top of page

On pencils, pens, and the space-race, OR why hiring another salesperson is not going to change your business

During the space race in the 1960s, NASA scientists stumbled upon a seemingly small but significant problem - pens could not write in space. The story goes that to overcome the issue, the agency invested millions of dollars in research to devise a new state-of-the-art writing tool that would work in zero-gravity conditions. Meanwhile, the rival Soviets saved their pennies and opted for an alternative: the pencil.

Although this is a myth – in fact, the Fisher company invented a pen that can write in zero gravity at their own expense and NASA (as well as the USSR space agency) simply purchased it – it is a common parable on what happens when you focus on the solution rather than the problem.

At this point you will probably ask what’s that got to do with hiring another salesperson? Well, exactly what it has to do with putting more money into Google advertising, rebranding, paying someone to get you 20 more leads per week or any other of those endless LinkedIn messages you get every day offering to transform your business – it may, or it may not.

The point is that hiring another salesperson, putting more money into Google advertising, rebranding, paying someone to get you 20 more leads per week may all be the right things to do, but it is a folly to decide about a solution before you realise what is the problem?

Not enough sales, for example is not a problem. It’s a symptom. If your sales are low there must be reasons for it.

It may indeed be that you don’t have enough (or the right) salespeople, or that you don’t put enough money into Google advertising, or that your branding is poor, but it can be any number of other issues.

There’s no point in going into all the other potential root causes because they are to many to count, and they vary from one company to the other, and from one situation to the next so there is no alternative to stripping down the business and having a good look at the proverbial mirror.

A proper analysis will have the following elements:

1.  What is our ultimate goal? For example, is it to have a bigger business that will generate more revenue (and, hopefully, profits) so you do indeed need to invest more in sales and marketing, or maybe you prefer to become leaner and improve margins, so your focus needs to be purchase, processes, and proficiency?

2. What are your core values? Clear values will enable you to make faster and better decisions, not to mention feel better while you make them.

3. An opportunities/problems analysis – what challenges do you have that you can quickly solve, and what opportunities are out there for you to exploit?

4. What are the handful number of impactful things you will do in the next 12 months to achieve the best results?

5. Who is going to do what and by when? How are you going to know that it was successful? How are you going to balance these strategic actions with the day-to-day crises and demands?

Note that point 4 above may indeed indicate that you need to do more Google advertising/hire another sales person/pay for lead generation/rebrand, or any other sales and marketing activity, but if you do a proper job at point 3 you may find that the problems and opportunities lie somewhere else entirely.

So before you respond to any of those incessant LinkedIn messages and pay to get 20 new leads a week, do your homework. You may find you can get better results for far less money.


bottom of page