most people’s picture of a salesman?

A recent post and the comments I was grateful to receive, seemed to develop a bit of a theme, slightly different from the one I’d intended. And strangely, quickly moved the conversation onto Marketing, as opposed to the original subject topic: Selling.

I’m a proud salesperson, but I know I’m in the minority in terms of that pride. Most people’s picture of a sales person is like that above. However, everyone is happy to be in Marketing! In fact, in one recent instance, an employee of mine was most determined to get some form of marketing responsibility into their job title, irrespective of what the job role actually was.

So marketing is a hot ticket? That’s cool, I can see that, but when did selling get so bad? And whats the difference anyway.

I guess the answer to the first part is people’s bad experiences with sellers. Be it the archetypal dodgy car sales man or the pushy double glazing sales woman. In fact, it’s fair to say that this very blog is deigned to go some way to redress some of that negative perspective. Because I’m proud of the fact I can sell things. I can provide a solution to an advertisers problems, and meet my organisations objectives at the same time. I’m proud of the fact I’ve done that in good times and bad, in boom times and bust. And always, and I mean ALWAYS while sticking to my particular sales ethics and principles.

And as to what is the difference? Well for me It’s simple. Marketing is the whole thing, selling (in the sense most people think of it) is just one (extremely important) part. A function within the function if you like. But before I go into more detail on this let me ask you a question. What is the ‘end game’ of marketing? And in how many phrases with ‘marketing’ as the operative word, can you NOT substitute with a little imagination, the word ‘sales’ or ‘selling’?

Want a more technical answer? Lets take the ubiquitous ‘marketing mix’, albeit in its simplest form. Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Plus my favourite addition, People. Which includes not only the people who buy your product, but the ones that sell it too by the way!

Sales is firmly within the ‘Promotion’ part of the mix. Once we have decided what to sell, or whether we need to develop it or a new market, we need to decide how to price it, whether to make it or buy it in, how to ship it, and how to sell it. Clearly, without selling our product or service we aren’t getting very far. Though truly, without getting the rest of it right, we aren’t selling it either. Hence, I guess, the term marketing mix!

One of the most baffling questions I can ask a prospective sales person at interview (and a good few clients too) is to tell me what is the difference between Advertising and Marketing? These terms seem interchangeable today, and I guess to an extent so are the terms Marketing and Sales, and perhaps that’s why those that do understand the ‘difference’ or at least the nomenclature of marketing are so keen to differentiate their function from the derided one of sales and selling.

I like to imagine the origins of marketing are along the following lines. A farmer suddenly decides his skill at growing ever more and better turnips, could be put to a better use than just creating waste. Maybe he could trade them for some of the potatoes his wife was so fond of, or even get some of that new fangled money he heard so much about.

So he took some of his excess stock down to the end of the lane. And sure enough, those passing did indeed have a need for his produce. Before he knew it he was doing a roaring trade in turnips and was even thinking of expanding into swedes. Then disaster! Another farmer turned up one morning offering his own turnips! Right opposite our hero’s ‘end of lane’ pitch.

But despite to his concerns and worries, he noticed a completely unexpected benefit. If anything, more people were turning up to get their turnips for the week. In fact the end of his lane was becoming famous as THE place to go for turnips. And before anyone could do anything, a potato seller turned up, then a farmer selling corn, and a pumpkin seller and so it goes. Before he knew it, our hero has created a market place where people would come to buy and trade for everything they needed.

He had to shout louder than ever (promotion) and be very careful about the quality of his wares (product) and in fact the more he understood what the customer wanted, the more he sold (people). Some times he would even put a ‘sale’ on to help drive demand (Price) and sometimes he would take his produce to the other markets that were beginning to spring up (Place). Whatever, he was loving this new marketing adventure, besides it was far better than that awful selling he used to have to do to make ends meet.

I like to think I can see how things then grew and grew to develop into the what we understand as the current picture, or at least the recent picture right? Because things changed again didn’t they? Changed from the industrial, global, commercial marketing machinery of our youth. The social revolution, new media, web 2.0, call it what you will. All bets are now off! Unless you can Facebook and Twitter you aren’t even at the races.

Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial, for new and very powerful websites! Everything is the same. In fact, maybe even a little closer to where we originated. Its arguable whether mass marketing can survive for sure. Given businesses ability to specifically target and engage, and (holds breath) pay only for advertising that works for instance! Things are much more personal, much more intimate. These days, according to Seth Godin for example, we need permission to market to people, is so easy for them to turn us off.

So selling gets more sophisticated, and the rules change again, but those of us that can solve our clients problems, while meeting the business objectives of our own organisations just learn and grow and continue to be proud to be sales people.

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      And i’d never disagree with Jack! or Al Reis either. ’22 immutable laws’ is still a must read for every aspiring ‘ad person’ or ‘sales person’ for that matter. Thanks Duane!