The Secret Marketer on the differences between sales people and marketers


I am “double hatting” at the moment, providing caretaker cover for our sales director who is taking some time out of the business. Looking after the national account team has been quite an eye opener. Sales people are very different to marketers. They are motivated by cases sold rather than measures of brand equity and most are addicted to the crack cocaine that is otherwise known as price promoting.

I have spent much of the past week trying to understand what might happen if we didn’t simply revert to autopilot price promoting. Would the world fall apart or might we sell less volume but perhaps make more money?

The reaction from my newfound colleagues on the dark side has not been encouraging. They claim: “If you cut back trade spend or try to put the prices up again, we’ll be completely delisted.” I reply: “Are you really sure?” They retort: “Yes, absolutely. Have you not heard what happened to Premier Foods on Hovis last week? Tesco told them where to go. They will have no choice but to give Tesco what they want in the end.”

One account manager points out that this is what happens in the “real world” – an undeniably cheap dig at my marketing heritage. Ouch. I am learning that if you even dare to challenge trading conventions, then sales people sulk like children who have had their toys taken away. They are worse than brand managers who have been told to trim their media budget.

“Sales people sulk like children who have had their toys taken away”

Sales people are inclined to resort to extreme and threatening examples in order to deter and defend their patch. One national account manager has decided that I need to get more in touch with the real world. He pops by my office and takes great pride in asking me if I
fully understand the rudiments of retail marketing. He seems somewhat surprised and no doubt disappointed when I tell him that indeed I do.

Perturbed by his implied doubts around my commercial nous, I return the favour by forwarding him a piece from the Financial Times showing him the dramatic decline of the Premier Foods share price. The stock is now worth about a tenth of that enjoyed in its glory days of the mid noughties. That is quite some discount, even by this account manager’s standards. Some might say this was due to an ill-conceived and unsustainable debt burden. I wonder whether it also had something to do with sales people not being controlled. Yours in brand management, not just marketing.

See Mark Ritson’s take on how sales and marketing should work, click here

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