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Sales professionals don’t necessarily make good marketers!

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Do sales guys make good marketing professionals? Alternately, is it necessary for marketing guys to have a sales stint to be successful? This is an evergreen debate.

The FMCG industry in India has traditionally preferred marketing professionals who have had a reasonably long sales stint. Most brand and product managers are encouraged to gain significant sales experience before embarking on a marketing career.

The sales stint, it is believed, helps them understand the market and field realities better. The white goods industry too follows the same route. Of late, the Information Technology has started rewarding good sales professionals with marketing roles.

But is sales the best route to marketing?

To get a better perspective I put this up as a question on LinkedIn. As expected there were many responses and almost 90 % felt that sales professionals, unless exceptional, do not make good marketing professionals. Did I read that correctly? Sales guys don’t make good marketing guys?

Sales Guys Marketing Professionals

Then why do industries like FMCG, white goods and now IT, insist on a sales stint for their marketing professionals? Let us look at a historical perspective of how marketing has evolved over the years.

In 1953 Neil Borden in his presidential address to the American Marketing Association coined the term ‘Marketing Mix’. It was actually a refinement of a concept given by James Culliton in 1948 who described a marketing manager as a ‘Mixer of Ingredients’, like a chef who mixes the right ingredients in correct proportions to create an excellent dish.

Jerome McCarthy in 1960 proposed the 4 Ps of marketing, which is generally accepted as the correct ingredients of the marketing mix. The concept was popularized by Philip Kotler, widely accepted as the father of marketing, through his book ‘Marketing Management’. The four Ps are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

To be able to understand the 4 Ps, one would need to have cross functional expertise and working knowledge of many functions (please see table below)

4Ps

Knowledge required

Product(or service)

Market research, engineering, design, project management and analytics

Price

Finance and statistics

Place

Operations, supply chain and distribution

Promotion

Advertising, communications, public relations and market research

The table above is not an exhaustive list and there can be other areas where knowledge is required depending on the Industry and the type of marketing followed. In the internet era a lot of business is transacted over the internet and with the coming of age of social media, the skill sets need to be further upgraded.

But I am not the only one who feels this way, when I put this question up on LinkedIn I received this response from Jay Kaiser a Marketing and Sales professional from New York

“Sales people might become good marketing professionals, but the disciplines are quite different. Marketing requires quite a different skill set than sales. Skills such as analytical, financial, creativity, project management, team leadership, market research, advertising, messaging and more are required in marketing. Sales people generally don’t have these skills but they can be learned. “

In conclusion a good marketer needs to have cross functional knowledge, like a jack of all trades. Sales expertise is one of the ingredients. There are many other areas and a good all round experience makes a good marketer.

I was into sales earlier before I became a marketer. I also had stints in project management, operations and market research. Does that make me a good marketer, well I guess it’s too early to tell but it definitely makes me an effective one.

  1. Isoken Aiwuyo says

    I believe a very good convincing ability on the part of a marketer can be a boost to his professional marketing pedigree.

  2. Dr Vikram says

    Point taken, I agree with you. With proper skills and training almost anyone can be trained to develop good marketing instincts.

  3. Sumeet Kad says

    Dear Dr. Vikram,

    I totally concur with your thought that to be an effective marketer you need many more skills apart from sales knowledge. The article also discusses that sales professionals do not make a good marketer to which I do not completely agree with. Sales professional can perform marketing functions very well if they are equipped with other skills as mentioned by you.

  4. Sumeet Kad says

    Marketing and sales, though having operational difference, converge towards same goal. Marketing and sales are in a symbiotic relationship where they account for number of processes and whose ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ supply to each other in varying degrees. Many large organizations structure their marketing departments in line with the sales department so that the personnel involved can co-ordinate to achieve business success. The efficiency and effectiveness of a sales professional as a marketer depends entirely on context. In a B2C situation, marketing can totally eliminate the need for sales but this may not be possible in B2B transaction. Another example would be that in FMCG sector there is no requirement of sales people at the POS, however during the purchase of large equipments such as in healthcare and steel industry, a sales person is a must to manage the complete sale’s process. This has resulted in growth of internet applications such as CRM & other Sales2.0 tools to synchronize and align the goals and operations of marketing and sales department.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Hi Sumeet

      I agree that in B 2B selling sales is a very essential component, the article however discusses how to be a marketer you need many more skills and not only sales knowledge.

  5. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  6. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  7. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  8. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  9. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  10. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  11. Ramaswami Krishnamoorthy says

    My view is in adiion to 4 ps , estabishing a very good rapport with the customers is also important for successful marketting professional.

    1. Vikram Venkateswaran says

      I totally agree, customer relationship and understanding the value sought by the customer from your product or service will be the key for a good marketer.

  12. Facility Management says

    A sales person may be smarter but it is the marketing professional who design a strategy for a sales person which will be more intellectual and technical than selling a product/service

    1. Vikram V says

      I totally agree it is marketing that should drive the overall structure and let sales be the operational end of customer acquisition.

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