Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sales & Marketing - A Forever Process

Sales and Marketing are the two most critical functions in any company.  That is not to say that other functions are not important, however, you can have the best product or service to sell; but if no one knows about it, the company is going no where.   Sales and Marketing should be the first functions funded during the budgeting process and the last functions cut in bad times.  Even with great sales management in place, the President and CEO of every company should also be the CSO, the Chief Sales Officer of the company.  I take that responsibility very seriously. Who better knows the attributes of any company than its' President.   I have seen many companies fail in my 33 years in business, when Senior Management did not understand this basic premise.

Sales is about having the right sales people and enough of them to take the company's message to the street.  While Sales will always be about relationship building, with the advent of Procurement in the Sales process, that task has changed dramatically.   Old Fashioned Selling, that often used to be based on the salesman's personality and selling skills alone, is no longer the paradigm.  Today in an era of Social Networking and the Internet, Sales has become much more of a Science than an art.  It really is too bad because Old Fashioned Selling used to be a lot more fun.  I know, I know, I am just an old geezer longing for the "good old days" when I was on the front line selling; but I always loved the sales process from start to finish.  It was not just about winning; but rather making the sale happen through great selling skills. Young Guns in Sales today will never get to fully experience the thrill of the hunt and closing the deal, the way it used to take place when I was in direct sales many years ago.   Of course, you don't know what you don't know. 

Outstanding Sales People are born not made.  While technical training can be provided to make a great salesman even better, if sales skills are not genetic and innate, there is no way to turn someone into a SALESMAN.  My staff members often hear me say (and hate it) that I have 90 year old Morabito Aunts that are better sales people than many of the salesmen I see on the street today because they got the Sales Gene from my Italian Grandfather, as did I.  We were very lucky in getting that Sales Gene because it did not transfer to many others in our family.  Sales is like breathing.  If you have to think about it, you are not a SALEMAN.  This is why really great SALESMEN make lots of money. 

Personally, I was a salesman in training my entire life, though I often did not know it.  From the time I sold programs and peanuts at the Ontario Speedway as a kid,  to when I had souvenir stands at Dodger Stadium, to when I sold ladies shoes in Beverly Hills to work my way through university and even related to the six years that I spent in teaching in the inner city in Los Angeles, I was always selling.   When I finally joined Merrill Lynch at 29 years old, as the youngest manager they had ever hired, to help found a Consulting Services division, I found myself selling services that did not even exist in response to client requests.  So much so that I was involved in selling a major Group Move that utilized many of Merrill Lynch's services in keeping with Don Regan, the CEO's concept, of a financial super market.   Don Regan later went on to become Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Treasury. 

In any case, the Director of Business Development at the time, who technically had responsibility for sales in the region kept asking me if I had the authority to sell these new services.   Coming out of teaching where no one ever got fired, I really had no clue; but I was just responding to the multi-million dollar opportunity I saw in front of me.  Though he got the commission, eventually since it worked out just fine and I did not get fired, which I learned later would have been the end result if my deal had failed, I got the credit as I was featured in the 1985 Merrill Lynch Annual Report, which was a pretty big deal at the time for a 35 year old Director.  I also eventually got his job as I was asked to take over Sales in his region by Senior Management.  At first, I fought taking that job because I did not see myself as a Saleman; but as it turns out, it worked out very well as I went on to sign 35 clients in just three years.   I discovered that I had the Morabito Sales Gene and all that training I got before joining Merrill Lynch really paid off.   By the way, it was Mrs. Morabito that convinced me that I should  take that sales job by saying that "I would make it whatever I wanted it to be anyway", so why not?   She was right.   

And, then there is the Marketing function to support Sales, which is also critical.  Aside from the staff needed to support Marketing, every year we have a budget discussion about discretionary Marketing Spend.  Every year, my Director, Global Marketing and Communications comes in and asks for the Sun, the Moon and the Stars to advance our brand.  She usually gets the Sun and the Moon, since we often can't afford the Stars.  That being said, today given the way sales transpires, Marketing Spend is probably responsible for 50% of our Sales opportunities, which makes this a vital company function.  It is Marketing Spend that often creates the visibility in the Market Place needed to win new business.   In our case, we have spent millions of dollars, since founding our company in 1991, to establish and advance our Brand.   Salesmen may come and go; but the brand goes on forever.    

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