Increasing Sales May Not be Related to Selling

Posted on February 6, 2009

This post is going to raise an interesting point that has been alluded to by recent marketing authors such as Dave Evans in various marketing publications, but is probably not being trumpeted loud enough across all marketing circles: declining sales may not be a sales problem after all — it might be something else.

It’s too easy to conclude your distribution channels are the primary source of rising (or falling) sales .   Sure, they play a role to be sure, but prospective buyers often form brand perceptions long before they visit your channel(s).

When I analyze how/why companies often end up in the situation of declining sales, I want to consider the following:

  1. Macro-economic events (national or global)
  2. Micro-economic events (contained to an industry)
  3. Company-specific (within the control of the client)

It’s the third situation where it’s easy to assume that the culprit is poor sales management or sales execution. However, we might stop to consider another potential cause — the company has lost its competitive position such that it is now impossible for any sales force to sell its brand/products.   The problem may be upstream in a lack of operational excellence needed to actually make the sales job easier.  Even Zig Ziglar (member of my former church) can’t sell a poor product that is priced too high and sold through the wrong channels.

Essentially, I’m suggesting that increasing sales results may actually be the result of fixing OTHER PARTS OF THE COMPANY so that customers actually want to buy from you.  If the brand is well-respected, the product is excellent, the execution is flawless, the communications are targeted/timely/relevant, and the customer service is attentive — how could someone NOT buy from a brand?

OK, so where am I going with this?  Am I saying good sales organization, training, and consultative selling are unimportant? Of course not — I’m saying that it’s just not enough to change the tide of declining sales if the real problem lies elsewhere.

Need an example?   Despite a global economic meltdown, Ferrari remains the only car manufacturer in the world with a two year waiting list and record profits.

I submit to you the idea that for any company to truly experience a sustainable increase in sales results, they must reshape their brand experience to be worthy of the customer’s attention span and share of wallet.  They must become intentional about courting their customers and “walking the walk” of so-called relationship marketing.   They must realize that no amount of price discounting or sales pep talks can repair a damaged brand, indifferent customer service, shotty execution, or interruption communications.  In short, the company must re-invent and re-invigorate itself such that inspiring a sales force is even possible — because the sales force actually BELIEVES the organization behind them can deliver on the brand promise.  Author Fred Reichheld deep dives into this phenomenon in his book The Ultimate Question.

What does this mean for ad agencies and marketing consultants “on the hook” for help their clients increase sales?  You might want to look outside of the client’s marketing department for your answers.

Think about it.

1 Reply to "Increasing Sales May Not be Related to Selling"

    February 8, 2009 (2:36 pm)

    I work for a major computer/software corporation through the retail environment and SalesBy5 is a great resource! Their wisdom and products have been the most meaningful I’ve found in 15 years of being in sales and thought leadership.

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