Zig Ziglar, the motivational sales guru, likes to remind people that it's easy to miss 100 percent of the sales you never ask for.
I thought about that aphorism last week after dropping in on the offices of DLT Solutions in Herndon.
DLT is a value-added reseller, meaning the company sells other people's stuff. In this case, DLT sells products from Google, Oracle, Symantec and technology companies to big enterprises.
It's a lucrative business. The privately held company has annual revenue north of $600 million, and it is growing, even through the downturn. Which surprised me, given that the company doesn't really make anything.
It's just a middleman.
"We prefer 'intermediary,' " corrected Rick Marcotte, the chairman, president and chief executive.
DLT's specialty is the Byzantine world of government procurement, having spent the past 20 years building a sales organization dedicated to identifying contract opportunities and matching up vendors.
"That's our secret sauce," Marcotte said.
Marcotte primes his machine, now 235 people strong, with incentives. Everyone, whether in sales or not, gets a free trip to somewhere warm if his or her team meets its targets. The company has even named its conference rooms after former warm-weather destinations, to keep those enticements front of mind.
We met in Cozumel.
Marcotte said there are lots of ways to build a sales team. You can invest in a few big rainmakers and hope to land a few big deals. Or you can hustle.
In 2010, Marcotte said the company counted 3.5 million times it "touched" a potential customer. Those contacts yielded 92,000 potential leads. Those leads allowed the company to make $2.3 billion worth of quotes for new business, which turned into 29,000 new orders, representing $89 million in incremental new revenue for DLT's vendor partners.
Business the vendors themselves might not have gotten, because they didn't ask.
And then it hit me.
DLT does make something after all.
It manufactures sales.