This paper is a critique of the book The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market by Bill Guertin. Included is a summary about the book in order to help the reader of the critique understand the nature of the work under analysis; a critical analysis on the major ideas, points of view, and contentions / positions of the book. Also included is an evaluation and interpretation of the worth, utility, importance, value, and validity of Guertin’s work. Lastly, implications of the book for the field of sales in sport and in regard to the particular interests in the sports management and administration discipline are discussed.
Keywords: sales in sport, summary, critical analysis, implications
In The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market, Guertin (2010) established and explains the principles that help individuals grow, become successful, and establish a dominant presence in their field of business. Guertin considered the qualities and practices that can provide a competitive advantage in a crowded market. Having something that sets a company apart from the competition is a vital factor when it comes to dominating the market because it provides a distinction that will help secure potential buyers. Thus, it is an especially important characteristic of successful businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals seeking to stake their claim in a specified market.
In The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market, Guertin (2010) presented the results of several case studies on the sales cultures of very successful companies. Through these case studies he tried to convey how the sales and marketing sectors were what has set these companies apart from their competition and put them at the top of their market. Companies such as Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and Google, that are recognized world-wide and without a doubt are the giants that dominate their respective markets. Guertin (2010) claimed that these and other dominant companies got to where they were, atop their markets, through the work of their sales and marketing that was able to create a brand image that was differentiated from the other competitors in their market and one that was easily identifiable with their target audience.
Guertin also describes the nature of what he refers to as the “800 pound gorilla” in the market as not being the “bully” and simply throwing their weight around to dominate their markets. From an economic standpoint, it is assumed that people are ration actors. Thus, they want to maximize their benefit in order to get the greatest return on their investment. Guertin explains how successful businesses and individuals alike are good at managing their risks. Cost-benefit analysis is a key component in economics and to be successful in any market one must properly analyze their risks and rewards to determine the best course of action. Guertin explains how the big companies are the ones that are willing to take the big risks. These risks are certainly not hasty and uninformed. As rational actors these businesses will use all the information and assets available to them and take the risk that offers them the highest chance of success.
Guertin makes a strong case in writing on the individual characteristics that set the dominant businesses apart from those less successful in the same market. His claims to the importance of sales and marketing in the overall success of a company are well established and presented with sufficient evidence in the form of several cases studies that support these claims. Guertin lays out his argument for the importance of sales and marketing in the success of companies by providing these two premises:
- Good sales and marketing sectors in a business can create a distinct and recognizable brand image.
- An easily identifiable brand image and one that customers associate with an enticing factor such as quality, price, fast service, etc. establish a strong and reliable market for the business.
From these two premises, Guertin arrives at the conclusion that a strong sales and marketing sector is the basis for creating a dominant company in a competitive market. Since Geurtin’s conclusion logically follows from his premises, we can say that his argument is valid. Through the supporting evidence he provides in his cases studies he also proves the premises to be true. Since his argument is valid and has true premises, we can then say it is sound.
Another point Guertin makes in The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market is that to become the so called “800 pound gorilla” in one’s market, it is not necessary to be a “bully” as one might expect from a company that is being compared to a giant beast such as an “800 pound gorilla.” He defends this claim with the argument that it is through exceptional risk management and strategic planning that successful company’s rise to the top of their markets. This is a reasonable claim and makes good sense when looking strictly through an objective lens. It applies in theory when the aim is to isolate one independent variable, one dependent variable, and find the causal logic that allows us to arrive at the result described in the dependent variable from changes in the independent variable. Theory takes previous information and observations and in the case of The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market, aims to explain how the actions of a certain actor such as a company or an individual businessperson lead to a particular outcome, such as dominating their specific market. This is with the intention of providing a basis upon which to predict future behaviors and apply to other similar situations.
This being said, in reality it does not apply to all situations that the “800 pound gorilla” of any chosen market isn’t the “bully.” They may not explicitly be a bully in their market but that is not to say that there aren’t other implicit methods through which they are able to control their market. Certainly these dominant companies didn’t start out as the big brand names they are now; they had to get there some way. Here, Guertin’s claim for good risk management and strategic planning makes sense. To start from nothing and rise to the top of one’s market wouldn’t be possible without a solid core of leadership making good, rational decisions, by using all available information and assets to make the benefit maximizing choices and take the appropriate risks.
Once on top and dominating a market as the “800 pound gorilla” however, there are several ways to essentially “bully” the competition and control the market in one’s favor. In many markets oligopolies develop in which only a few companies control the majority of the market. This is prevalent in markets such as the auto industry and cell phone market. In oligopolies it is possible for the top companies to collude implicitly in order to get the best prices possible. A good example comes from the auto industry. If one auto dealership advertises that they will match the price of any other auto dealership for the same make and model of car, it incentivizes all the dealers to keep their prices higher. This is because if all the dealerships will match the lowest price of each other, then pricing lower wouldn’t provide anyone with a competitive advantage and they would only make less money. This is one way in which big companies can essentially “bully” their way around the market to remain the dominant force.
Another argument against Guertin’s claim that the “800 pound gorilla” is not a bully comes from the idea of economies of scale. The thought behind this is that the more inputs a company has access to, things such as space, labor, raw materials, and technology their costs to produce their products become increasingly low. Thus, the big companies that have already established themselves as the dominant force in their market can produce more goods at a cheaper cost, thus enabling them to sell them at a price that smaller companies and new startups cannot compete with. The only way for these smaller companies to compete in this situation is to find something that differentiates their product and makes them stand out. This supports the claim that Guertin makes for sales and marketing’s vital importance to businesses looking to grow and gain enough success to become their own “800 pound gorilla.”
The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market, has several important implications for the field of sales in sports. Of these takeaways many apply to the interests and concerns of sports marketing and sales. This is an excellent book for anyone looking to get into a sales and marketing related field. It provides the principles and characteristics that make businesses and individuals alike successful in their market. This is no easy task today, as just about every market that one might find themselves in is likely to be saturated with competitors all pushing similar products. Thus, the insights that Guertin provides based on his experience and expertise in marketing and through the supportive evidence he gives in the form of several cases studies are of great valuable for someone looking to find a competitive edge and set him or herself apart in any specific field. In particular, Guertin’s examples on the methods and strategies used to build successful sports programs at the professional level proved to be very applicable to the field of sports sales and marketing.
In conclusion, The 800 Pound Gorilla of Sales, by Bill Guertin provides a valid argument for the importance of sales and marketing in building a successful business. Guertin provides good examples and insights into what makes a successful sales and marketing program and applies his theories through several case studies that show sound evidence backing his claims. All of which are useful and directly applicable to the field sports marketing and sales.