The other day we had a conversation where a sales person told me that he had called on a customer who said that he did not need any systems because for his products “line lagke maal bikta hain” and demand was constantly growing……..
This is a great situation for any business to be in – to have such loyal and repeat customers that whatever is produced is sold and like “hot cakes”. Unfortunately, this is also where the problem starts. The business believes that this situation will last forever. Then, one day comes when the market forces change and things turn out to be quite different! The issue is not with the market place, it is with the business and how it responds!
The annuls of Marketing are replete with examples of how companies of not just local scale but global scale have perished because of just this – ready examples come to mind : from the American Railroad industry in the 1920s to Blackberry and Nokia more recently ……….nearer home, Ovaltine & Murphy radio to Vimal, Weston and Fiat……….
The underlying truth is that no business is insured against competition – the more Intellectual property there is, the longer it takes to copy! Hence the longevity of Apple, Intel and Amazon!
A Pull business situation is the right time to invest in customer centricity, innovation and market expansion – if you don’t do it quick and well enough, someone else will!
The opportunity is to invest in customer centricity and market expansion since there are cash flows besides making the business more and more efficient and passing on the benefit to customers – these are the only ways to stay ahead. By doing this consistently, the business acquires the wherewithal to become the “market maker” rather than a “follower”.
The need to put in a sales force and reach out to newer customers and newer geographies is paramount. The benefits are many but most of all, de-risking the business by spreading the customer base. In addition, a sales force has the ability to be the “eyes and ears” of the business and pick up trends from the market place and explore newer horizons “out there”. Today there are a plethora of products and services which help to manage the sales effort more strategically and hence make it more effective – sales force automation is one of them.
Sales force automation systems help to manage the sales and distribution effort not just operationally but indeed at the strategic level. It helps, whether the business is direct to customers/ dealers or is channel based; whether in Push or Pull market conditions; whether for localised or well spread out businesses. Fundamentally the modus operandi shifts from perception based sales management to one that is data based!
The Data helps in focussing a customer centric sales system, provide information about customer behaviour, sensitivity to promotional inputs, intelligence about what the market trends are like, competitor activities etc etc, all of which are going to be increasingly critical in the emerging business scenario.
In conclusion, there is much more need for data based management approach to Sales and distribution in all business situations and automated data based systems is going to be an important ingredient in staying ahead of the market.
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