Please… no more ‘sales and marketing’

July 2013

A few days back I was completing some forms for a business which, effectively, is the new middleman between government money and potential contracts for me. They’re replacing another firm who I’ve been allocated work from over the last few years, and, certainly so far, I’ve been very impressed with the new broom. So I’ve attended a seminar they ran to spell out how things were going to change and be better for us consultants (or ‘advisors’ as it’s apparently better to call us), and now I’ve completed the forms I’m hopeful I’ll pick up the odd contract or two and demonstrate that they were right to include me in their new roster.

Anyway, back to the forms I was filling in and a specific question which I couldn’t answer accurately and, as it happens, epitomizes a real bugbear of mine: the misconception that ‘sales and marketing’ are one and the same. The question was about my core business offer but it required me to select from a dropdown menu and the nearest I could find was ‘sales and marketing’. Thankfully, there was a box which allowed for a comment and I tactfully noted that the two disciplines were, whilst having a relationship, distinct, and my skillset didn’t include the sales bit.

Sales and marketing is a term which has long irritated me and for a number of reasons…

Marketing, very broadly, is about: ‘Developing and implementing strategies which move products and services to customers in a profitable way.’ (No doubt there are other and perhaps better ways to describe marketing but I’ve always rather liked that particular one.) There are a host of specific disciplines within marketing – and an ever-increasing list given our digital world – and, fundamental to these, is brand strategy. Brand strategy can involve a host of specific elements, but coming out at the business end you’d expect to see some sort of model which defines the brand and gives it an appropriate position within its

Sales, on the other hand, seems to me an inherently simpler animal and might not even involve a fellow human to clinch it – e.g. if the customer is shopping on an ecommerce site. But, for most of us, I guess we think of ‘sales’ as the chap who tries to ‘sell’ us double glazing or a used car. Within most B2B companies there’ll be a sales team which, well, sell the companies wares to other companies. And whether B2C, B2B and whether or not a human being is actually doing the selling, the marketing bit has largely already happened by the time they get to do their bit. And it’s happened because the sale, typically, only has a possibility of taking place because of a host of marketing stuff which played a part in getting the customer to that point in the first place. There might have been just one thing from that host of marketing stuff or a whole number of things that made the difference, but by ‘marketing stuff’ we’re talking: relevant brand differentiation and positioning, product packaging, simple POS in a supermarket, SEO, PPC, online advertising, press advertising, social media, trade shows, PR, content marketing, TV advertising, direct mail, online video, mobile marketing and outdoor advertising (to name but a few).

So if nothing else, changing the order of the words to ‘marketing and sales would be a tad more appropriate.

But I wouldn’t even do that, and if for no other reason than sales people don’t make good marketers and vice versa. And even the concept of a ‘sales and marketing manager’ fills me with horror, and this based on all the encounters I’ve had with such folk who’ve wrongly had such a job title placed upon them. I won’t labour the point as to why, but I did write about this very issue in my February ’11 comment if you’d like to learn more.

So please; let’s keep marketing and sales people working together and for the good of the businesses they represent, but work to ban the use of these two words appearing side by side.

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