Damn You Kevin Costner

Ask most people what the key line is from Field of Dreams, and nearly everyone will say:

If you build it, they will come.

On a near regular basis, I talk with people who subscribe to this methodology.  If you build a great product, if you send out the mass emails, if you do all these things – well then customers will magically appear and money will start to flow.  There are quite a few stories these days about how salespeople will become irrelevant because people will just magically find web-sites and buy stuff.

Go watch Field of Dreams again…  the ACTUAL line in the movie is

If you build it, HE will come.

Everything Ray is doing in the movie, is all about reconnecting with his father.  It’s about ONE person.  So.. if you really subscribe to the philosophy in the movie, well then, you may get ONE customer – but certainly not a stream of them.

Granted, product designers may tell you that you need to design with a specific customer in mind, and all of that has merit in product design, but it doesn’t translate to people magically become customers.  The reality is that products don’t matter, solutions do.  And even if you have a great solution, it doesn’t mean automatically that people will use it.  You need to sell it, and sales is hard.

Sales might mean marketing, and it may mean door to door sales, and it may mean everything in-between, but you have to sell your product.  I meet too many business people that just build their product and assume that everything else will fall into line once they get the product out the door.

Sales has changed for sure, but it has not disappeared and it will never disappear.  Customers are typically way more informed on you and your competition then they ever have been before.  That’s why I’m building a product to help salespeople keep their research edge called FunnelFire.  Having all the information, and knowing who you are talking to is very important so that you can properly identify why your solution matters to this potential customer.

I will argue that the changing landscape has made salespeople even MORE important.  SEO gaming, low barriers to entry, the ability to easily look bigger than you are, global competition – all make getting your SOLUTION into people’s hands even harder.  Discovering your product is hard.  Competing with deep pockets and keeping up on search engine techniques are hard, competing with a product sold from half-way across the world in an age where webinars make travelling less important (not unimportant), new technologies coming at you faster and faster – all of this makes the right sales team more important than it ever was.  And it is the companies that realize that they need to invest in sales, and sales tools that will succeed.  Leaving sales as an afterthought will be more a sign that your company will fail than that it will succeed.

Field of Dreams actually never delivers advice that sales people don’t matter until the final scene when the huge line of cars comes and, after ignoring the advice that he needs to worry about money (sales), magically he is saved.  This very well may be the case when you are building a ball field for angels with a direct connection to heaven; however, for the 99.99% of other businesses, you better find some great people who like to sell – because that is how cash will get into your company.

  • Adler

    In reference to your discussion on “If you build it, they will come.” is my quote from Patrick McKenzie (popularly known as patio11 in Hacker News):

    “Once upon a time, I was an engineer. I had an idea for some software. Programming it was pretty easy. Marketing it was not.”

    Cheers to your great post Mark!