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Sales – A Wake Up Call: Part 1

Well, as we are knee deep in the “ECONOCLYPSE”, I just may have the solution for you.

It stems from something I have been noticing for years. We can’t sell. Full stop.

I can list dozens of alleged sales contacts I have had over the last few months alone, with seemingly professional sales folks who, quite frankly, couldn’t sell eternal life to a dead person. I believe this is a pandemic. And, no that isn't a sick cuddly black and white bear.

We hide behind marketing (whatever the hell that is today) with all that PowerPoint drivel with its spinning globes, throbbing gristle and jumping bunnies. And the all-too-hip glossy, marketing-speak chest pounding end-to-end-solution brochures. The sales pipelines done in spread sheets longer than Rip van Winkle’s beard and all-to-common ever-so-soft useless, pointless, make-me-feel-good titles like Business Development, Account Executive, Business Drivers, Thought Leaders, Change Agents and on and on and so on and so forth. Makes me wanna scream. If I ever see a card handed to me that says "Joe Schmoe – Salesman" I will die of apoplexy!

What the world – the marketing world that is – needs and needs right now, to get us out of this mess, is a good kick in the ass.

Lemme talk about selling.

Selling is about building long-lasting relationships. You cannot have a relationship where fear is the starting point. You can’t have a relationship built on lies. And, most importantly, you can’t develop a relationship without a lot of work.

Selling is in grave danger. True selling that is. And in all businesses – sales are key. "Nothing happens till someone sells something."

I am not talking “order taking” – which is “clerking.” That's where the customers surprise you.

I am talking about selling. Where you go out and surprise them!

My view on selling is as follows: Selling is like hunting. There are two types of hunters (Metaphor alert: I am referring to sales people).

There are those folks who like to sit around the hunting lodge wearing the funny hats and vests playing with the guns. And, there are those who go out into the forest and kill stuff.

No, you’re right, this is hardly politically correct. Sorry. Tough. Get over it. (Images of Glen Gary Glenross – flitting through my brain.) There will be lots more to get your shorts in a kerfuffle. So if this is too strong for ya – better move on. It ain’t gonna be pretty. It will work. But, trust me – pretty it AIN’T! 

I believe that there is a proven, tried and true path to successful selling that, by the way, only some of us elderly know. Because we were around when selling was still a good thing. We were around when hard work was a good thing. And we were around before people spent 3/4 of their time doing PowerPoint decks and sitting in useless meetings!

I figure now is as good a time as any for a refresher course – a look at the past.

I remember the previous two recessions. Early 80s and Early 90s.

Things I learned:

  • No one made any money – everybody thought they had everyone else over a barrel. Wrong.
  • Clients went to the agencies and asked them to tighten their belts and feel the"burn" – they demanded  "more for less."
  • Ad agencies got stuff for free from folks who were/are starvin for work – ergo they cut down staff, especially high-priced help, and bought real cheap or on the "if come" when they needed it.
  • Media trimmed and trimmed – out went the editorial and most of the quality – in with the bundling and deals and networks. Economies of scale = drive out costs!
  • Suppliers and vendors were asked right across the board by their customers for sweeping cuts to stay as suppliers!
  • These clients also cut staff but from the top and left the bottom less expensive folks in place
  • Boards & CEOs were never touched BTW!  Any of this sound familiar?
  • The end user ended up payin' more and buyin' less.

What that left us with – especially in the early 90s recession was:

  • Big clients run by receptionists and clerks (Turning into mid-managers who wrote the book on CYA -  if they stayed)
  • Suppliers dropping their drawers, but really cheapin' out on what they supplied 
  • Agencies adopting "An approved campaign is a good campaign" belief system 'cause they had no senior staff left and and were run by accountants – so they did what they were told.
  • The end user saying "Screw your Brand! I want it all cheap!" except for in a couple of cases – and in those cases the companies were simply lucky. Not brilliant marketers.

Okay, so I got that RANT out of the way. (Insert medication. Literally! Ok I am better now!)

I believe that the benefit to the new path is obvious. When all else fails, sell. And when you sell you succeed. And nothing succeeds like success.

Success can be measured in financial terms, in career terms, in long-term security, in notoriety and/or good fortunes.

We are talkin' full-blown unadulterated success.

As a side benefit you also get:

  • A solid reliable process to follow
  • Measurable tools
  • A working and workable plan
  • Something to rally round
  • A strategy to fight in even the most difficult economies

Stay tuned for the Part 2: The "Sales TO DO's" for the Boss, the Marketer and the sales folks.

Photo credit: Cash Register 99.99 by zizzybaloobah


  1. Miro
    Miro January 20, 2009

    well said
    having worn the brand manager, account manager and sales/hunter hats I can relate to everything you said
    As it so happens, I am looking for new roles and opportunities.
    appreciate hearing back

  2. Webconomist (Giles Crouch)
    Webconomist (Giles Crouch) January 22, 2009

    Good rant! The one part of sales that has died is the good ol’ cold call by phone, and in large part in person. The mega corps sent the soldiers out in droves into the 90’s and so many flooded the doorways managers learned how to send them away.
    Today selling is like good selling has always been – building and fostering relationships and most importantly; gasp, delivering on what you promised.
    And perhaps that’s the issue you alluded to – slide decks and brochures over-promised and under-delivered when crunch time came.

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