By John Ingrisano
[The following is an excerpt from John Ingrisano’s The Back to Basics Book of Selling: A Guide to a Successful Sales Career.]
It was once widely believed that, “If a man can … make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door.” That quote is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. And while Emerson was one of America’s finest essayists, philosophers, and poets, he certainly was no businessman. No product, no matter how good it may be, will sell itself. It has to be sold. And that is a fact of life.
Almost daily, the business section of any newspaper tells us about new companies – many with innovative ideas and surefire products — that have gone belly up. The “Public Notice” and “Auction” columns in classified sections tell the same story: Companies have declared bankruptcy and what is left of their capital assets has to be auctioned off to pay their debts. Many of these companies do not fail because of high overhead, inefficiency, or managerial incompetence. All too often, they fail because the founders invested all their time and money in developing that better mousetrap, with no effort given to developing a marketing strategy. They failed to realize that customers were not going to beat down their doors to shove money across the counter for their products.
Products have to be marketed. Products have to be sold. An obscure footnote to history tells us that, were it not for a salesman named Vail, Alexander Graham Bell’s venture with the telephone might never have gotten off the ground. H.J. Heinz, the founder of the company that bears his name, did not develop those “57 Varieties” by sitting and waiting for customers to come to him. When he first started in business, he loaded his products into a wheelbarrow every day and sold them door to door. Mr. Wrigley and his chewing gum became famous because he “hit the streets,” so to speak, and sold his product from a basket.
That famous Texan named Mary Kay Ash is another great example. Starting in 1963, she built a storefront cosmetics business into Mary Kay Cosmetics, a nationally known, multibillion-dollar empire that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. How did she build this empire? Is it because her products are better than the hundreds of others that enter the market and fail each year? Mary Kay cosmetics are good products, but quality of product alone does not explain this incredible success. What made the company successful was marketing. Selling. Mary Kay Cosmetics continues to boast a sales network that is second to none, and in 2006 racked up wholesale sales of $2.25 billion.
Remember, it is not the quality of a product alone that determines its failure or success. Products do not sell themselves. They need to be sold. If you were to examine two companies, each with equally competent management, which offered identical products, you would see that the company that understands the importance of marketing the product, of selling the product, of bringing the public into contact with the product, this will be the more successful of the two.
Products can be sold by any of a thousand techniques — advertising, promotional campaigns, free samples, etc. Small nickel-and-dime items can be sold without the aid of a salesperson. Cigarettes, gum, soft drinks, and similar items can be bought from a machine, buyer awareness having been piqued through media advertising and attractive displays. Many such purchases are impulse buys, which satisfy basic needs or simple whim. While a “media blitz” or eye-catching merchandising may soften up buyer resistance, most major products or services require one-on-one contact between a prospective buyer and a sales professional if they are going to sell at all, much less realize their maximum level of sales. Good advertising can attract prospective buyers, but it takes a sales professional to turn the curious into customers.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
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