One of my aunts used to say that when one of us kids overlooked something by not looking at a situation in a complete way. We saw the obvious – but missed the subtle message.
I was reminded of that yesterday.
I was reading about how, in the mid-1990s, Xerox missed an underlying technological change taking place in their industry.
The sales force was focused on maintaining market share in the face of lower cost competitors like Canon.
But, even though they were visiting companies every day, they missed the fact that people were beginning to use PCs and printers to produce copies.
How did this happen? How could something, so evident in retrospect, have been missed?
One answer is that sales and strategy are separate worlds, often disconnected from each other.
No doubt that’s true. But it’s not just a process or functional issue.
Before becoming a CEO, I spent time in sales and then managed sales forces.
I also worked in companies which had entrenched positions in their industries and which failed to respond to structural shifts.
So here’s my question. Even if the sale force had spotted the change, would anyone have listened to them?
Market dominance can breed a culture in which owners and management develop the belief that they can do no wrong. Their attitude is…….
We’re doing what we’ve always done and that’s resulted in success for many years now. If growth slows or sales actually decrease, that must be because the sales force have stopped being effective.
Instead of complaining about products not having enough features or prices being too high, the sales people need to focus on making calls. What’s needed is a sales training program. And if that doesn’t work, then we’ll replace a few of them.
If things still don’t turn around, we’ll have a look at our marketing programs.
By which they really mean the promotional programs, if any, because they’ve forgotten that marketing also includes pricing and product strategies.
I was on the receiving end of attitudes like these when I worked in corporations.
And, in the last 13 years, we’ve worked with many privately owned companies after sales training and marketing programs failed to restart growth.
So, before reaching for the process or functional solutions, take a moment to check the culture and attitudes. However improbable, that might lead to the answer.
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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn