A Clean Igloo

Many years ago, just recently married and into our new home, my wife and I naively bit on the phone call. “We will be in your area and would like to give you a voucher for a free vacation! All we ask is that you, with no obligation, give us a few minutes of your time to hear about our revolutionary new product.” Wow, a free vacation! That should be worth a few minutes of our time. As it turned out, the representative (salesman) did not have any vacation vouchers left, but he would see to it that we would be sent one in the mail. The revolutionary new product turned out to be a dorky looking vacuum cleaner. After trying desperately to impress us with demonstrations using a bowling ball, several rolls of pennies, and a jar of sand, we ultimately agreed with him on one thing: It really sucked. The guy acted surprised when we told him we were not interested. “Is money the issue? We can offer easy financing.” Was he kidding…financing for a vacuum cleaner?
The problem quickly became: how to get this unwanted person out of our home. He was pulling every trick in the book. “People usually do not refuse such an outstanding offer. Can I use your phone? I need to call my boss.” Finally, I let him use the phone, to distract him, as I set his incredibly pricey “revolutionary cleaning system” out on my driveway. That did the trick. He left. I must admit, he worked hard to sell me something I did not want.

Some say that a great salesperson could sell ice to Eskimos.

In business there are often complaints that the sales team puts forth little effort. We do not see them working the customer with bowling balls, pennies and such to sell our new ideas or products. The problem is that many people confuse the roles of sales and marketing. In a large company, sales and marketing fill very different roles.

Marketing is focused on product (what to sell), price (how much to sell it for), promotion (making customers aware of the product), and placement (how product compares to others). Marketing can itself be divided into two parts, strategic marketing and operational marketing.

Strategic marketing is the process of identifying what customers want or need. This involves taking customers out to an expensive lunches and compiling lists of all their wildest dreams. The wish lists from each customer are collated to create a master list covering all desires of every possible customer. This becomes the product requirement document for engineering. It generally looks like the following: best-in-class performance, best-in-class reliability, best-in-class durability, lowest power, and lowest cost in industry. Oh, and we definitely need to have it out before any competitor. This challenging “work” apparently takes great skill; no wonder the budget is so big.

Operational marketing attempts to attract customers and raise awareness of the company and its products and or services. This involves hosting and participating in lavish golf tournaments and “meetings” in sky suites at professional athletic events. Of course these outings come with neat logo laden gifts such as polo shirts and duffle bags. Talk about a big budget.

Finally, there is the sales team. The sales team is responsible for taking the customer’s purchasing representative out for drinks, and then accepting a purchase order. The sales job is really limited to just taking orders. They do not actually “sell” anything. It is up to marketing to define products that sell themselves and to butter up the customer. Sales representatives simply swoop in, take the order, and then celebrate their impressive commission.

Ironically, it is engineering that must innovate to actually deliver a product. Unfortunately for them, there are no fancy lunches, golf tournaments, drinks, or commission checks.

Of course ….they may get pizza if they work over the weekend.