I was surprised when I recently Googled this question. Not because there was so much out there but because there was so much confusion. I get that the business com world has been essentially rebooted by the internet. Larry Tate wouldn’t understand it at all (see: “Bewitched”) and probably neither would Don Draper (seriously, you never watched “Mad Men”?), but on the other hand, some things haven’t changed.
I had a marvelous boss once, the GM of a fantastic free-form radio station in Denver that will be the subject of another story. He was a media-master and had come up through the golden age of broadcasting. I was whatever rank was two rungs lower than an unpaid intern at the time but he took pity on me and said “If you want to understand how radio works, you have to come to the sales meeting.” I mumbled something stupid about loving the music and wanting to work in broadcasting and finally got out “When is the sales meeting?” “Every morning at 7:30” he said. The idea of anything happening EVERY MORNING and at the hour of 7:30 to boot was simply insane to me. I was 19. Upon my mention of this insight of mine, he said basically “Kid, the only thing that matters in radio is sales. The only thing that matters EVER is sales, particularly if, God help you, you think you want to be in the entertainment business. 7:30, my office. Tomorrow.”
I went. I went every day I could go. It was like watching Patton plan out North Africa and lo and behold, the sacred “on-air talent” were there too and contributing! Once, he even took me on a sales call. We were driving down Federal Blvd. and he said “Point out the window”, so I did-right at a mom and pop hardware store. You know, the real ones with stuff stacked all over the place and strange tools that are so cool you want one even though you have no idea what they do. The boss grabbed a garden sprinkler and a yellow Bug-Lite and some needle nose pliers and went to the register. “Great place” he said to the clerk. “Any chance I could speak to the owner?” “You’re speakin to him. Something wrong?” The conversation started there and ended with the guy buying an 8 week schedule of mixed 60s and 30s in every day part and smiles all around and he paid the deposit on the spot. When we went to the car, the boss tossed the goods in the back seat and said, “That’s how you do it. Welcome to Sales.”
Later in life, I worked for probably one of the preeminent marketing organizations in the world-again at the bottom of the food chain. The focus was different. I learned that Advertising is when we pay to talk about ourselves, PR is when we get other people to talk about us without paying them and Promotions is when we do stuff so everybody talks about us. It made sense of course but we really didn’t connect it to selling anything.
Which brings me to my Google search. It turns out, there is still a disconnect out there on this. What’s Marketing and what’s Sales? Should they be connected in some way? Do they talk to each other? My answer is in a short story that a lot of jus have used over the years with kudos to all the Hit Squad, Goofy Games and Target Market Tour veterans wherever you may be!
There is a party at Betty’s house. Big Jim has a great rep as a football star and he’s usually spoken of as the most popular guy in school. On Saturday night, he puts on a shirt that shows off his athletic body, shaves close, polishes his boots and puts on his best after shave after he practices looking sincerely interested in the mirror. When he gets to the party in his red Camaro, all the girls notice and start whispering to each other. That’s Marketing.
Andy is a short bookish guy with lopsided glasses. He has to borrow his dad’s beater of a Chrysler to go and, as soon as he gets to the party-a little late- he asks Betty if he can help her serve the food. In the process of passing out snacks, Andy asks her what she’s reading. They talk about books for a while and pretty soon that leads to music. Learning that they both like the same band, they quickly hijack the music playlist and dance most of the night together. When the rest of the guests leave, Betty winks at Andy and asks him to stay and help her “clean up”. That’s Sales.