Which should you automate first: the chicken or the egg? Why sales and marketing is the logical place to start ramping up your business, and how to do it.
By Mark Coudray
In The Automation Issue, we present a collection of expert essays on an important topic in the industry today. Here, Mark Coudray discusses automation in sales and marketing.
Since the theme for this issue is automation, I would like to set the stage by asking the question and offering a caveat. Why automate? On the surface, this may appear obvious. Automation can speed up a process. It can make a process more consistent, and it can add substantial efficiency to the output. All true, but automation also comes with a price that absolutely must be considered.
Back in 1977, I purchased my first automatic press. For the first couple of weeks, life was fantastic. So much product was going out the door that I almost couldn’t believe it. But my initial elation quickly turned into a nightmare.
You see, I had only considered automation at the production level. At the time, I was working 16 hours a day and had a six-month backlog of work. Orders were coming in faster than I could get them out. I had money in the bank. From all appearances, I had a successful business.
It took exactly three weeks to burn through the entire backlog. My accounts receivable skyrocketed from almost nothing to over $30,000 in 1977 dollars. (That’s more like $120,000 today.) I converted all of my cash to inventory, which in turn got converted to accounts receivable.
To make matters worse, I was completely out of orders with no pipeline to replace them. The steady stream of work coming in was now only enough to keep production going for a day at a time. I couldn’t spare time away from the shop to do outside sales. The source of my work had been almost entirely word of mouth, and I quickly discovered I couldn’t predict when the next order would come in.
Thirty days into automation and I was on the edge of closing the business. I was out of cash and couldn’t meet payroll. My sales were anemic compared to what I needed to keep production going. The worst part was that I didn’t have a clue as to what just happened.
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