Building consensus
  • A/B testing
  • Sweeping change


When selling in the work goes wrong, it creates mediocrity. When it goes right, it builds confidence and momentum. Internal audiences feel good about the direction a brand is headed because they understand the reasoning behind it. And that’s your army of support.