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The Sales and Marketing Conundrum – more nonsense from the CIM?

December 22, 2011
Triumph Motorcycles Brochure 1967

Sales versus marketing - the issues are far too subtle for such an apparently simple solution, as this brochure for Triumph motorcycles highlights

It has been reported recently that the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK (the CIM) is advocating a “merger” of the disciplines of sales and marketing for fear that in the current climate the sales department’s activities take precedence over marketing. Oh dear… it’s this old favourite again.

In my early years as a marketer in publishing, the issue was always “marketing versus editorial”: editorial knew more about the product than anyone else and therefore had the final say on what, where, when and how a product could be marketed. Now we read that the situation has become “sales versus marketing”: sell the thing no matter what. All expressions of territorialism based on departmentalisation are wrong.

For any company starting out, every element of the company is geared to achieving sales of the product offered. Yet sales, the transfer of money for value, is more than just the sum of the transaction. When a customer buys a product, he/she buys an emotional belief: reassurance; service; delivery; value; supply; trust; certainty.

Thus it is that any company now which propagates a belief that a functional department such as a sales operation should have precedence over any other department is heading rapidly for the dustbin of oblivion. Once, we all lived in a certain world: people worked for companies churning out products which were then forced on people to buy. Industrialisation created as sense of continuum; in many ways economies were the perfect socialist model: people engaged in production and people buying production – keeping everyone happy.

But today, this model is long past its sell-by date. Indeed, it doesn’t even have a “best before” date. Marketing – proper marketing that is – is, as I have argued before, about inherent truth. Truth delivers trust and credibility; delivers new orders on trust and repeat business on demonstrable credibility via product experience. Marketing, therefore, is the ultimate expression of a company, its products and its values.

To hand the future of any business to the sales department, or indeed to the editorial department, or ANY department is to surrender a real link with the customer. It is marketing in its widest (non-departmental) sense which must drive a business: strategic planning; focus groups; product development; product management; pricing; customer service; touchpoint perfection and more.

It is nonsense to call for the merger of sales and marketing. Indeed, this is demonstrated by the often lame fop to marketing in the generic job title of  “Sales and Marketing Director”;  a vague title often defining a Sales Director who can do a bit of marcoms delivery.

It is better to call for an end to territorialism in the boardroom and for a common understanding of the consumer with all elements of the value chain facing only in that direction. Marketing must drive business – but only if the business begins to realise that marketing is not just the delivery of weird campaigns and straplines.

Marketing, as has been said before, is too important to be left to the marketing department. But it’s way too important to be handled by the sales team. In the words of Bill Shankly speaking to a translator when faced by a mob of Italian journalists , if there is a clamour for sales to lead the attack in difficult times, just say “tell them I disagree with everything they say“.

Credible perception and proven delivery are all that matters to a customer; if these are granted then all else falls into place – from price to the handshake. Let that never be forgotten.

Happy Christmas readers – see you all next year!

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 12:45 pm

    Maybe it was taken out of context but… the CIM suggestion represents a failure of their own “marketing” in both a deep, product-based sense as well as a promotional one.

    It is the role of marketing to develop business & products and to offer direction based on market/customer analysis. It is a senior strategic function in most businesses and not in competition but working with Sales. MBAs feature a good deal of marketing theory less so the fundamentals of sales.

    Beyond this, Marketing means sales. Direct marketing delivers direct sales and digital marketing is increasing direct response channels and effectiveness.

    Depending on context, direct response (on and offline) can offer much better ROI than F2F sales…

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