Sales

Who Bought That Chair You’re Sitting In?

Don't get too comfortable

Don’t get too comfortable

This post is mainly addressed to people who are not directly in the sales force, although I have met a few salespeople who could stand a reminder as well.

One of the more amusing practices in American higher education is the endowed chair. Universities have endowed professorships which are named after the deep-pocketed donors who paid for them. The professors may have never met the donor in person, but they owe their position to that specific person.

It’s almost exactly the same in private business. A donor also paid for that chair you’re sitting in. That donor’s name is Customer. The main difference is that unlike in academia, Customer did not endow the funds for your position. An endowment is a permanent donation, which is necessary in academia so that donors won’t have an influence on what or how the professor teaches.

Customer (or Client, if you prefer) exchanged funds for value received. No value, no Customer. Unlike in academia, the exchange has to be renewed every single day, because Customer has the option to withdraw future funds at any time if they perceive value is not being delivered.

For example, if you are an engineer, you probably did not choose engineering as a major because you had a dream of serving Customer—but that is what you do. That code you write? It’s for Customer. That wastewater treatment plant you’re designing? It’s for Customer. That patent you worked so hard to earn? It’s for Customer.

In my classes, I like to ask the attendees what their company’s most important asset is. The number one answer I get is “people”. But when I ask which people, I almost never hear the real answer: Customer. Keep in mind that the people I usually train are the people most directly tasked with the acquisition, care and maintenance of these critical assets, but even they almost never think of it that way.

Peter Drucker said: “Every business exists to serve customers…profitably.” Without Customer, the business would not exist, and your job would not exist, and no one would pay for that chair you’re sitting in.

So, next time you say that sales is not your job, reflect on the fact that without sales you wouldn’t have a job. And even if you never meet Customer in the flesh, you are a key contributor to the entire enterprise that exists only to make Customer happy.

Even if you don’t talk to Customer directly, what are you doing to help your business serve Customer profitably?

(P.S. Next time you see one of your company’s salespeople, be sure to thank them for getting you a place to park your butt.)

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