Dealing With Sales People

Source: Flickr.com John McNab

I work in a Marketing department. More specifically, its research arm. Recently, I’ve been involved in a working team formed to address a brand’s poor performance. This cross-functional team is headed up by a salesman.

We recently had a workshop to work out what the brand would deliver to consumers, retailers and the Board. We broke up into smaller groups and I slipped into the consumer pool to work through the problem.

At the end, we had to present our preliminary recommendations. My group focused largely on positioning –  those traits that our brand represented that differentiated it from all others. We spoke about our hook and how it would own a specific mood, providing a reason for our target consumer to pick us up. In the end, the sales people had their say:

  • We shouldn’t limit ourselves to a specific mood
  • We should be available to any consumer who’s interested
  • We should equip our sales team with stories to sell, sell, sell

That was when I realized that we had committed a cardinal sin of Marketing. We didn’t think of our audience and how their specific mindset affects their behavior. These were sales people. They are driven by numbers; big numbers. They enjoy the thrill of selling to anyone.

As Marketers, we needed to clearly explain that there are some sales that we don’t really want. To build the brand, we need to appeal to a certain set of retailers or customers. They are our advocates and will consume, spruik and evangelize about our brand more than others. If they see someone they sense who shouldn’t be part of our brand, then they are likely to reject us. We would be left with second or third or fourth preference customers… and inevitably fewer sales.

In the end, we really needed to be clear about positioning and that every sale isn’t the same.