2. Marketing and Sales Defined

Even many businesspeople aren’t clear on the difference between marketing and sales, so let’s start there. Marketing is the work you do that attracts the right customers to you and predisposes them to buy. After that is accomplished, you still need to persuade them to buy, and that process is Sales.

Marketing, in other words, is what brings a suburban couple to a Volvo dealership knowing that they want to buy a safe station wagon, that Volvo manufactures such a car, and that people like them buy Volvos. (They don’t actually know those last two facts, but Volvo’s marketing has successfully implanted those messages in their minds.) When the couple enters the dealership, the salesperson doesn’t have to sell them on those points, but only to convince them to complete the transaction and buy one of her cars today. That’s sales: completing the transaction. It’s hard work, but far easier than if the saleswoman had to convince the customers to favor station wagons or Volvos in the first place.

Marketing works by giving your audience a positive impression of your cause, your organization, and even of you yourself. And, as you will learn, it also conveys the impression that whatever it is you are selling—whether it’s a car or progressive cause—will help the customer meet one or more important needs that he has.

In any business or activist endeavor, if the marketing is done right, it becomes much easier to make the sale—i.e., to get the customer to take the specific action you want. In a car dealership, that action is for the customer to pull out her checkbook and write a check for the car. In activism, that action could be for the customer to sign a petition, vote for a candidate, make a donation or attend a meeting.

The marketing process, which I discuss in detail starting in Chapter 4, involves three basic steps:

1. Identify the group of customers (“target market” or “market segment”) most likely to buy your product.

2. Rework (“repackage”) your product so that it will appeal even more to those customers.

3. Connect the customers with your product via a marketing campaign consisting of advertising, public relations, Internet marketing, word of mouth, and/or other tactics. A good distribution strategy—so that the customer can actually get his hands on your product—is also an important part of this step.

It’s not rocket science.

Sales is the process of interacting with a customer with the goal of persuading her to complete a transaction. Many people think of it as an intuitive, seat-of-the-pants activity, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Sales is actually a complex process consisting of multiple well-defined steps, each of which is grounded on a solid foundation of human psychology. The sales process I discuss starting in Chapter 24 consists of six steps: Prospect; Qualify; Needs Assessment; Restate; Ponder & Present Solution; and Ask for the Sale & Supervise the Result.

It’s not rocket science, either.

Expert salespeople, who are often paid based on how much money they earn for their company, take their skills and education very seriously. They often spend weeks or months in classes at the beginning of their careers, and many take classes throughout their careers. Many are also inveterate readers of business literature, self-help books and current events. And, as you will learn in Chapter 25, many practice intensively and prepare exhaustively for all important customer interactions.

Although sales seems more glamorous than marketing, and thus appears to attract all the attention—no one’s written a play called Death of a Marketer, after all—marketing is actually the most crucial part of any sale. It is, remember, what actually gets the customer interested in the product to start with. In classes I teach that a sale resembles an iceberg, nine-tenths of which is hidden under water. Marketing is that nine-tenths: you may not see it, but it is the foundation of the successful sale. Think of that Volvo saleswoman again, and how grateful she is that she doesn’t have to explain to each customer (a) what a station wagon is, (b) who Volvo is, and (c) the fact that Volvo makes safe station wagons. Volvo’s marketing takes care of all that.

Perhaps because sales is more glamorous than marketing, many people use the term “sales” as shorthand for the entire marketing and sales process. For convenience, I sometimes do the same thing. If you see a reference to sales in The Lifelong Activist, always assume that I’m talking about “sales preceded by marketing.”