In this competitive age, the products or services of few companies are so outstanding that they will sell to their maximum potentialities if they are not expertly merchandised. It is the making of a sale that is the most basic single activity of any business. Without sales, survival is impossible. It is the making of repeat sales to satisfied customers that is the first benchmark of success. Yet, strange as it seems, the relative efficiency of a company's sales, advertising, and distributive organizations receives far less attention from most investors, even the careful ones, than do production, research, finance, or other major subdivisions of corporate activity.
There is probably a reason for this. It is relatively easy to construct simple mathematical ratios that will provide some sort of guide to the attractiveness of a company's production costs, research activity, or financial structure in comparison with its competitors. It is a great deal harder to make ratios that have even a semblance of meaning in regard to sales and distribution efficiency.
... Again, the way out of this dilemma lies in the use of the “scuttlebutt” technique. Of all the phases of a company's activity, none is easier to learn about from sources outside the company than the relative efficiency of a sales organization. Both competitors and customers know the answers. Equally important, they are seldom hesitant to express their views. The time spent by the careful investor in inquiring into this subject is usually richly rewarded.