Back in the day, I was taught that great marketing created the sales proposition to: “Inspire, educate, motivate and engage.”
I remember when I watched this iconic play by Arthur Miller. I was just embarking on a career in sales and it thoroughly scared and depressed me.
It’s a story about Willy Loman; a traveling salesman whose career is failing, which quickly infects his relationship with his family. It’s an in-depth character study that all people should see at least once. I was so afraid I would become that person, selling a product using old methods that continued to fail and becoming detached and sad as he was. Fortunately, it inspired me to NOT be that guy back in the day, but sadly, that day is quickly arriving for many of us, if it hasn’t already.
So why is a marketing guy writing about “The Death of a Salesman” you ask?
Think about it:
- They must clearly define and articulate the Brand and its products and services.
- They must also “sell” this to all stakeholders with vision, passion and conviction.
- They must have a thorough understanding of the products and processes to take a product to market and create the excitement necessary to create leads for the sales force.
- They must clearly define the features, benefits and attributes of that product AND articulate the “selling message”, so that all stakeholders fully understand the "Brand Promise".
- They must continually improve and innovate within the company, with new processes and technologies, to keep the brand, products fresh, relevant and continually define and sell these insights too.
- They must be the inspirational leader whose passion "is the brand" and it must be infectious!
And a lot more!
All of this is being lost…very quickly.
When I was a kid, I’d go on vacation and I’d get a couple cool mementos to bring home and show off to my friends. I could do that because back then, you were only able to buy things that were unique to that area.
Not anymore. Go anywhere and you’ll find the same selection of furniture, clothes, fast food and stuff in general. There is nothing unique about the products or the messaging to attract a consumer to your brand or store. It’s all being commoditized and that’s why on-line retailers are quickly taking away market share…because they have the unique “stuff” people search for and want.
All of this is being lost…very quickly, and I’ve become the Willie Loman of today.
Why, because I don’t know how to commoditize knowledge, creativity and passion. No one wants that anymore, they want an MBA who can manipulate an excel spreadsheet in 47 shades of grey.
Today, companies are more concerned with the educational degree....a pedigree..., even if that degree, or lack of, was obtained before computers, the internet, cell phones, and more. These technological advancements, and other dramatic changes in our society, has transformed everything in retail today, especially as it pertains to how to “sell.”
The marketing guy, in many instances, is helping to kill the great salesperson because they aren’t performing their 5 basic functions (above). Any marketing person worth their weight knows that their customer of today is NOT their customer of 5 years ago…yet they haven’t adapted to this new “wired consumer” with a great internet and social marketing strategy. They have ignored this dynamic change and by doing so, they are not delivering sales opportunities….which is their “primary job!”
Let’s talk about furniture for a minute. I know this industry well, serving as Chief Marketing Officer for many companies in this industry for years, as well as many other companies outside this industry.
Home Furnishing’s has been severely commoditized
They are not writing copy that is unique and relevant and they are not delivering the number one engaging element: Videos! Think about this for a minute. If you have “better goods” and you’re selling a name brand leather sofa at $1,999.00, why would a consumer want to buy that when that same store is selling a “bonded leather – look alike” for $399.00….and HELLO - it’s NOT real leather – it’s Vinyl. A video explaining what you’re buying would in fact raise the expectations of the consumer and the sales ticket. But the chief marketing guy isn’t doing that, so the tickets are smaller, the commissions less and the sales person is expected to do it all without any help.
This isn’t just about furniture. This is about all retail. Take an honest inventory and see if you’re destined to become irrelevant like so many past iconic brands that stagnated and now are scattered across the junkyards of retail.
There is so much more. Just think about it. Why are you different? What are you doing different to inspire “me”, to engage me? Are you where I want to find you? The sales person can’t do it all. They need a leader with a vision, a leader with passion, a leader on a mission and because we as marketers are not leading as we should, we’re witnessing the death of a salesman.
Today's marketer's must stop thinking themselves into acting...and start acting themselves into thinking!