Sometimes I’m at a loss for words. I know frequent readers of this blog may find that hard to believe but sometimes I am so flummoxed by something I hear that I don’t know how to respond.
I recently had one of those conversations when the subject of selling came up. I pretty much despise discounting of any kind. If a company has built value into their products and services then they should be able to sell that value to customers. The purchase price of that product should reflect the value that was built into it.
In a perfect world that’s the way it would always be. But the last time I checked the world wasn’t perfect.
So salespeople, even at times very good, well trained salespeople will be forced to offer a discounted price to earn the business of a customer. That happens for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is a competitor pricing their inferior products well below the price of the superior product. Then they sometimes deceive the customers into believing the products are nearly identical.
They in effect commoditize the product and tell the customers “it’s all the same so why pay more.” It’s not exactly ethical but if you don’t have a lot of mirrors around and you don’t need much sleep at night it works.
The skill of the salesperson must match the quality of the product. If not then the customer may not have the opportunity to compare the products on a level playing field.
That’s what first attracted me to sales training. Companies with high value products need salespeople who are skilled at showing that value to customers and prospects.
Without highly skilled and professionally trained salespeople the companies that sell products with high value will leave their customers and prospects vulnerable to the offers and “deals” on inferior products put forth by their competitors.
The customer loses in that scenario. They may not realize it at first and truthfully some may never realize it but they lose all the same. But the high value company loses as well. If they can not receive fair value in return for the value they offer then they will fail as a business. The failure may come quickly or it may take a while but the end result will be the same.
If your business is selling high value products and services then you must be compensated fairly for those products and services. That requires a well trained and professional sales force.
This is a bit of an aside but if you’re training your salespeople today in the same way you were 10 or 15 years ago then you are only partially training your salespeople. The marketplace is far more chaotic today then it’s ever been before. There is more information available to customers and prospects (much of it misinformation) than ever. There are more ways to purchase something than was imaginable only 5 years ago. Sales has changed and your sales training needs to change as well.
Which brings me back (finally) to the point of this post. In a conversation with someone who should know better, who in fact MUST know better, they used that oft stated cliche “well, sales fixes a lot of ills.”
I immediately corrected them and said “no, sales HIDES a lot of ills.” The problems are merely disguised for a time. If too many of those sales are heavily discounted then you have a problem. If you are a high value company you have two choices: stop selling high value products or go out of business.
Businesses don’t succeed because of an impressive top line. Businesses succeed when their bottom line is reflective of the value they sell into the marketplace.
What truly flummoxed me was this person’s disagreement with that statement. They insisted that if you were selling enough you would be successful regardless of your profit margins.
For emphasis they repeated, “it’s all about sales and only sales.”
That is almost scary! I wonder how many people in business feel profits are optional? I never considered there would be people in a for profit business that felt that way. Now I’m wondering if I‘ve discovered the cause of a whole lot of business failures.
Sales are not what keep a business going. Profitable sales are what keep a business going. If you don’t know that, if you don’t live that, then you won’t be in business very long.
Just so we’re clear, profit isn’t the only thing a business should make. They hopefully make a real difference in the lives and businesses of their customers. They do that by providing them with high quality products and services. But if they hope to do that consistently, for the long haul, they MUST make a profit.
Because no no matter how much we may want it to be so… sales do not fix everything.