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Andy Marken · 04-20-2009 · Category: Guides




"If you aren't selling, you're buying" -- F.G. "Buck" Rogers, former head of IBM Marketing, Sales activities

Somewhere along the line we got sidetracked into believing we had to focus on our profession.

We forgot what people in companies -- engineers, scientists, accountants, product managers, vice presidents, communications, lawyers, technical/customer support personnel and yes presidents -- were supposed to do.

We got so wrapped up in our own status in the organization, our own feeling of self-importance, our title; we forgot our real job.

The job?

Selling products...selling services...making a profit.

That means:

1. When a customer problem or question comes to you, you try to answer it. And

you go directly to the people who can provide the answer to ensure they customer gets assistance and a satisfactory answer

2. When a phone call or email -- internal or external -- comes in, you return the call or respond within an hour if at all possible. Or you ensure someone handles the query if you are on the road. You leave no query unanswered before you leave the office at the end of the day

3. You spend at least 10-15% of your time with your sales force calling on customers and/or prospects to find out why they purchased -- or didn't -- your firms products/services and what they like/dislike

4. You visit outlets and stores that sell your products/services to see how your promotional materials and the products, as well as your competitor's are presented

5. You talk about your projects, programs, activities with senior management and staff in terms of market response/reaction, impact, sales

6. You time your product announcements and roll-outs so they coincide with when the product/service will actually be available -- in a solid form -- for sale

7. You spend time trying to determine what the customer wants, needs and not what you think you want to design, produce and ship

Those things aren't your responsibility, your concern?

Wrong!

Selling...being responsible...being responsive is your total job.

It is little wonder that customers -- business and consumer -- dislike the buying process so much.

Companies that are just a little bit better focused on the selling (and support) process produce better results.

Often it doesn't take that much to be that much better.

In the late '70s and early '80s Buck Rogers of IBM was the epitome of the salesman's salesman. His consistent uniform -- dark blue suit, white shirt, rep tie and red pocketchief -- may seem dated now but the fundamentals he preached and practiced are as sound today as they were then.

In his mind everyone in the organization was a sales person. The janitor, the engineer, the lawyer, the PR person, the lab rat, the installation/service technician were all part of the IBM sales team.

The internet didn't change that.

Customer support didn't change that.

Specialties didn't change that.

Company focus on specialization, departmentalization, compartmentalization changed the focused customer approach.

The eGain customer relations study polled 300 US, Canadian firms in various market sectors including healthcare, retail, financial services, communications, PC and CE manufacturers, hospitality and services. Your firm could have been caught in this wide net. The inquiries to the firms (sent as emails) expressed a keen intent to buy one of the company's high-value products or services.

They found:

  • 1% of the firms never responded
  • 39% sent an answer within 24 hours
  • 15% sent an acknowledgement that they had received the inquiry
  • 17% responded with an accurate, complete answer
  • 6% didn't have an email contact

Don't say well that's the sales department for you. Rewrap the inquiries in terms of the inquiries you receive. Do you think the results would have been any different?

Does your organizations list easy-to-find key company contact information on your web sites? Direct email addresses? 24-hour phone numbers?

Do you answer every inquiry even from suppliers, prospects or customers halfway around the globe even though they have nothing to do with your area of "responsibility?"

Do you follow-up to make certain they are supported properly?

Do you treat emails like paper mail...handle it once, handle it immediately, take the appropriate action and move on?

Do you view incoming email as talking to a person face to face? Respond promptly and courteously? Or simply ignore the individual?

If you answered no to most of these questions you are not doing your job...your selling job.

But sales aren't your job?

It's your job at work and at home!

  • Didn't you take engineering and technical jargon and put it into words ordinary people could understand?
  • Didn't you advise your management what the ramifications might be of some policy
  • or program you didn't feel was in the best interest of the company's reputation or future?
  • Didn't you explain the reasons for an aggressive product launch with your marketing and marketing communications department?
  • Didn't you help get your CEO on the show program as a key speaker?
  • Didn't you pitch and negotiate a better price and delivery schedule with a supplier?
  • Didn't you make a presentation to engineering (or marketing) on a new product or service you wanted to see added to your product offering?
  • Didn't you convince your spouse that buying a new HDTV was a wise move?
  • Didn't you discuss the reasons why camping in the mountains was much better than a simple visit to Disneyland?
  • Didn't you negotiate a date or vacation with that new person who caught your eye at the athletic club?

Rationalize all you want but if you are good in your chosen field or profession you're selling all the time. You are selling your ideas...your words...your ability to look at problems and opportunities from every angle...your reputation.

If you're uncomfortable with this then don't call what you do selling. Rather tell people you persuade, influence and negotiate.

Then wrap it all with a superb title.

But understand the basics of solid sales efforts. That's the way you get others to adopt your point of view or idea, that you get them to respect/agree with your opinion and that they help you achieve what is best for your company, its products/services and the market at large.

Buck Rogers' mantra is as true today as it was in the early '80s.

Selling is cool.

Selling is fun.

Selling is good for your company's long-term success and profitability.

It's as true for engineering, accounting, legal, product planning, marketing, accounting, manufacturing and public relations as it is for the sales department.

It may not be part of your job title or even in your job description but"If

you aren't selling, you're buying."

Andy Marken

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