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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Appointing Business Development Staff? Do You Really Mean Sales People?

There seems to have been a proliferation of rather high flown new titles in business for people who are doing jobs which have been done for ages under their original names. 

Wondering what I am going on about?  I ask myself, why for example are Sales now known as Business Development and why is the Works Manager now called Operations Manager and Purchasing now known as Supply Chain? 

As far as I am aware they carry out much the same functions so what was the need to change their titles? 

I am particularly exercised about the dramatic change in the status of sales personnel because sales, under whatever guise, is the life blood of any trading organisation and, let’s face it, every business including professional practices and charities, is a trading entity. 

Some years ago I heard a poem (doggerel really) which went like this: 

“He who whispers down a well
About the goods he has to sell
Will never make as many dollars
As the guy who climbs on the roof, and hollers” 

and that, to my mind sums it up.  The sales function is central to the effective operation of any business and whatever new title we give to it, it will still demand the dedication and enthusiasm which any great sales operative brings to the job. 

Some years ago, I was asked to go into a company to look at their marketing which was at the time the new and fashionable way to describe the sales function.  In fact, Sales is a function of Marketing as is advertising, PR, social media and the rest. 

The company manufactured small electronic components and had been started from scratch by three like minded electronic engineers.  It prospered until for some unaccountable reason, sales had started to fall away. 

The first thing that I asked them was how were they achieving sales right now and I wasn’t too surprised to be told that “we don’t do anything like that as we have a great reputation and people come to us”. 

I suggested gently that when they started up in business they must have done some selling as it is difficult to build a reputation when nobody knows you. 

“Oh yes,” they said “We went to see some people we knew and they gave us some business and it grew from there.  Now we find that the same people are buying imported components”.  They didn’t know from where they were imported, they didn’t know the prices they were offering, in short they knew nothing about the competition. 

Nothing came of the meeting for me because they were adamant that they weren’t going to get involved with sales people so I made an excuse and left. 

There is a strange reluctance on the part of many businesses to look upon “sales” as a vocation, preferring to regard it as a slightly rude activity, equated with flashy used car salesmen, hence the gentrification to Business Development. 

If my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, could hear them he would certainly have something to say.  He was proud of his function in selling great products on behalf of his company and, by the way, without earning any commission for doing it.  He was totally professional and viewed the activity as a profession. 

That was the best sales force I ever experienced and they operated without financial incentives, just a desire to be successful and to give unparalleled service to their customers. 

Selling is a profession and should be looked upon as such. 

No sales, no business.
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