Why Selling is a Four-Letter Word

I'm continually perplexed about why so many marketing people seem to believe that selling is beneath them.

I've never understood this way of thinking.

In my experience, many marketing people differentiate themselves as being sophisticated about business with their array of facts and benchmarks that support their positions.

Several years ago I was the keynote speaker at a function for the American Gas Association in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both sales and marketing professionals were lumped together in this association, as they are in most; therefore, all salespeople were referred to as marketing people.

The Association took this position to help alleviate the negative perceptions that many people hold about salespeople.

While I thought this was crazy, it made me wonder how many companies use the same tactics.

I mean, really, it's not very often that a salesperson walks up and says, "Hi, my name is Joe. I'm a salesperson for ABC Printing Company."

For those who frequently encounter people with titles such as Business Development Manager, Account Executive, Marketing Representative or Customer Solution Specialist, it's important to know that all of these are euphemisms for "salesperson".

These titles attempt to mask what people do: sell a company's products or services.

Yet, isn't hiding the true intent of an individual's role just as deceptive as the tactics employed by a dishonest salesperson?

A company's mandated deception does more to put prospects on the defensive than the few dishonest salespeople whom they may meet. Even more unfortunate, this deception only magnifies and perpetuates the negative perceptions that people have of salespeople, which is exactly what these companies hope their creative titling will avoid.

Getting Clear on the Difference

Some companies believe that blurring the line between marketing and selling will make prospects more receptive to a cold call or an in-person presentation. However, I believe it only adds to the confusion, which makes it difficult for people to truly understand the fundamental difference between sales and marketing. On that note, let's get clear on both.

At the most basic level, marketing is everything that makes the phone ring, while selling is actually collecting the money. In a broader sense, marketing includes everything that affects company profitability. Advertising, public relations, sales, direct mail and newsletters come under the umbrella of marketing. Selling is bringing in the dollars. While marketing finds the people to sell, salespeople sell the people they find.

Three Reasons for Collaboration

In reality, successful companies collaborate on their sales and marketing. Here are three reasons why this is a powerful business process:

1. The push-pull syndrome.

A company's sales represent the only activity that directly generates revenues. (I'm referring to professional, business-to-business sales and big ticket consumer items such as homes, vehicles, boats, etc.) Marketing may push prospects to buy but salespeople pull them to become customers. Regardless of how cleverly a marketing campaign pushes, it will never be as effective as the subsequent pull that comes from the salesperson's approach. This requires the sales and marketing departments to work jointly toward the end result of increased sales.

2. The psychology of purchasing.

The second reason for continued collaboration between sales and marketing is based on the psychology of purchasing. People buy emotionally and then justify their purchases with logic. Marketing people understand this and therefore stir the emotions of their target markets. However, marketing without follow-up is not wise. While it's easy for prospects to get caught up in the emotional aspect of buying, helping buyers avoid remorse means reassuring them of the logical reasons for which they made the purchase. In the printing industry, this is where professional salespeople are needed. While encouraging emotional aspects of decision-making, salespeople lock in decisions to purchase by reaffirming the sound, logical reasons for spending the money in the first place.

Consider Saturn's success. The GM spin-off sustains its popularity and continues to generate tremendous customer loyalty due to Saturn's set pricing, creative marketing and excellent customer service. Yet, all these perks aside, it is still the people who make the difference for Saturn. Just because a car has a set price doesn't make it easy to walk in and hand over $20,000. The salesperson (or account executive or customer care representative) must still help customers along.

3. Everyone is selling or un-selling.

Every person in a company is either selling or un-selling the company at all times. This is true from the secretary who sends an error-free letter to the custodian who keeps the premises spotless. Everything that defines a company creates positive, neutral or negative thoughts and feelings in customers at all times. In turn, employees' dispositions are a constant gauge for what to expect from customers.

A humorous example of this occurred several years ago while I was helping a consulting company increase profitability. The president/lead consultant holds a Ph.D. and takes pride in proclaiming that his firm "never sells its services". He tells prospects that he is a professional consultant, not a salesperson, and they don't have to worry about pressure tactics when considering his firm. He goes on to tell prospects that he will provide them with all the information necessary to make informed decisions. With my interest peaked, I politely asked, "So, you're selling your prospects on the fact that you're not a salesperson?"

My intent is not to bash marketing people nor is it to minimize what they do.

Marketing departments provide a tremendous arsenal for the efforts of salespeople as well as contribute greatly to the success of any company.

Nevertheless, sales and marketing personnel, while operating in concert, must be considered distinctly different sides of the same coin.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.