How Marketing can make Sales redundant?


Imagine that you are at this restaurant and the waiter puts two glasses in front of you. In glass number one he pours a dark liquid from an unmarked jug. In glass number 2 he pours a similar dark liquid but this time it is from a bottle that has five letters- ‘PEPSI’. Now which glass would you drink from?

In 9 out of ten cases you would drink from glass no 2, and that is the power of marketing.


Marketing has been around for centuries. When Alexander proposed a vision of Greek revenge on Persia in the 300 BC, he was essentially a marketer. Selling the Greek states the vision of what would happen if they did not united against Persia and launch the invasion. That eventually led to the propagation of Greek literature, philosophy, commerce and administration that long outlived him.

Marketing is all about the vision, creating the mental picture in the minds of the prospects, and it is this mental picture that leads you to drink from glass number 2. Marketing creates brands, brands that stand for certain values. Again when consumers invest in those brands, they are investing in those values. That is the reason a TATA or an Apple is valued at Billions of dollars.

But there are some key constraints on marketing!

Firstly, Marketing does not work for every brand. Unless there is a key differentiator either in the product, price or services, marketing will not be very effective. Also the key differentiator should be something that is valued by the consumer. A good example was that Maruti- Suzuki in the 1980’s promised its consumers hassle free and reliable car. This was at a time when all India had were unreliable cars from Hindustan motors.

Secondly, Industries in different stages of maturity may require different levels of marketing. A good example is cloud computing, which is in its nascent stages requires more of thought leadership and consultative marketing. More mature industries will require mainstream advertising and promotions.

Thirdly, Marketing is based on the needs and wants of the consumers. The ability to identify them and position the product or service properly is the key. That would require marketers to get their feet off the table and get into the field and observe what the consumers are doing and asking for in the market places.

Marketing strictly is a non-armchair activity, and those who feel they can create marketing strategy by sitting in air conditioned offices are wasting their time.

In conclusion I feel marketing can make sales redundant, but only if done keeping the customer in mind.

So is there no role in business for the humble salesman?

In an earlier article on market research, I had discussed how sales data and point of sales experience should drive insight into marketing. Sales due to its proximity to the customer, is best suited to observe this and come back with insights. These can then be fed into the beginning of the product development cycle leading to the marketing efforts.

A good example was Thomas Siebel who was a master salesman at Oracle, who used his insights of dealing with the customers to create one of the most successful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems named after him.

This also would require a lot of integration between sales and marketing, something that is seldom seen in the most integrated of organizations. This is mainly due to fact that Sales is very operational while Marketing requires a multi-disciplinary approach. For more on that argument please read this article.

The second area where salesmen become important is for commoditized industries which require push for a sale. These industries are better off not having a marketing team, because commodity can never create a pull no matter how glossy the marketing collateral is. Imagine a cool advertisement for Hot rolled Coils? I do not imagine how many prospects would buy the brand based on that commercial; instead it would require sales to push the product.

Marketing and Sales are the Yin and Yang of business. One does not require the other technically. Often I have been told that marketing is required to reduce the cost of sale, but I feel it is job of marketing to make sales redundant. And if your firm still has sales guys then probably marketing is not doing its job.

It takes one great marketer to do what an army of sales guys can achieve – For those in doubt please search for “Steve Jobs” on any search engine.

Comments are open!

  1. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Sureshvar

    I am sorry this falls out of my area of expertise, but Baba is a great marketer himself….

  2. Sureshvar says

    With Baba Ramdev around in the country I doubt how many in India will go for Pepsi.He has in fact created a new association which is “thanda maine toilet cleaner”

  3. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Mobile Locator

    A bad product doing well due to brilliant marketing is actually unethical. Like you rightly said Mr Shah Rukh Khan’s last couple of films are good examples of the above. But this is not what I am talking about. A good product does not need marketing and probably does not sales either. many great brands have been built by word of mouth. In the US a good example is Google and in India it is Fab India…

  4. Mobile Locator says

    Just taking example of the movies. We have seen several boring movies earning a good amount just because of strong marketing. But also mentioning, if your product or services is good there is no need of strong marketing.

  5. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Sumeet

    Great ideas and examples, but again I expect sales to become more operational once marketing is strong, and that is going to be the key. A good example is the growth of Flipkart…

  6. Sumeet Kad says

    These days sales has become a part of marketing for many products and services. Marketing comes first. Advertising is about getting a product known and marketing helps in identifying a customer's need or want. But sales is the bottom line. In the last 2-3 years Volkswagen has marketed its cars tremendously and very innovatively in India. But it still requires the sales function to increase its market share in India. Sometimes the product is marketing and just the marketing function can take care of the business. I think the line should be drawn between the sales and marketing function depending on the product/service. I completely concur that sometimes marketing does make sales redundant but not always.

  7. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Altaf

    I have no idea about this field. But what you tell me is very intriguing. Its like the emplacement process that most IT services and consulting firms go through.

    I feel the challenge comes from what a firm calls as marketing. Some firms call content writing as marketing, some just PR.

    The example you have given is a good one, but would you call this business as commodity? I mean one in which there is not a lot of difference between the firms in form of services provided or capability.

    One good example of Marketing led business in construction is Total Environment This is one firm that never uses push sales and I have never received a phone call from their sales team. Unlike the other builders. Most apartments they build are sold out immediately…with almost no need of sales..

  8. Dev says

    More often than not Marketing is looked at as a sales enablement function. Hence i don’t feel that they can be separated or could operate without one another.

    There are exceptions such as Apple though where it is more of pull factor than actual push. Hence marketing influences sales to a significant extent than the actual sales team or reps at the store.

    Hitting another chord, when it comes to commodities, marketing is becoming inevitable due to globalization and consumers awareness. Best example would be BP’s damage control exercise post the oil spill where marketing/PR played a key role in reputation management.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Hi Dev

      Great example with BP, I agree. But again my fear is that again PR is one of the things that a marketer does. This is not their core job. Marketing is more than just sales enablement, It can drive revenues on its own.

      But thank you for the great example, I think the BP example is a great one.

  9. Altaf Rahman says

    Dr Sahaab,
    My above comment is from my field of work. I am not sure about the other fields mentioned above.
    I work in Industrial construction field. There are clients with projects. Then there are EPC contractors. Then there are construction subcontractors. Every day many EPC and subcontract companies come on to stage. Every one wants business. Every company has both Marketing and Sales teams.
    Marketing teams hunt Clients for recognition. Once the clients recognize them and register in their data pool, they send enquiries. From then on Sales guys take over and vie for orders. Some times the service provided by subcontractors is so good, the subcontractors keep getting repeat enquiries and in some rare cases direct repeat orders. Here there is no need for marketing. Once such situation is arrived, the Marketing guys move on to other clients.

  10. Altaf Rahman says

    Marketing and Sales are not to be seen seperately and not to be compared and not to be seen as which one is required. Both are integral part of the company.
    Basically a Marketing team creates awareness among customers about the existance of the company. The efforts of Marketing start generating “enquiries” for the company which the Sales team entertain. It does not mean that all enquiries convert to orders. The skills of Sales effect the “conversion of enquiry into order”.
    You can not compare the two seperate wings of the company and say that they dont need marketing or they dont need Sales. If that is the case, production team will say they dont need neither of them.
    Basically what I am saying is that Marketing generates “enquiries” and Sales generates “orders from enquiries”.
    I agree that after some time, both customer and company know each otehr very well and the need of Marketing reduces and the team will go after new customers.
    I agree with you thatCommodities like Hot rolled coils does not require Marketing while Pepsi does not require Sales. That depends on the nature of business.
    Just my two paisa :)

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Yes I agree to some extent, but the model you have described works best for Industries in the mature to decline stage of the Industry life cycle. Clubbing marketing and sales was relevant in the 60’s and 70’s but since then technology has ensured that the buying behavior of consumers has changed considerably. Also the sales model you are describing is more operational, where Marketing generates the lead and someone like customer service generates the revenue from it.

      Are both sales and marketing required- I am not sure but I feel in most cases if marketing has done its job there is no need for sales. Again the caveat is that commodities and Industries in decline will need sales guys.

      Can product be the hero, the answer is yes and if such a case there is no need for either. The answer to your comment depends on the strategy of the company.

      In FMCG Marketing runs the show, while sales is more on the supply chain side of things. In IT it seems the sales guys run the companies but again this is a false notion and works well only with un-differentiated offerings.

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