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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Organizational strategy'>Organizational strategy</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Success in business'>Success in business</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Small business'>Small business</a>
Sales Leadership
Sep 15, 2009 | Scott McKain lock

I was about give a presentation for one of my best clients at the Doubletree Hotel in Overland Park, Kansas. As I was entering our meeting room, the banner of another organization holding a conference across the hall stopped me in my tracks. I looked at it with amazement.

I tapped an insurance executive on the shoulder, pointed out the poster and simply said, "That may be the most foolish phrase I have ever seen at a business meeting."

The theme of the other organization's conference was: "Sales Cures Everything!"

I could not believe their ignorance - and the erroneous information they were communicating to their team. "Sales" does not cure everything - not by a long shot!

If your organization isn't serving your customers well, does more sales cure that problem? Of course not.

If your company cannot retain good employees because it lacks the clarity necessary to create distinction -- does more sales cure that? Absolutely not.

If you cannot make your product stand out in the marketplace, and you slice your price - selling more, but earning significantly less - does that cure everything for you and your organization? You know it doesn't.

If you fail to communicate what your organization is about, what it stands for - or what makes you clearly compelling individually as a professional - will hawking more of your stuff cause your challenges in communication to evaporate? Please don't deceive yourself into thinking that it might.

Here's what sales does: If you are a commission-based professional enduring a slow month, more sales makes the pain of that period easier to handle.

If you are judged on revenue you generate, more sales will temporarily prevent your managers from calling you on the carpet.

If you lead a public company, more sales may avert your share price from falling for a bit.

If you own a small business, more sales may briefly keep your banker at bay.

However, while more sales may ease the symptoms of a current situation, or keep it on life support, it definitely does not cure anything.

Sales -- perhaps -- extends everything. It doesn't alleviate your problems, it just means you can suffer them a while longer.

Differentiation and distinction cures what ails you...

However, building distinction is the strategy that takes an ailing organization or career and gets it back on its feet and in the race. Differentiation has taken organizations from corporate intensive care to winning the business equivalent of the Olympic Gold. And, differentiation and the resulting personal and organizational distinction just do not happen without compelling communication.

To use the oft-cited example of the eminent company in motorcycles, consider this: What would have happened if, during the darkest days at Harley Davidson - immediately after the thirteen senior executives had purchased the company back from AMF in 1981 - those leaders would have communicated to their team this message: "Ladies and gentlemen, just focus on sales. Sales cures everything!"?

Their company was in an incredibly difficult situation. Product quality had become a joke, and the Super Glide bike had a horrible reputation. Harley dealers - and their customers - so ignored and abused by the previous regime were bolting to other manufacturers.

Instead, of saying "sales cures everything," the Harley executives announced that, "The Eagle Soars Alone" and dedicated themselves and their company to becoming the distinct leader in their market by re-connecting and intensely communicating with their current customers and making a compelling case for prospects. You know how that story turned out, right?

And, therein lies the most important point. Lots of companies seek a superior position in the marketplace, just as Harley aspired to claim. However, you remember Harley not because you happen to recall the price of the acquisition paid to the former owner by management team. Nor do most of us specifically remember what Harley shares were trading for when they returned as a public company a few years later, compared to their current valuation.

What we remember is the story that Harley communicated.

Rather than erroneously insinuate to your team that "sales" will cure what is wrong with your company -- begin by taking a look at the story your organization is relating internally and externally -- and seek to make a compelling case, just as Harley did, with both your customers and colleagues.

About the Author:

Scott McKain is Vice Chairman of a dynamic holding company with nineteen companies in diverse industries that was named one of the "fastest growing companies" in America. He is also the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty.

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