How to mess up a company’s sales

Thousands of salespeople work in conditions that are stacked against their success. Even though it’s 2019, the belief persists that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Repeated so often, no one challenges them.

Yet, those six words help explain why salespeople are given “special treatment” by management and barely “tolerated” by others. Salespeople are frequently viewed both as separate and more than equal. When co-workers complain about the sales department, someone says, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” This dismal view has long passed its expiration date. Even so, it’s disturbing since so much depends on the successful performance of the salesforce.

Closely related is another problem and that’s marketing. Unfortunately, it’s still viewed as the handmaiden of sales in many companies, even though it long ago ran out of gas. In this view, marketing does what it’s told to do. When this happens, marketing is rudderless, all tactics and no strategy. Marketing departments become a “do this” dumping grounds, throwing one thing after another against the wall hoping something sticks.

Unfortunately, marketing’s unique mission is often misunderstood or disregarded. Its critical task of creating customers, those who want to do business with a brand, gets ignored.

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If marketing is unable to do its job, salespeople can’t do their job of closing sales. To put it another way, when marketing comes down with the flu, the sales force calls in sick.

Here are three principles that can help anyone in marketing and sales do a better job and be more successful:

Get over the idea that “nothing happens until somebody sells something.”

Forty years ago, those in sales had a point. Salespeople were the link between companies and their customers. Looking back, it’s no exaggeration to say customers were their captives. They depended on a salesperson for product or services information, troubleshooting and support.

Today, the sales role has been upended. When it comes to accurate sales information, customers are often better informed before they ever see a salesperson. That’s not all. Sales are now so transaction-driven, the salesperson’s role continues to erode. On top of this, the task of identifying and accessing prospects is so frustrating, it borders on the impossible.

All this points to a marketing-driven environment quite different from times past. It’s one in which nothing happens until someone decides they want to do business with a company or a brand. Then, the salesperson may arrive to close the deal.

Have a clear understanding of why customers should do business with you.

What separates you from the competition that makes a difference to your customers? What is your value statement; what your brand stands for? What do you bring to the customer’s buying experience that creates credibility and confidence? Unless your brand makes sense to customers, there’s no sale.

Make a commitment to execute perfectly.

“We’ve got to get this out tomorrow.” “They need it now.” “I know, but it’s a rush.” Such words do more damage to sales than just about anything else.

Of course, there are exceptions. But, far too often, the exceptions take over and become the rule. “Just get it done” is a mindset, an attitude that permeates too many companies – it’s the new normal.

The No. 1 enemy in all this is cutting corners. It sabotages the best practices and the best intentions. When everything is rush, rush, rush, cutting corners is inevitable.

If you want to be increasingly successful, then make a commitment to execute perfectly.

Messing up a company’s sales is easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. It occurs without thinking.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales-strategy consultant and business writer. Contact him at