It's Time To Ask The Question: "What Does 'Sales' Really Mean to Us?"

As you can imagine, we talk about “sales enablement” at different levels of the organization (Executive management, CMOs, VPs of sales, and individuals who are responsible for piece parts).

In all cases the view of what needs to happen to produce results is very different at each level, which is one of the core problems we have in our industry with building an effective sales and marketing systems.

Those that speak with me frequently know that I like to ask very simple questions (partially because I think at the end of the day selling is a fairly simple thing — we’ve over complicated it).  One of my favorites is “enable sales to do what?”

Perhaps an even simpler and fundamental question we need to be asking is. . . “What is sales?”

Is sales. . .

 

  • The total revenue that our business reports?
  • A department or internal function comprising of a bunch of people?
  • A process?
  • The act of persuading someone to your point of view?
  • A profession?
  • A single transaction?

Let’s put it another way.

Vaccum cleaner salesman

Why don’t we have door to door vacuum salesmen anymore? The last owner of the Washington Redskins (this is the beauty about writing a blog, I can find ways to work in my favorite teams), Jack Kent Cooke started out as a bible salesman. Sold cooking ware door to door. I’m old enough to remember my mother buying those “Have a Happy Day” smiley faced cups, an encyclopedia set, and some pots and pans from door to door salesmen. What happened?

To pull out a consulting term — they were “disintermediated”, which is a Dilbertian pointy-haired boss word that means “replaced by something cheaper”.

So, here we sit in mid 2009 — with a global downturn, an increasingly complex industry, and the role of the sales force has expanded in many companies to now include profitability responsibilities as well. On the buyer side, for the most part — they just cannot tell the difference between suppliers and their own cost-controlling efforts have them putting tremendous pressure on their vendors to meet certain targets.

Do you think after a few years of these pressures we are going to go back to the old selling models? Or is something new going to emerge?

I realize that there is a lot going on, and a lot of things to do right now. However, this is the time to also take a step back and look around to see what’s going on. As you head out for vacation this summer, or the pace of your activity list slows a little — use the time to ask some core questions.

 

  • When our CEO asks for help with sales, what does he mean?
  • What is the role of sales, what do they do, what should they do, how do they do it?
  • Why do we have a sales force at all — what’s their strategic value?

If you are a client, we’ve researched this issue and address some of these issues in our “Engineering Value Sales Conversations ” report. If you are not — here’s a nugget to get you started.

What value does your sales force deliver to your customers?

Simply put, technology vendors need to spend a little time looking at where the road is heading to plot the right course to get to the final destination. However, too many people are focused on the little things which will undoubtedly lead to a wrong turn. By taking an "outside in" view, and looking at the issue more strategically — you can define your end-state vision, assess your current state, and build a pragmatic execution plan to get you there — all in less than a month’s time.