Several years ago I participated in a company golf outing; in my foursome was the Vice President of Operations.  We knew each other fairly well and so while we hit the ball around the golf course we chided each other with the age-old question, which is more important operations or sales?  

Let me present the same question to you.  There is no argument that both sales and operations are important; one can’t exist without the other.  A company can have the finest product in the world, but without sales, the company will not exist.  Likewise, a company can have the best salespeople in the industry, but without a product to sell, the company will cease to exist.

I have a friend who told me he was going to start a service related business.  He wanted me to give him a few pointers on how to sell his services.  I told him I would be happy to help him in any way I could.  I waited several weeks and never heard from him.  When he finally called back he told me he was still working on his marketing materials and putting the final touches on his products.  I didn’t hear from him for several more weeks and when he finally contacted me he told me that even though he had finished all the marketing materials and product refinements, he had decided to redo everything because he just wasn’t happy with the results.  To make a long story short, he never launched his business because he never got around to selling his services.  In reality, he could have gone out and sold his product and after making the sale he could have fine-tuned the delivery of his services.  The failure of his company was not the product; it was the lack of sales effort.

I was with a client recently, who told me he had made a sales call to a business that had never heard of his company.  My client is the regional service provider for a national company.  One of the users of this national product had no knowledge that my client was the regional service provider!  My client may possibly be the best-kept secret in town; no other company currently provides the level of service he does.  No one!  But there are still prospective customers who are unaware of the services my client has to offer.  What good does it do to have the top service technicians in the country if no one knows you exist?  The answer to maximizing the utilization of their service technicians is an improved sales effort.

There is a great line from the movie, Field of Dreams that states, “If you build it, they will come.”  Ask yourself the question, “If they don’t know you built it, why will they come?”  The answer is, they won’t!  My first job after graduate school was selling iron ore to steel mills in North America.  I didn’t know anything about iron ore or the steel industry when I first started.  However, during the first six months of my sales career, before I had even seen an iron ore pellet, I sold millions of dollars worth of product.  Once I gained knowledge of the product I was selling, my sales increased dramatically.  The point is this:  I didn’t need to have a great amount of knowledge about the product to make sales.  I did, however, need to find the opportunity, the need or the pain, and then I could use the experts within my company to help with the technical details until my knowledge was sufficient.

My company mined iron ore and produced high-grade iron ore pellets.  Other companies around the world did the same thing.  Steel mills purchased iron ore pellets from companies they knew, based on the quality of the product they produced.  If a steel mill was unaware my company sold iron ore, they would obviously buy from someone else.  If the customer doesn’t know you exist, there is no reason to believe they will purchase your product.  We reached a point in the sales of iron ore that we had outsold our ability to produce.  What did we do?  We expanded our operations.  We grew the company, by first increasing our sales.  We didn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars to expand our operations in hopes of selling more.  We drove the growth and expansion of the company through sales.

Sales make the world go ‘round.  You sell it and your company will find a way to source it or produce it.  The future success of your employer depends on your ability to sell its products or services.  There are times when the company may increase their inventory or production believing the salespeople will sell more.  However, if management doesn’t believe it, they won’t produce it.  The salesperson’s performance is the driving force of our economy.  The real heroes in business are the ones who sell the products and services.  Without sales, nothing else happens!