I'm continually perplexed why so many marketing people believe selling is beneath them, and consequently, that professional salespeople aren't their equals.
In my experience, many marketing departments believe they're on the sophisticated side of the business and have an array of facts and figures, statistics and benchmarks they use to support their position. I've never understood this.
For example, several years ago I was the keynote speaker at a function for the American Gas Association in Albuquerque, N.M.
Sales and marketing were lumped together in this association - as they are in many companies - thus all of their salespeople were called "marketing" people. The company did this because of the negative perceptions many people held about salespeople.
I thought this was nuts. But how many other companies do the same?
How many actual "salespeople" do you encounter?
If you're like me, you more frequently encounter business development managers, account executives, marketing representatives, customer solution specialists, etc. All of these titles are trying to mask what these people are tasked to do: sell the company's products and services.
Isn't the fact that a company tries to hide the true intent and/or position of its sales staff as deceptive as a dishonest salesperson?
I'd say this company's mandated deception does more to put prospects on the defensive than the few dishonest salespeople they might meet. But even more unfortunately, this deception only magnifies and perpetuates the negative perceptions people have of salespeople, which is exactly what these companies are hoping their creative titles will avoid.
Perhaps by blurring the line between marketing and selling, these companies believe prospects will be more receptive to their product or service. However, I believe it only adds to the confusion. Perhaps that is why I meet few people who truly understand the fundamental difference between sales and marketing.
So lets 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 broad sense, marketing is everything that affects company profitability. Advertising, public relations, sales and actual product marketing are all under this umbrella. Many companies are themselves confused by this inherent difference, thus they often combine sales and marketing (product) together. This is a mistake as a company's sales and marketing staff must work together while remaining separate entities to maximize effectiveness.
Why is this so important?
There are three primary reasons.
A company's sales activity is 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 customer status. And regardless of how clever a marketing campaign is, it will never be as effective as possible without the proper sales approach. This requires both the sales and marketing departments to be working jointly for the end result: increased sales.
The reason is based upon the psychological way people buy.
People buy emotionally and then justify their purchase logically.
Marketing people understand this concept and thus try to stir the emotions in the people their campaigns target. But marketing without follow up is not wise. Because while it's easy for a prospect to get caught up in the emotional aspect of buying, to avoid buyers remorse, they must be reassured for the logical reasons they are making the purchase. This is precisely what a professional salesperson does. The salesperson can help spur the consumer's decision in the moment, and then reaffirm the sound logical reasons for making the purchase
Consider Saturn's success. The GM spinoff has sustained its popularity and generated tremendous customer loyalty due to its (the company's) set pricing, creative marketing and excellent customer service. Yet despite Saturn's no haggle pricing and low-pressure environment, it's still its people who are making the difference. Just because a car has a set price doesn't mean someone's going to walk in and hand over $20,000 cash. The salesperson (or account executive, customer care rep) still must help the person to buy.
This leads to the third reason, which is, as we teach during our workshops,
every person within a company is either selling or un-selling the company all of the time.
From the secretary who sends a letter without errors to the custodian keeping the business premises spotless. Everything each employee does creates positive, neutral or negative thoughts and feelings in customers, all of the time. Their actions either reaffirm in the customer's mind, "Yeah, this is a place that I want to do business with," or "This company doesn't have its act together and isn't very professional."
A humorous example of this constant occurred several years ago while I was working with a consulting company to improve its profitability. The president and lead consultant held a Ph.D. and took pride in proclaiming that his firm, "Never sold its services." He would tell his potential clients that he was a professional consultant - not a salesperson - and that they wouldn't have to worry about pressure tactics when considering the firm's services. He would go on to tell the client that he would provide them with all the information necessary to make an informed decision and then let them make the decision. With my interest peaked, I politely asked, "So, you're selling your clients on the fact that you're not a salesperson?"
My intent isn't to bash all marketing people or minimize what they do.
On the contrary, they provide a tremendous arsenal for salespeople to enlist in their selling efforts and play a vital role in the success of any company.
However, both sales and marketing personnel, while operating in concert, must be distinct from one another and afforded the same value and respect.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.