Sales Management

Sales: The Poor Step-child of Business Studies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor early-phase technology companies in the B2B space, there are only two essential processes:

  1. Development/delivery  (creating technology to be sold);
  2. Sales (selling products that have been or will be created).

All others—including top management, finance, HR, and marketing—must be considered subordinate.

It is therefore puzzling that the creation of effective sales organizations receives so little attention here in Scandinavia. CEOs of early-phase tech companies with lacklustre sales will attribute poor topline performance to customers, technology, regulatory interference, and a host of other factors outside their control. Rarely do they consider the negative impacts of poorly designed or poorly implemented sales processes per se, though both are quantifiable and within their ability to change.

Serious positions in R&D, engineering, finance, legal, and management all require a university degree, while sales—even sales of complex technologies—is considered something that can be learned on the job, without prior knowledge of best practices.  In the world of business there are disciplines called management science and marketing science (or at least marketing research), and constellations of scientific systems dedicated to codifying and rationalising software/hardware development. But there is no science of sales—despite the absolutely central importance of sales to the success of any for-profit enterprise.

Why is that? Sales success is an obvious differentiator of many early-phase companies that consistently deliver 50-100% year-on-year topline growth, and of an even larger number of mature tech companies that consistently deliver 25-50% annual growth. Yet we continually see Scandinavian companies with brilliant ideas, superior technology, star-studded management rosters, and the backing of shrewd financial players, stumble into slow growth, then zero growth, then dissolution—all due to lack of an effective sales culture, and the sales processes that ensure growth.

In this blog, I will make an attempt to demystify sales, sales management, and sales strategy.  I will specifically reflect on conventional wisdom in sales and sales management; explore novel, innovative, high-impact approaches; present research on sales practices; watch out for mega-trends in sales; and summarize in-depth interviews with practitioners from high-performing sales organizations.  I will occasionally analyse events or practices from other parts of the business world, but my primary focus will be on sales and sales management in the high-tech B2B sector; that is where I have learned my lessons, the hard way.

Let me have your thoughts, whether you think they support, complement, or refute my perspectives.  I am an eager learner.
A final word: This blog came to fruition due to the encouragement of Mac McDougal of i2eye Design in Emerald Hills, California.  Mac is a long-time friend and Silicon Valley veteran, whom I thank for his valuable input.  I am hoping to have him involved in this blog.

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