Imagine a world in which you were able to fire all of your salespeople and still achieve consistent revenue growth. How would you pull it off?
For most growing businesses, quality salespeople are a must. But most business models won't achieve exponential growth riding on the backs of the sales team. Even the best salesperson can't sell something that customers don't value. Furthermore, most high-growth companies don't achieve their successes by hiring the best salespeople. If they did, good salespeople would be too expensive for small companies to afford.
Real sales growth comes through an advantaged customer offer, which we define as a better product at a fair price (or, alternatively, a standard quality product at a much better price). Creating an offering that customers are willing to buy is the key to growth. A good sales team will get your advantaged offering in front of the right customers at the right time.
We were reminded of this simple concept recently when we read through some of the comments to our recent article "Relationship Building Is Much More Than Selling." The executives who read this article seemed to think that the best customers were never "sold to" but nevertheless became the business's most valuable customers.
I've always believed that the best way to market is not to "sell" your company but rather to make it known and to establish meaningful relationships with your clients and B2B leads. This post just makes me believe that even more. Rather than selling to people you don't know, and who have probably heard the same opening lines you gave them upon your first meeting from a dozen others, you should be trying your best to invest time and effort into building up a very good relationship with one of your clients and prospects.
The best business relationships are not those who are "sold" to, but those who act as referral points or credibility references that result in sales, far beyond what these individuals could have "bought" on their own." This is one way of building your network, through referral...I believe this is one of the best business relationships...they trust you to refer you to others.
Given this insight, we try to coach companies to imagine how they would build their business without salespeople. How would they create an offer that caused customers to come over the transom without much sales and marketing investment? What could they do to improve their offer to make it more attractive to customers? This disciplined thinking causes management teams to ensure that their business model will stand on its own, without relying on advantaged selling. If that occurs, the business's sales investment can be a catalyst for growth rather than the single enabler of growth.
What would you do differently if you weren't able to rely on salespeople to fuel your growth?
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark