A recent worldwide study by IBM Corp. revealed that 83 percent of the 456 companies that responded ranked revenue growth as a key focus for strengthening the financial performance of their firms in today's competitive marketplace. In addition, four out of five believe that increasing revenue growth is the key factor in financial performance.
During the boom times of the 1990s, many companies became spoiled.
Revenue growth was a given. In fact, most companies didn't have to sell at all; they only had to keep up with customer demand.
Today, however, the market has changed.
As companies look for ways to strengthen their financial performance, competition has reached historic highs. Of the firms surveyed by IBM, 70 percent said increased competition was a major factor impacting their revenue growth.
Clearly, this worldwide competition has reached a fever pitch and the challenge to grow in this new economy has become daunting.
Despite ever-growing competition, I believe that any company's future will depend more upon its ability to market and sell its products and services than on any other aspect of its business. In fact, it's the major challenge facing business today - how to develop, and ultimately merge, these two seemingly separate entities into one lean, well-oiled machine.
Yet, for a company today to be successful, these two disciplines must find a way to do just that.
As product differentiation essentially becomes a thing of the past, it's no longer a matter of building a better product and the world will beat a path to your door.
In today's virtual marketplace, they wouldn't even be able to find your door.
The bottom line is that customers today expect quality products, excellent delivery and competitive pricing.
With so many competitors vying for their dollars, consumers these days are savvy.
They know they have options. Therefore, any company's most potent strategic weapon is its ability to meet - and exceed - those customer expectations to out-sell the competition.
To outsell the competition, two things must occur.
First, a company must become a sales-driven organization focused on increased sales and top line revenue.
Then the sales organization must be equipped with the training, skills, processes and tools necessary in order to make the goal of their company a reality - to thrive in today's marketplace.
Companies today must develop new ideas of how to unite the isolated silos in which sales and marketing currently operate. They can no longer function as the separate entities they have been in the past.
It is crucial for them to integrate into a singular part of the overall organization in order to achieve streamlined, accelerated revenue growth and profitability.
Unfortunately, it seems in many organizations that the marketing and sales departments are operating on two different planets.
One designs lofty campaigns while the other faces the day-to-day reality of trying to meet customer needs. One dreams up new, creative ideas while the other constantly sweats the bottom line.
While the functions of these two departments are, indeed, different, they are actually the same in purpose - their efforts are designed to increase sales.
They remain, however, separate, both in thought and practice, much to the detriment, I believe, of the profitability of the company.
One problem with the way things are structured when it comes to revenue growth and profitability is that marketing is neither given nor expected to take any significant responsibility for the top line.
In order to be an organization focused on any goal, let alone that of increasing profits and beating out the competition, every person in every department must be on board.
Responsibility for meeting this goal must be assumed at every level regardless of department or job title. The company simply cannot afford for anyone to live in a vacuum.
The responsibility on the part of marketing, then, must extend further than merely advertising, communications, public relations and sales support. There must be actual accountability for top line contribution from these activities in those areas.
To make this shift, organizations must ask critical questions:
* What is marketing doing that directly impacts the top line?
* That increases new customer acquisition?
* Improves demand creation?
* Develops loyalty from customers?
In my opinion, the future revenue growth leaders will be those companies that can outsell their competition.
When your company states: "We are a company of our people. Our greatest asset is our people," that's nonsense.
To outsell the competition, a company must clearly understand that its greatest asset is not its people but the undeveloped potential of its people.
That means that it has to do more than pay them lip service - it must train them, support them and give them not only the resources but the latitude necessary to serve their customers, make the sale and step ahead of the competition.
The sales department is the only department in the company that is tasked with the responsibility of actually bringing in the dollars. Knowing this, it only makes sense to offer them every possible resource to make that process as effective as possible.
Surprisingly though, many companies still choose to see their sales organization as merely costly overhead.
"Employees are a resource, not a cost," said the late Peter Drucker.
In truth, it is in the best financial interest of any company to fully develop the potential of that resource.
Companies that understand the value of and choose to invest in that potential through the merging of sales and marketing, the requirement of increased accountability at all levels and through the training and support of their sales staff will become the revenue growth leaders of today and into the future.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.