Going for the Gold

As the 2012 Olympics draw to a close and the medal count is finalized, I can’t help but wonder how different life would be if we were all awarded medals for our efforts in life and at work. Would we “train” ourselves to be the best we could be before we took action? Would we be more strategic in the way we approach day-to-day decisions? Would we plan more effectively for life’s twists and turns? And what if companies were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals for their efforts? Would sales and marketing departments work together like a cohesive team in a relay race, or would they sprint towards the finish line as individuals without considering the efforts of their teammates?

Unfortunately, many sales and marketing departments don’t work together as a team. For instance, consider companies hoping to create the “next big thing” that will topple the competition. Oftentimes, these new products are developed without considering input from sales and the voice of the customer in the process. Sales tries to push this “next big thing” on their customers, and when no one buys it, sales teams get penalized for not making their numbers. But salespeople aren’t the only ones getting pinged… the company as a whole loses, investors lose – and worst of all, customers and end-consumers may lose faith in a company they once believed in and supported. That loss of faith more often than not translates to a loss of revenue. Companies can rebound, of course… but how much additional time and money is wasted trying to recapture the market they once had?

I found a “top 25 biggest product failures of all time” list online, and it makes me wonder who was actually held accountable at the end of the day for these expensive flops. Most of the products on the list didn’t ring a bell for me (Life Savers Soda, Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water, Colgate Kitchen Entrees, Frito Lay Lemonade, Harley Davidson Perfume), but others were very noticeable – the Delorean car, Sony Betamax, New Coke… and the USFL made the Honorable Mention list.

Like Olympic athletes who spend countless hours and funds to get ready for a few minutes of competition and potential glory, companies spend countless hours and funds developing the “next big thing” in hopes of sales glory. It seems to me that companies would do more to plan for their “big day” – to do more than “hope” for sales glory and a shot at the gold. One easy thing comes to mind… talk to the sales force! Get a pulse of what’s happening on the street – listen to the voice of the customer to find out what’s needed, what’s wanted … and better yet, what will sell. Sure, some things sound really cool – like a quadruple backflip with a double twist off the spring board – but is this really cool thing realistic, and better yet, is it necessary to win? Talk to your sales teams to find out. Work together to win the gold.

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