The nay sayer’s claim that advances in technology will displace the

need for field operating salespeople. Nothing however, could be

further from the truth! What has happened is that increased

business complexity, the high risk of inappropriate decision-making

and diminished differentiation between products and services has

increased the importance of sales executives, not as purveyors of

product information, but as effective, professional solutions



Far from being replaced by technology, the function of selling and

the role of salespeople in the business mix, is taking on even more

importance. If technology has changed anything in sales, it has

enabled salespeople to be more effective. Unfortunately not many

companies have been able to harness the technology effectively.


As a result some organisations find that their cost of sale continues

to escalate and that sales productivity appears to be declining.


Management tend to perpetuate the cycle of sales inefficiencies.


They still hire salespeople who appear to have the “gift of the gab”;

and they still believe that “having strong personal relationships” is

all that is required. These managers live in the hope that these

characteristics will generate more business so they exhort, cajole

and remunerate salespeople almost exclusively for product value /



And when these fail to deliver the expected results they

complain that sales behaviour is not professional; that their sales

teams are less productive.


The reality is that a misguided understanding of the role of selling

in the business mix and inappropriate sales support structures

have resulted in many companies finding that the benefits of

technology do not automatically reduce the cost of sale, nor do

they, on their own, result in increased sales productivity.


Whereas the measure of almost every other function in the value

chain has to be tempered with its inter-dependence on the input

from other value chain functions, selling does not! Concluding an

effective and profitable sale is the direct result of a singular sales

effort – independent of any other elements of the value chain. It is

therefore more easily measurable. The real challenge facing

management is addressing an inherent ignorance of the Sales

Value Atom and measuring performance of sales executives on

output, rather than on input.


Because of this lack of understanding of the Sales Value Atom,

when management find sales performance below expectation or

cost of sale unreasonably high, their immediate reaction is to resort

to one of the six traditional remedies, very seldom getting the relief

they seek….


They increase advertising / promotional spend, hoping that

increased awareness and activity will not only replace good

business practice and common sense, but somehow result in

increased sales performance.


They introduce sales incentives, increasing the cost of sale and

usually gaining only some short-term, hardly sustainable,

increase in sales performance.


They encourage salespeople to develop relationships with

customers in the mistaken belief it automatically improves sales

and that costs will reduce.


They introduce new titles such as strategic and key accounts,

hoping that new titles alone or even their new found

commitment to customer service and support will axiomatically

result in better sales performance.


Another, equally fruitless remedy that management tend to rely

on, is calling their standard products and services “solutions”,

avoiding investing time to develop Unique Selling Propositions

that can be described and hoping that by giving these a new

name they can confuse and perhaps even excite buyers.


And of course, the perennial solution to all sales problems,

introducing sales training.


There is no doubt that these activities definitely improve sales

performance, even if they won’t dramatically reduce the cost of



But at best, if these remedies provide any benefits, it is only

short-term relief, simply because they usually address the

symptoms and not the real problems – sales behaviour.


After some 5 years of intensive research, working with some 66

companies in a wide spectrum of industries, across the globe and,

backed with 36 years of field experience, Peter Finkelstein of

DaiShõ Marketing – South Africa’s only specialist sales consulting

practice – defined the Sales Value Atom, identifying the real roles,

responsibilities and functions of salespeople in every aspect of the

sales operation.


One of the most important conclusions drawn from the research is

that salespeople, usually paid almost exclusively for sales

productivity, are allowed, at best, to spend only 25,0% of their

available time actually selling.

The research however does show that when sales executives fulfill their entire responsibility in the value atom the cumulative impact of that dedicated time is

exponentially greater than merely devoting 100,0% of sales effort to pushing for business.