Sales are slow. Stop selling.

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Times are tough. Sales are slow. You need to make cuts. So what’s the first area to feel the pain? The marketing folk know.

What happened to that entrepreneurial spirit? Any start up knows that to fly it has to raise awareness, generate excitement, and sell, sell, sell. Doesn’t the same apply in spades during a downturn?

Sales are the foundation of any enterprise. When you have sales you have a business. Even if you have nothing else, you have the foundation to succeed. It’s the one function of your organization that you cannot do without, ever. When you boil it down to your very raison d’etre, it starts with customers. And nobody else in your organization is more committed or qualified to bring them in than your marketing team. Let me rephrase that – nobody else is as vital.

As leaders, our roles are to find the best allocation of often limited resources. Financial professionals do an admirable job of trimming fat and streamlining operations, and this is wholly necessary. But it’s also a defensive business strategy if not tempered with some bold entrepreneurial thinking. And whilst it may prolong survival in the short term, it will ultimately stint growth in the long term.

Marketing shows up as an expense item on the P+L so it’s in the cross hairs from get go. But too often we fail to realise that without it our income columns will be woefully light. Stop thinking like a CFO for a moment, and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

It’s a cliché that the most critical time to up the marketing ante is during rough economic times.  But like all clichés, there is profound truth and wisdom in it. You will find fat to trim in most areas of your operations I’m sure. But I have yet to meet a marketing professional that doesn’t work longer, harder and contribute as much (and in all likelihood a lot more) to the organization than just about anyone else on the payroll. If you’re looking for fat to trim it’s unlikely that, with some sound judgment and entrepreneurial spirit, you will find it there. Then is the time to reenergize your marketing function. Redirect it. Bolster it. Do some market analysis. Do you need to tweak the offering? Expand in to a different market? Create a new segment? Enhance the message? Your marketing team will do it for you…if they’re still there.

When it’s time to wield the hatchet, look harder and smarter. Think like an entrepreneur and start increasing sales.

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