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The salesman, the sales data and the oopsy-daisy

One of the most traumatic things you will ever experience as a sales or marketing manager is having all the right info and sales statistics, planning your forecasting according to that ...and then still battling to sell anything.

So you look at the sales statistics from last year and even the last couple of months' cumulative stats and averages. It clearly shows that you sold a helluvalot more of A than B or C put together. Obviously the clients prefer buying A.

Eventually you decide that there must have been a sudden shift in the market out there. Customers just all of a sudden changed their minds and now preferred product C and B respectively.

It's not as if the clients don't buy from your chain anymore - they still do. It's the fact that you have allocated your marketing and sales budgets, your whole damn forecasting based on something you thought sold much better than the other products in the same category.

Based on that your funds are now depleted and with that the fact that you might loose market share on B and C too... no more funds to market those two now... The Marketing Division and HR are seriously unhappy with you because of the money they have spent on recruitment, advertising and so on.

Finally you request some other data to assess the problem. The most invaluable information comes from the most unlikely place: the HR department. Up to four months ago Stan (who used to be a used car salesman) left your company. He was brilliant. You remember the amounts of commission he pocketed monthly based on the fact that he completely demolished the targets set for him.

You go back into Stan's files and notice that he sold an astronomical number of product A. What Stan failed to do was to complete the sales form you requested all your sales people complete in order to find out what the customers actually wanted. One of the fields they had to complete stated: If you had a choice between products A, B and C, which would you chose?

Stan the brilliant salesman thought it was rather stupid to complete this form because he sold whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted to sell it to. For him the fact that 99% of his customers requested product C or B, but eventually settled for A simply because he convinced them didn't matter.

You have never picked this up, because Stan kept promising the data collectors and capturers that he will bring his forms in as soon as he remembers to do so... which obviously never happened... because he was so "busy selling and didn't have time for this crap..."

The point here is:

1) Just because you have product A on the shelf and it sells doesn't mean your clients prefer product A
2) Just because you, as the sales guy, can sell product A better than product B and C it doesn't mean you don't have to complete the form or leave out any field in the document: the info is needed for a "higher purpose".
3) Sometimes it seems that Management, the HR Department, Sales Division or Marketing Division is just being difficult when they issue certain forms and request certain information. The fact remains that the question is sometimes quite stupid, but most of the time all the info, never mind how marginal and simple it may seem to you at the time, is very important in the long run and in the bigger picture.

In many organisations the integration of different divisions and the information they share completely nullify any boundaries there were. The reason for that is that information in your company is sometimes interrelated and you cannot, for example, set up a new project team for the production of product D, by only knowing one of the following:

1) The specs of the product
2) The target market aimed for
3) Or the people and their skills

You need accurate information about at least all three of the above because the specs of the product will be affected by the need within the target market. Designing and manufacturing the product depends on the skills of the people in your organization.

About Lehan Stemmet

Lehan Stemmet is one of those rare people who studies one thing and ends up doing something else. His brother reckons: Shrinks are mad, Scientists are eccentric, Marketing people are dilly and Authors just completely lost touch with reality... This bloke studied biochemistry, microbiology, psychology and industrial psychology, ended up in marketing and well, got his first book (Deal With It - emotional empowerment) published in the USA.

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