I come from a family with a long tradition in trade. In fact, I was first involved in sales when I was just a first grader (6 years old) to gather money for the cinema — a luxury back then! Anyway, I have always loved sales and marketing, and indeed, with my first job, I started with a couple of fine salesmen (Wil and Joel), who taught me a few more commercial sales secrets. I never stopped selling, and my current job is intertwined with sales, marketing, promotions, etc., on top of everything technical or scientific I do — In fact, I do both at the same time, most of the times.
In all that time, I have realized there are two ways of selling: sell commodities, or added value. Let me explain. When you buy yogurt at the supermarket, you buy a commodity based on quality, brand and price. When you buy yogurt with fruits, the same principles apply, but you pay a bit more than the actual cost of adding the fruits in the yogurt. This is the added value, and without marketing and sales working closely together, this cannot be easily justified. Another example in our industry, now: When we buy corn, we buy a commodity; when we buy high-oil corn, this is an added-value product. They are both indeed useful and justify their prices, but they serve different needs in the market.
Using the right sales person for the right product, in my opinion, is at least as crucial as having the right product.
Now, let’s go back to sales. In my experience, sales persons can sell either commodities or added value — very seldom can the same person do both jobs. Indeed, I have found it difficult to retrain one type of sales personality to do the opposite. Lamentably, many, many companies that I worked and work with cannot understand that it is not easy to make the transition using the same sales force. The management believes that by having an added-value product, which I often design, they can now sell it using the same sales force reaping the “added value.” It never works like that. The sales force needs to be retrained, or new sales personnel needs to be assigned/hired for the new product line, not to mention that often a new brand identity needs to be created — but then we digress to marketing territories.
Using the right sales person for the right product, in my opinion, is at least as crucial as having the right product. In fact, before I even start talking about the new added-value products, I always want to talk to the people who will sell them.