Sales-The Ugly Duckling of Corporate America

I had coffee recently with a gentleman who does mergers and acquisitions. He shared with me the story of a company doing about $25M in sales. The owner of the company made the off-hand comment that he didn’t know if he was getting the most out of the rep organizations around the country. WHAT?

Doesn’t that scare the hell out of you? It does me. I have consulted with over 20 companies in the last several years and in none of those companies was sales considered the life blood of the company. Oh, people talked about sales and the salespeople but only in a cursory way. More attention was paid to clinical support, margin strength, capitalization, web-site development, software integration, production controls, marketing, and a host of other “support efficiencies”.

In most of the 20 consulting gigs I walked into I found that:

  1. The salespeople were under trained on sales and products.
  2. The sales manager was either non-existent or under qualified.
  3. The owner was trying to manage the sales group, with disastrous effects.
  4. The owner was still involved “too much” in sales. (Some involvement is necessary.)
  5. Hiring/firing salespeople was low in quality and high in stress.
  6. The owner had high expectations for the sales department but offered zero direction.

When asked about sales the owners typically said something like:

  1. Sales takes care of itself; we have loyal customers.
  2. Our salespeople (director distributor) have been in place and they seem to be doing the job.
  3. Growth hasn’t been great but there were factors that contributed to that.
  4. I’m too involved with (fill in the blank) to focus on sales right now.
  5. We grow by acquisition.
  6. Our marketing department generates the sales.

There is nothing wrong with having a great supporting cast of people in other departments but without sales, companies go down the tubes, without so much as a glimpse back. Whenever I walk into a company I ask dozens of questions about sales and I ask those questions of different people in and out of the sales department. And I like to discover the top three things that will happen if sales performs below expectations. That tends to open up a Pandora’s Box of emotions.


One thought on “Sales-The Ugly Duckling of Corporate America

  1. Interesting post. I’m in software development and a few years ago, I was independent. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to sell myself. It didn’t matter at all how capable I was in software if I couldn’t generate business. I’d place high importance on sales training and management – they’re the face of the company….

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