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The only tool a sales force needs

by Clive Webster

It used to be thought that there were four, or five, “Ps” in marketing (and selling). We now know there is only one, ‘Perceptions’.

When we take a closer look at the traditional “Ps” we find the following:

Product: it is the perceptions held regarding the product that matter, they will happen or they can be created;

Price: price is a matter of perceived value and can be used in itself to create, or destroy, a perception of the product (or service);

Place: is actually a perception of availability;

Promotion: means communication – the way in which perceptions are created or destroyed;

Profit: is the final result of your ability to manage perceptions.

In view of this, the only tool a sales team needs is a picture of the perceptions their customers hold regarding the sales team, their company and their product. The team’s job then is to close the gaps, the deficiencies in the perceptions held by their customers. When they are successful and the gaps are closed, sales will result because there is no further resistance.

Of course they might not be able to close all the gaps or shift all the perceptions necessary to bring all the sales required. Because some of the gaps might relate to the product, or the price and thus be beyond their authority to change. Such deficiencies need the attention of the marketing personnel, whose job it must be to rectify the perceptions held regarding the product.

Some marketers add “processes/procedures” as another “P” in marketing. These, however, are merely the resultant mutations of someone’s perceptions somewhere back in time.

When sales people understand that their job is to rectify a certain set of specific perception deficiencies, their task becomes clear and measurable. They can proceed with confidence. Their results become quantifiable and their incentive scheme becomes simple and meaningful.

Thus, apart from product and procedure training, the only other training given to sales people should be in the art of effective communication. Training in how to communicate effectively to rectify specific perception deficiencies. Objectivity’s experience indicates that any other form of behavioural, motivation or ‘change’ training usually results in a drop in sales!

There are a great many sales tools available to add impact to your team’s efforts – some work and some don’t. In the final analysis however, without the benefit of an accurate picture of the perceptions their customers hold about them, their company and their product, your sales team will never be completely effective.

Clive Webster is Senior Partner at perception measurement and monitoring firm Objectivity. He can be contacted on tel. +27 11 465-7160 or by e-mail on

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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