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Sales-driven just doesn't do it anymore
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By John R. Graham

Marketing-driven Fits the Times

With effusive CEO testimonials and countless articles and books describing how companies have transformed themselves into tightly focused, totally energized commerce machines, it would seem that change should be easy. Let's face it. If it were simple, there would be more of it. Even when the evidence for change is compelling, most companies continue to cling to the known, the familiar.

Selling is very much a case in point. The sales-driven approach to moving every type of product or service struggles to survive in the face of obstinate hurdles. Even though a marketing-driven strategy makes sense to more and more salespeople, there is a reluctance to let go of the tried and true, even while there's obvious evidence pointing to diminishing returns.

The difference between sales-driven and marketing-driven selling is anything but subtle. It has nothing to do with semantics and it isn't "just a matter of emphasis," as some would have us believe.

Marketing-driven selling represents a completely different way of looking at the sales process, a 180 shift in both thinking and behaviour. "I have been in business for 15 years and I didn't get the difference until last Friday," says Daryn Ross of Your Image in Kearney, MO, a manufacturer of promotional products. "I don't understand why it took me so long to realize that we see our products as commodities. It shouldn't come as a surprise to us that we've been selling them with razor-thin margins."

Even with all this, sales-driven remains the only way to go for many. The life insurance industry has demolished thousands of potentially firstclass salespeople over the years with it. After some training, the agents are sent out to accost friends, family, and neighbours. In effect, their task is to con them out of a premium payment. Once the list is exhausted and all the names have been crossed off, they don't know what to do next and quickly leave the business.

While this may be a somewhat blatant example of the sales-driven approach, it captures its essence. Dress it up, change the words, make it sound more sophisticated, but the process remains the same.: Go find someone to talk to. Get out there, get in front of prospects, and get the orders.

When it comes right down to it, the goal is still to discover a way to get in front of the prospect and work the old magic using such gimmicks as reading body language and applying a sure-fire close.

This picture was reinforced when we received a call from a man who described himself as a professional salesperson who had been in the field for many years. After speaking with him for a half hour, it was clear that he was bright and competent. About 15 years ago, he started his own service company.

Ready for a new challenge after selling his business and taking a few months off, he responded to a newspaper ad for a salesperson. When he walked through the door, he was handed a list of company names photocopied from a "manufacturers directory," along with a handful of laser printer-produced business cards. In effect, he was being told to go find the needle in the haystack. As it turns out, the company also "hired" another salesperson the same day who was given the same amount of job preparation.

All this is happening right now. The instances aren't isolated, either. It's the rule rather than the exception.

To be sure, there are "refinements" to sales-driven. However, most of them are essentially little more than a new, and perhaps brighter, coat of paint. Socalled "consultative selling," for example, attempts to soften the sales-driven approach, offering more of an iron hand in a velvet glove. But the goal is still to get the order.

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