Great Sales People Cannot Fix Declining Sales

The world of selling has changed since yesterday. A lot of the changes we see in the world today have come through technology--primarily how people interact and get their information. These technological changes have also brought about other changes. Frankly "brought about" is a polite term that masks the dramatic and sweeping changes we have seen in corporations and government that all of us are far too familiar with. These changes are "oh yeah, so what" things now because they are now "normal." Nevertheless these changes are critical to how we operate today.


One of the big changes brought about by technology is the broad and sweeping competitors that come from all over the globe. You may remember a time when your major competitors were companies from the US. Now competition comes from India, China, even the old Soviet block countries who would not even dream of competing in the western world of business as it was for them, against their philosophy.


Think about that for a minute. But don't stop thinking there, because what was once accomplished through face-to-face selling is now being accomplished through a website. Sales people used to fight for a customer's business on the basis of their product's features and functionalities and benefits versus your product's features and functionalities and benefits.

Today many of these same products or similar products all look the same--except for minor variations that are difficult to articulate. This is commoditization. Commoditization  makes price the ultimate distinguishing factor for so many decision-makers. If price is the ultimate deciding factor, what is the role of the sales organization?

Who needs a sales force to show the customer their product is cheaper? Who needs a sales force for that? The correct answer is you don't. This is one of the biggest mistakes managers and executives don't understand they are making when they want to boost sales.
The best sales person, cannot make a commodity not a commodity.

Looking for Lowest Price is in Our Blood

The idea of shopping for the lowest cost product is not new. What is new, however, is we forget to recognize is how deeply this has become ingrained in our culture. Just look at the hoards of people who wait for "black Friday" hoping to get a better deal, or the rise of eBay where people are hoping to win something at a lower price point because everyone is bidding to buy something at a lower price point. Something else we do not recognize readily, is how this mindset has impacted our  marketplace.

Commoditization has seeped into our strategic services and solutions. Product and service marketing people have become lazy and have not taken the time to figure out how to reposition their services and solutions to pull their products and services and their companies out of the quicksand.

The Search for a Quick Fix

The easiest and seemingly simplest solution to declining sales and revenues is to hire "good sales people to get us out of this mess." The thinking goes, these "good sales people" have a rolodex of names, contacts who are so loyal to these "good salespeople" that they just buy from them; and these sales people can hit the ground running.

This approach is a solution with it's foundation based in a hiring strategy. This hiring strategy is rooted in a very false premise, that people (future customers and clients) will buy anything from  sales people. Even bad products.  Or so that's theory anyway. By the way--it's a theory that has proven false over and over again. Actually it's an ignorant or even stupid premise. I could go into a lot of detail here why it is an ignorant premise but I won't--except if you think about this premise, it means that sales people have such a loyal fan base of customers that this fan base of customers will buy anything they sell.

This way of thinking is done by some very superior minds. Except they are superior minds in other aspects of the business. But not the client-facing aspect of the business.

A Dose of Reality--the Market's Reality

The thinking is too narrow and it is too incomplete. If you have a bad product (or service) a great sales person is going to have poor sales--period. The problem here is, great sales people before being recruited are smart enough to know to ask the recruiter, "What is the product and why isn't it selling?" The great sales people may ask the same question differently by asking, "What makes your product better than all the rest?"

Here's a chart for you to review and digest. See if this makes sense to you. If it does, and it should, it is a simplified version of what we are discussing.

You cannot talk your way out of this.  These are the facts. A great salesperson, even if you could persuade him or her to come over and join your firm, will not come to sell a less than good product or service. This factor, is one of the reasons these salespeople are truly great. Another factor that makes them great is they will not sell inferior products or services to their clients.

Here is the warning I am trying to make: don't make the mistake of not looking at your products as the culprit or at very least part of an overall solution strategy.

There is good news. At least I hope it is anyway. Very few firms sell only a product or service alone. There are other components that go into an overall solution. More on this in the next post.


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