In today's competitive marketplace, a company's future depends more on its sales and marketing ability than on any other facet of its business.
Without sales, nothing happens.
Even knowledge of what products and services to provide flows from the partnership between a company's sales force and its clients. W. Edwards Deming says that a company must "focus on the consumer, not the product, as the most important part of the production line."
Deming founded the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement. TQM shifted the focus in manufacturing from profits to quality, and from the individual to the team. TQM is working well; costs are down, profits are up, consumers are more satisfied, teamwork is replacing old win/lose ways, and new methods and processes ensure that the consumer receives quality service as well as a quality product.
TQM works because it uses a logical, step-by-step process to improve production. In addition, the TQM process can be applied to any product from potato chips to computer chips. Now, just about every organization has a production process, as well as an accounting process, a distribution process, and an administration process.
But what about sales? Which organizations have a sales process?
Sales tend to be left to chance. Typically, salespeople are given some product knowledge and some motivational hype, then sent out to sink or swim. Is it any wonder that sales people feel pressure, panic, and don't close sales? Without training, a process, or assistance, how can salespeople increase sales and improve profitability? Most cannot.
Think of your salespeople. How would you rate them on a level of one to ten, ten being the highest level of knowledge, skills and attitude?
Are your salespeople threes, fives, or tens? A salesperson must be a highly trained competent professional to survive in today's marketplace. Yet research shows that the majority of salespeople do not know how to sell the money their companies have invested in them wasted.
If you look at your salespeople and they are fives today and they were fives last year, what has to change this year to make them into sevens, eights, nines, or tens?
Now let's look at your customers. Are your salespeople calling on high level decision makers who control the dollars a company spends?
Then your salespeople are dealing with clients who are above average in attitude, education, and skills. How would you rate these clients? Fives? Or are they closer to tens? What do you think happens when a salesperson who is a five calls on a prospect who is a 10? No sale.
Now let's look at your competition. What will happen if your competitors train, educate, and motivate their salespeople to be tens? Your competition will then be gaining market share and you will be losing market share. A more knowledgeable, better trained sales force will outsell the competition.
Companies say, "Our greatest asset is our people."
That's static and one-sided. Any companies greatest asset is the undeveloped potential of its people.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.