The management of both marketing and sales is most likely the single most important aspect of being in business.
· Dr. Suess's first book was rejected by 23 publishers before his 24th sold six million copies.
· In 1903 King Gillette invented the safety razor, but only sold 51 razors and 168 blades.
· Coca Cola sold 400 Cokes the first year.
Without a sale there is no business, period. Non-profits have sales; their services must be needed in the community, and they must fight for funding. Government has sales as people must believe in its ideologies, services, and systems, or they might leave for another country if able. In some cases just the convincing of the military might to support one doctrine is a sale. Education, too, must watch what it offers and must fight for government dollars.
In a recent conversation with a salesperson for one of the largest Customer Resource Management (CRM) firms in the country, it appeared that management had confused working with selling. Given the traditional list of contacts and no real solid management direction, she took it upon herself to use the knowledge she had to build the organization's base.
Typically, she filtered whom to call. You know, the "I won't call them because they are not big enough" routine, or "They won't need my product." Her results were good but not stellar. Stage two entailed emailing some company literature and specs on the product. If the prospect, now numb due to reading the bazillion-page PDF file, was still interested, she would set up a meeting. However, she was not allowed to give the presentation. Only a "salaried" employee, with extensive technological background, actually conducted the follow-up meetings. Management must have believed that purchasers of ACT, Siebel, Goldmine, or any of the other products needed in-depth computer knowledge before they would purchase. Management actually had no sense of the sales process or understanding of relationships and value. No wonder sales were slow. The salesperson actually wanted me to forward the Bureau of Labor and Statistics report that showed 1,501 firms had major layoffs totalling 172,908 for the month of February (2001) to prove to her management that the economy was slowing. Instead of building business, she was now defending her turf. Why, in other positions involving sales, did she do well and in this venture seem to have stalled out?
Realize that management and leadership hold a major share of control in a salesperson's success. In this instance, the systems in place and the directions dictated by the firm did not put her in a position to win.
Strategically, if the job of salespeople is to win customers, then management must supply them with the proper freedom, tools and direction:
1. Make sure the process fits the desired result—to win.
2. Make sure management understands sales. If the manager has not been a winning salesperson or a winning manager, then don't put them with people whose lives (as well as the survival of the entire organization) depend on making the sale (funding, project management, budgeting).
3. Management must help to prepare a list and work the lists. Sales, once the basics are understood, starts with a list. Do not filter, skip, or jump. (The other day, we called an association off a lead that appeared to be a dead end. The "dead end" was a management company for 200 other organizations. You never know.)
4. Management must have more to offer the salesperson than the "elevator pitch." Because your firm exists, or you can make a one-minute summary, is not a reason to give you donations or purchase your product. What value does your firm offer over others? What can you do for them by working with you?
Selling is a tactical numbers game; management is a strategic game. The combination must form a process that shoots for closing the deal and not just keeping others busy. As stated earlier, don't always blame the results on poor employees. Take a look at management first, and see if they are leading appropriately.
© MMI David & Lorrie Goldsmith
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