There are many ways in which a company can improve its profits. For example, it can cut costs, if there are any left to cut: suppliers can be squeezed if there is any juice left in the orange: acquisitions, mergers and disposals; and of course let us not forget restructuring and refocusing, the favourite terms in press releases, as companies try to convince analysts that the extraordinary charge on their P&L was justified. Most if not all, of the above are expensive, some extremely expensive, some are short term and some potentially dangerous to a company’s health.

In my opinion there is another way, maybe taken for granted or perhaps forgotten and ignored, and that is to sell more, sell better and sell quicker. After all greater volumes, better margins, and improved cash flow are not far from most Managing Directors priorities, and these are the benefits that come from selling more, better and faster. What is more it is relatively cheap to implement. “No it’s not!” is the cry from the frustrated FD who after three years implementing a CRM system at a preposterous cost, is still waiting to see some bottom line benefits. “Oh no it’s not!” is the cry from the equally, but less financially, frustrated HR Director as he trips over a pile of unused sales training manuals and Miller Heimann strategic selling blue sheets. A harsh judgement? Maybe, but weren’t there good sales people before the introduction of IT systems and complex sales techniques?

Much is written in the business pages and journals about all aspects of business, but so little about selling. This is not a criticism of business journals, rather an indictment of the sales profession, one which is bullish externally but not as secure as its external demeanour sometimes presents. However, the sales community is responsible for much of the profit generation in today’s environment where true competitive advantage is transitory. Good selling is not transitory and is a relatively inexpensive source of sustainable competitive advantage.

The fundamentals of selling are simple; find a prospect who needs something you have to sell, and has the money to pay for it. Convince them of the value of your proposition, counter their objections and ask for the order. Sales people flourish in an organisation where there is a clear business plan with realistic goals, a well-defined, unambiguous sales strategy, a strong value proposition, and a supportive management environment. If an organization has these attributes a well-managed and motivated sales force will do the execution.

So, the next time you are planning a strategic review to enhance shareholder value, or just to improve profits, make sure you ask the question, “Whatever happened to selling?”

Reproduced with the permission of Koru Consulting Ltd.