• Wattco Inc.

The product will sell itself


As Arthur Dent was perusing the menu at Milliways, the Restaurant at the end of the Universe, a large dairy animal approached the table with ‘what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips’ to quote Douglas Adams’s book. "Good evening," it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, "I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts of my body?" It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters in to a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.


I was reminded of these lines while listening to ‘Any Questions’ on Radio 4 (16/2/2018). The panel included the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Bertie Armstrong, sounding remarkably like one of the civil servants in ‘Yes Minister’ and, to my mind, making not much more sense.


He was explaining that a ‘hard’ Brexit would be good for the fishing industry because they would be able to catch more fish. Then, when challenged by others that even if the UK government did not trade away fishing rights in the Brexit negotiations, his members’ catch would be priced out of the EU market and fish processors and the salmon market would be seriously, adversely affected, he brushed it off with the words that have sent probably tens of thousands of businesses into liquidation, “The product will sell itself”. As there were no business people on the panel, no-one challenged this statement, not even the host, Jonathon Dimbleby, and the programme chugged on its merry way.


If this is the best the fishing industry have to offer they are in for a nasty surprise. But it echoes for me more about the state of British business generally. Like the classic business beloved of all MBA students that failed because its ‘better mousetrap’ received no marketing or sales support, Britain has long been seen as a place where engineering can produce good products (and does produce good products) but the product marketing and sales and marketing support is often, at best, second class. Like Mr Armstrong, too many simply don't understand that selling involves so much more than having a good product available to sell. Not true in all cases of course, but the Bransons and Dysons are the exception unlike the USA where marketing and selling is usually viewed as a critical business activity rather than an afterthought.


In a staff meeting in Germany the new CEO asked everybody involved in sales to stand up. About 10% of those in the room did so. The CEO surveyed the room and then asked everybody to stand up. He then stated in unmistakable terms that everybody was in sales, that product marketing, marketing and selling and the wholehearted support of this activity was the lifeblood of the company and without it the company would fail.


It's a message that needs to be taken to heart - and acted upon.

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Richard Cook

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David Cairns
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