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To sell or to educate?

19 October 2005

For her Masters Degree at University, JD has to keep a blog. Yes, blogging is an integral part of her course about Excellence models and how to achieve excellence in a business. She needs to blog and reflect on the things she has learned that day/week. Quite fun. After some healthy resistence against blogging, things have gone much better.

Thre good thing about it is that I can keep up with the sort of thing she is doing. I ask and then she explains but sometimes it is nice to read what is going on in her head and the things she is learning. I must admit, some of the things she is learning are fascinating and look really attractive to me.

And then some of the things look bloody obvious.

We had a Management Consultant in at my work yesterday. The Sales Team sat in the boardroom just talking about how we sell our products, who our customers are, what we actually sell, how we keep track of a sale and how we take care of existing accounts. The result showed a yawning gap between the sales team and the MD about what our direction should be.

We sell our product mainly through trade parters who offer our product as part of their offering. This means I rely on someone else to sell my product for me. Our trade partners sell the benefits of our products to THEIR clients who then may or may not decide to buy our trade partner's offering INCLUDING our product. Or they may decide to buy our trade partner's offering WITHOUT our product. Or with the product of one of our competitors. This makes it hard to keep control over your sale. Apparently there are positive sides to this method but I can not see them. However, we have been doing business like this since the start of the company so it can not be all bad.

The discussion yesterday revolved a lot around the question of who to approach: Get closer with our trade partners or should we simply see direct to the end-user so that the end user will say to our trade partner: I have this particular product that I bought and if I am going to buy YOUR product, you will have to work with this one that I already bought.

Or is there a middle way where we raise our profile in the market place so that end users will have heard about us so that when a trade partner comes in with our product, the end user says: I heard about these guys, I heard they are really good, I would like to use their product.

The sales team seems to be leaning more towards the direct sale whilst the MD seems to be afraid to upset our trade partners and seems to prefer the middle way. After all, if we upset our trade partners, they may stop selling our product completely out of anger. But then again, perhaps we could sell more products if we sold them directly to the end users.

Either way, some kind of decision needs to be taken if the company wants to grow to the next level. But when the Management Consultant asked the MD if he could discuss it with the other directors and make a decision soon, the MD was less than enthusiastic. He seemed to think nothing had to change.

If so, then why is the Management Consultant there?

Why is it that people seem to feel a need to hear things fm an expensive Management Consultant when the Sales Team has been saying the same things for months, if not years. oh well, there is money to hire a Management Consultant so the business can not be doing that bad.

And you know what, now that JD has her blog, I know that she is looking at this sort of thing. And we actually had a very interesting conversation about it last night. On the way to see Wallace & Grommit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (about which more will follow).

In a strange way, I still feel like a child and I always feel some kind of strange pang of "Look, I am a grown-up" when discussing grown-up things like this. Donno.

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