WHY DO WE NEED TO SELL?
Nobody is good at everything. Each human ability does not appear equally in all of us. One person is good at some things: another person excels at others. Each of us has a somewhat unique Aptitude Profile. As producers, we are each to some degree specialists. On the other hand, we have a potential need or desire for a wide variety of human skills and products. As consumers, therefore, our needs are diverse.
Each one of us is thus a specialised producer and generalised consumer. So the only way we can equalise need and availability (supply and demand) is to trade - to exchange what we have for what we want. Trade thus enables all to benefit from the specialised skills, abilities and possessions of each. And the prime force which motivates this whole trading process is the act of selling. We must sell to survive.
WHY DO WE NEED COMPUTERS?
In my early days of prospecting for customers to buy computer systems, I approached many small businesses who would come back at me with an argument typified by the following scenario:
'Why do we need a computer? This firm has been around for four generations. It is not much bigger than it was 30 years ago and we have no desire to expand. Our products are essentially the same as they were then, and modern machinery has if anything made our production process simpler. We have never needed a computer before, why should we need one now?'
A CHANGE IN THE MARKET
These people had seriously overlooked something. Having been preoccupied with what was happening inside their enterprise, they had become oblivious to what had been taking place outside. Even if in this extreme example their business itself had not changed in 30 years, its marketplace - the economic environment within which it had to live and breathe - had undergone a total metamorphosis.
So if, unlike most companies, their enterprise has indeed neither expanded nor changed in 30 years, they may well be able to exist without a computer to help them run the inside of their business. But their marketplace - which they share with the rest of the commercial world - most certainly has both changed and expanded over the past 30 years. And if they intend to survive and succeed in today's far larger and more complex environment, they will have a hard time doing so without the help of a computer.
THE WAY IT WAS
A century ago, business was a relatively insular activity. Its skills were local, its supplies were local, its market was local. It was not much affected by happenings beyond its own local community, and certainly not by events taking place outside the nation. There was all the time in the world to assimilate new products and adapt to new technologies without fear of being left behind.
In those days, almost every enterprise was in close social and physical proximity to the local community which formed its market and of which it was itself a part. The establishment and maintenance of credibility, advertising, publicity and sales functions were all a natural by-product of local social events.
That rather parochial economy was shrouded in the protective mists of distance, time and cultural difference. Foreign competitors had no access to the home market. They had neither the means nor the strength to exploit it. They probably didn't even know it was there.
THE WAY IT IS
But the situation today is very different. Advances in telecommunications and transport technologies have laid open our home market to the world. Today, a development in California, a merger in New York, or a coup in Central Africa can reshape a distant market over night - often with drastic consequences for a business on the other side of the world.
Running a business today is thus no longer like sailing a trader sedately over the seven seas where time was measured in weeks: it is more like weaving a modern tactical combat aircraft through the thick of a transcontinental dog fight where a split second can spell the difference between life and death.
So while growing suddenly to the size of a dinosaur, today's market has at the same time gained the speed and agility of a fly.
The opening up of world markets has brought with it growing competition from an ever-increasing number of competitors. In striving to maintain competitiveness within this fierce environment, companies have been forced to develop better and better techniques and apply better and better technology both to the products themselves and to the means of producing them.
AGE OF THE SPECIALIST
Advancing technology in turn demands a greater and greater depth of knowledge on the part of those who put it together and make it work. But to penetrate that greater and greater depth, each individual involved must narrow down his own field of view. He must become a specialist.
Thus the artisan who once made a complete product, and ran the entire operation which carried it from raw material to final sale, has had to give way to the technical specialist who produces only part of a more complex and sophisticated product using more advanced and cost-effective means.
A NEW APPLICATION
But while people can readily appreciate the use of technology to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the more tangible interior of a business, it has proved far more difficult to show them how it can be used to probably greater effect in helping them to survive, navigate and succeed within the seemingly treacherous and far less tangible environment outside.
A GROWING PROBLEM
What those in our scenario were probably not admitting - or perhaps could not even see - was the ever-increasing difficulty they were having in holding onto a once-stable localised market where a sufficient number or orders trickled in merely because they were the 'established' local supplier. Now, they are increasingly having to go out and actively SELL to survive - something they are not used to.
Or perhaps, whereas two generations ago their production was distributed among a reasonable number of customers 'their own size', it is now swallowed by just one or two giants. An adverse decision by one purchasing manager could thus close them down completely. Understandably, they feel vulnerable.
ANOTHER KIND OF SPECIALIST
A business can have the best workforce in the world. It can employ the best technology. It can have all the financial backing it needs. It can be producing humanity's most vital need. It can have the most able management. But unless it can sell what it produces, all is in vain. The sales order is the point at which all a business's life processes begin.
Thus in today's complex and competitive world, it is upon another kind of specialist - the salesman - that the survival and success of a business increasingly rests. The best product in the world will not sell itself. It must be sold by those able to explain its virtues, establish its credibility and close an order. These are essentially human skills which the salesman must have.
THE MORE MUNDANE ASPECT
But for the human communication or social aspect of the salesman's job to be effective, it must be supported and backed up by another more mundane aspect of his job.
Before he is ever in a position to apply his social skills, the salesman must first know who his prospects are and where to find them. He must plan a campaign of approaches geared to yielding the maximum possible number of orders. This more mechanical aspect of the sales/marketing task does not rely on social skills, but more on an ability to record, organise and retrieve information.
IT'S THE MARKET: NOT THE ENTERPRISE
Contrary to what many people think, the size & complexity of this aspect of the salesman's job has little to do with the size & complexity of his company: it is to do with the size & complexity of his market. As competitors from afar infiltrate his once-sacred local patch, he must cast his own net further afield. And the size & complexity of his sales/marketing task grows - whether or not his company grows along with it.
It is also to do with the product. As a product becomes more sophisticated, its market becomes more specialised and thus includes less prospects per head of population. This fact also requires that the salesman cast his net further afield in order to catch enough prospects to yield an acceptable number of final sales. This in turn means that he must pass details of more prospects through his sieve in order to end up with a sufficiently large and adequately tuned 'hit list'.
A SUPERHUMAN TASK
So the salesman of today has to cover a county-wide, region-wide, nationwide or even worldwide field. Obviously, he cannot socialise with each of such a large number of prospects. Nor can he rely on the chance social meeting as the means of initiating and maintaining contact.
He needs to ensure that regular contact with a large number of carefully profiled prospects is packed efficiently into a full and exacting schedule. But under such weight of numbers and under such stringent timing, it is easy for the salesman, during a flurry of activity stirring in one corner of his field, to overlook and offendingly neglect important prospects in another.
And because of the instant person to person access afforded by the modern telephone network, the salesman today can easily be put on the spot when confronted by a caller whose name and surrounding circumstances he cannot instantly bring to mind. There are so many to remember, yet they must all be treated and humoured almost as intimate friends. This aspect of the salesman's task is thus becoming more and more superhuman.
TECHNOLOGY HAS HELPED OTHERS
The captain of the ancient trader could easily keep track of where he was. Aided by no more than a compass, sextant and charts, his own mind and hands were more than able in both speed and dexterity to plot a new course for his sailing ship.
But what of the fighter pilot spotting an ominous radar blip at 1000 miles and knowing that within 20 minutes he will be no more than a puff of smoke unless he can lay in a complex evasive manoeuvre that will take him four hours to work out? Clearly, he cannot rely on his own ability alone using passive instruments guided by his own mind and hands.
He needs instant high-technology help from sophisticated devices which will, at the touch of a button, throw his aircraft automatically into a precisely computed evasion trajectory while at the same time unleashing a retaliatory weapon system to destroy his non-human adversary.
Naturally, each step for calculating that evasive manoeuvre had to be pre-programmed into the aircraft's flight computer by its human designers. But they were merely solving a theoretical flight control problem in the relative comfort of their laboratory with all the time they needed: not facing death at the hand of a missile.
TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP THE SALESMAN
As the fighter pilot, so too can the salesman be helped by technology. Technology cannot replace the salesman's social skills. A computer can never persuade the customer to buy. But it leaves him standing in speed and precision when it comes to sorting, organizing and extracting the myriad facts he must keep on the prospects which make up his ever-growing and ever-changing market.
MARKETEER is the salesman's flight computer. It is an integrated system of computer programs which operate on his personal computer or sales department network to take these more mundane and mechanical aspects of his job off his shoulders so that he can spend the time thus saved face to face with his prospects. MARKETEER does not itself attempt to control the salesman's market for him. It simply provides him with the precise information he needs to enable him to control his reactions to his market so that those reactions are to a larger extent calculated rather than being solely intuitive.
A TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
Ten years ago, inspired by a keen interest in business as a vital part of the social order, I applied the principles and disciplines of science and technology to develop a 'systems' MODEL of the Trading Process. This MODEL took the form of a generalised Trading Unit (a typical business, firm or company) set within a generalised Market Environment (the local, national or world economy).
The MODEL maps the active elements of the Trading Process and simulates the flow of cash and resources between them. It forms the basis for the design of a complete range of business software whose function is to monitor events in every part of that Process as they happen, and present the businessman with the precise information he needs to steer his enterprise successfully and profitably within today's highly-interactive and competitive world of commerce.
With engineering clarity and precision, the MODEL reveals that the only way the financial side of a business is linked to its physical or operations side is through its outside market. This makes the market the central or focal element of the whole Process. It is also the largest and most complex element. It is the one which presents the businessman with his greatest challenge and the one over which he has the least control.
That is why I took up the challenge of researching, developing and perfecting a powerful software aid to cover this central component of the Trading Process - an area so far largely neglected and unexploited by the software industry. MARKETEER is the result, Version 1 of which was completed in 1981.
Development continued and during 1986 and 1987 Marketeer's software was completely re-written in the form of data-driven finite-state machines. This technique gave the software an ideal internal structure which was flexible, readily adaptable and inherently multi-tasking. Now, after a total investment of over 15,000 man-hours, Marketeer has reached Version 4 which allows multi-user operation on a PC network.
Marketeer is a computer software package which automates the organization and methods aspect of marketing and selling by helping you to:
- Identify and define systematically your particular market as a niche within the UK economy.
- Build up and maintain information on up to 32,765 real and potential customers and suppliers.
- Classify these customers and suppliers in terms of your market definition.
- Specify the commercial profile of your ideal prospect for any particular sales, marketing or purchasing exercise.
- Extract a shortlist of prospects from the people & companies you have previously stored in Marketeer's database who fit the profile.
- Actively communicate with them either as isolated individuals or collectively as members of an extracted target group.
- Watch the changing statistical structure of your market as it grows and develops.
MARKETEER allows you to communicate with your market by direct mail, telephone, telex, fax and electronic mail. All necessary communications software is included. Marketeer also allows you to transmit and receive messages to and from remote computer equipment by telephone line, through which it also gives you access to public databases and electronic bulletin boards.
Marketeer's complete operating instructions are contained within the software, those relevant at any point in a program being directly accessible by a single key stroke.
Marketeer runs on an IBM PC XT or AT personal computer equipped with at least 512k RAM running DOS 3.3 or later, a 360k floppy disk drive, a 20Mb fixed disk, the IBM Color/Graphics Adapter and Color Display, an internal clock/calendar expansion board and the special internal modem provided for data communications and telephone auto-dialling. Also required is a 15-inch wide draft quality printer with
tractor feed capable of 8.25, 10 and 16.5 character per inch print and a correspondence quality printer with A4 auto sheet feeder capable of 10 character per inch type. Marketeer will also run on IBM PS/2 Models 30 and 35 and certain network installations as a multi-user system.