I don’t know any successful business leader (in either the for profit or not for profit world) that has ever said, “We really don’t care about revenue!”
We may be driven by other reasons–not for profits have missions to help solve profound social or other problems. For profit businesses may be driven to solve certain problems, to have an impact on their customers and markets. Some may be driven by a passion for building products.
But all of these require funding, money. As a consequence, we have to care about revenue.
If we care about doing these things over a long period of time, we have to continually generate revenue. If we want to grow and do more, then we have to grow the revenue.
Consequently, someone in the organization has to be accountable for generating that revenue. If you are a solopreneur, you have to devote some time to generating revenue, even if you find it distasteful, someone has to want what you do and be willing to pay for it. If you are part of an organization, someone has to be accountable for generating revenue. However they do it, whatever they call the people who are responsible for generating revenue, revenue generation is someone’s job.
Some have success generating revenue with a field of dreams approach, “Build it and they will come.” They have a website, customers find them, and buy the product. It’s a strategy that’s powerful and works until it doesn’t. What happens when people stop coming? What happens if they don’t convert? What happens if not enough buy?
Whatever we make, whatever services we provide, someone has to be accountable for generating revenue and hitting the revenue goals. No executive for any successful and growing organization would ever say, “We don’t care about revenue, we’re happy with whoever is willing to buy.”
At the same time, it seems to be popular for executives to say, “We don’t have sales people!” “We don’t want to ‘sell’ our customers.”
Saying something like this, at least to me, is the equivalent of saying “We really don’t care about revenue.”
Someone has to be accountable for generating revenue. Yes, they are dependent on the support of the rest of the organization, but someone has to be accountable for assuring revenue goals are achieve.
This is the fundamental responsibility of sales.
But there are those that proudly state, “We don’t have sales people!” Dig into any of those organizations, and even though no one carries the title “sales person,” some one or some group is accountable for generating revenue. The things they do, finding enough customers, responding to them, helping them navigate their buying process, even persuading them to change their minds or approach or opinion. Someone in those organization is accountable for getting customers to recognize there is a different and better way to achieve their goals, there are opportunities they are missing. This is a sales function, even though the people responsible for doing these things may not be called sales people.
One Silicon Valley Unicorn has become a beacon of success declaring they don’t have sales people. They proudly proclaim, “we don’t have sales people.” Five minutes of research on LinkedIn shows roughly 10% of their employees have very deep sales backgrounds. That number is possibly understated, because it’s showing only those that are 2nd and 3rd degree relationships with me. There may be more who are more distant.
But if you don’t have a sales function, why do you need to hire people with rich sales backgrounds? Furthermore you look at the profiles of these people. Many, despite popular Silicon Valley mythology carry outright sales titles. Some are disguised with business development, growth, customer loyalty, customer advocacy, channel/partner managers, and other titles. As you read profiles, they read as sales profiles. Yet this company is the Silicon Valley beacon of the “we don’t need sales people” movement.
There’s another side to this fashion focused on “We don’t need sales people.” How honest are we being to our customers? If we declare we don’t have sales people, but we have people responsible for and measured on revenue generation, are we being honest to our customers? If these people do the same thing our sales people do—find customers, educate them about opportunities to improve their business, teach them about how they can grow and how our solutions can help them achieve their goals. If we have people guiding customers through their evaluation and buying process. If we have people ultimately asking the customer to order.
Regardless what we call them, aren’t these people doing a sales function. Aren’t they responsible and fulfilling the fundamental responsibility of sales–driving growth and revenue?
There are many things we can say about sales people, much deserved, much undeserved. There are games we can play, trying to convince others we “aren’t selling to them.”
As long as we care about revenue, as long as we care about growth, as long as some one or function in the organization has accountability for revenue generation, we have a sales function.
Let’s stop wasting time, let’s stop the games we play with customers and others, let’s recognize the importance of revenue generation and the people accountable for revenue generation.
Let’s get behind them and do everything we can to assure they are successful, because it’s their success that drives that of our organizations.