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Is Selling Becoming More Like Marketing?

sales doctorI have to admit that part of the motivation for the title of this post is to excite the sales oriented folks out there, but no question, the Internet has forever changed the practice of sales.

Today’s salesperson is often greeted by a sales lead that knows more about the technical or historical aspects of a product, service, or industry than they do. Selling evolved long ago from an act of presenting and closing to one of educating and consulting, but access to information via online sources, rating sites, filtering social media streams, and tools for competitive analysis have once again changed the game.

The game of selling in today’s digital information age has become one of helping a prospect aggregate and filter information and come to the shared conclusion of what value looks like. The salesperson that can best illustrate a valuable outcome wins. I don’t know about you, but from where I sit, that sounds a lot like what good marketing aims to do.

I love to use the medical profession to help make this point. (Doctors have long sold patients on what was best for them!) Years ago you went to a doctor, they diagnosed your problem, and offered a solution. If you were really sick you got a competitive prospective, but for the most part, you took the advice and moved forward. Today, patients have access to information about medical conditions, experimental drug trials, and therapies from alternative practices. Today’s medical buyer is often more informed on new medical directions than treating physicians. Few doctors can expect to see a patient and dictate a solution. The practice of medicine has evolved, in large part due to access to information, into one of helping patients filter information and come to a shared conclusion of the best path.

Today’s salesperson must employ the same online aggregating, filtering, and listening devices as their prospects or prepare to be dismissed as a hack.

Image credit: Lisa Brewster

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  • GL HOFFMAN

    For those people who still depend on a sales force, here are some ideas on how to fix a sales problem, in a simple graphic. I hope this helps some of your readers, John.
    GL HOFFMAN, Chairman of LINKUP.com a job search engine, author of WhatWouldDadsay.
    http://www.whatwoulddadsay.com

  • http://redcort.com/timeclock Keith DeLong

    I think a key point is that the Internet has created a much more informed consumer. Who doesn't Google a product or go to Amazon.com to check reviews before making all but the most trivial of purchases? It doesn't matter if you're selling widgets or software and it sure doesn’t matter if it's a sale online or a brick or brick store.

    An informed consumer is good for business because it rewards the sellers of valued products and services. Such an environment rewards good sales people and ultimately relieves consumers of lazy ones.

  • deborahrichmond

    This week I started a class on Relationship Sales as part of my bachelor's degree curriculum. I'm hoping the text book is somewhere as up to speed as the name implies. I feel the same, that marketing is much closer to sales these days. The old-fashioned view of sales is much less prevalent now that relationships are how we choose to interact with products and companies now.

  • lisamelton

    If you cannot build a solid relationship with a prospective customer, they may make a purchase from you one time, but repeat business is the key to success. One thing that should never change is the quality of customer service that a customer receives.

  • pippaken

    Hi John

    It's always intrigued me that many doctors insist they are terrible sales people and yet I am able to point to numerous occasions in which they have been extremely persuasive and effective marketers, using education as their leverage to get the public to submit to all kinds of treatments.

    I try to get them to understand that really good marketing, for services especially, comes in two mutually-compatible forms: educational marketing and relationship marketing.

    You correctly point put that the power has shifted from the physician (the all-knowing god) to the relationship between the patient and the physician, if the latter is smart enough to recognize and nurture the patient's part ownership of the outcome.

    All the more reason for the physician to be an informed business owner, aware of current trends with a healthy respect for the evolving needs of his/her customer. Too bad we cant get the intrusive third parties out of the room!

    Here's a link to a wonderful demonstration of media convergence and it's potential to impact the work of all contemporary business owners/marketers/sales people:

    http://bit.ly/M4ta4

    Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC The Entrepreneurial MD

  • http://www.phillauterjung.com/ Phil Lauterjung

    Your comparison of sales and the medical field is spot on. I have spent my entire career in sales and marketing; and my wife has spent her working years in the medical field. With her dad and mom both being doctors as an added bonus.

    Over the years we have found an increasing commonality in our discussions about our respective fields. What has been referred to as “consultative sales” is really no different than a doctor diagnosing a patient's symptoms. For sales you could substitute the word “problems” for the word “symptoms”.

    As to the title of your post; yes, sales has had to become more like marketing and marketing has had to become more like sales. With marketing taking on the task of nurturing leads they have had to adopt more sales techniques for that process; and sales has had to develop a better understanding of marketing and a greater cooperation with marketing in defining what constitutes a “sales-ready” prospect. Thankfully the silos are coming down – at least in some enlightened companies. Hopefully more will follow suit.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Hey Philippa, I imagine my example won't sit well with all physicians but I know that you, as a doctor yourself, have been trying to help them come along. I'm not picking on the industry as much as using what I see as a pretty dramatic illustration of my point.

  • http://coolmarketingstuff.com/ Charles

    Patients often think they know more about the doctor on a given medical prescription or diagnosis but often their information sources are not fully accurate or they are making misinformed decisions based on lack of information. Interestingly, the doctor often must persuade the patient on why their diagnosis is wrong.

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    Nice blog you got right here! I can see that you have put hard work through your contents. I'm sure I'd come here more often. By the way, your readers might be interested in some FREE Marketer Tools. You might wanna check it out. Thanks!

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    Well … I have the meager satisfaction of being partly right initially.
    I was “”missing something really obvious.””

  • rubic123

    Nice comment.
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    <a
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  • http://www.belle-lingerie.co.uk/ Designer Lingerie

    its nice to read a useful article for beginner like me. Some of points from this article are very helpful for me as I haven’t considered them yet. I would like to say thank you for sharing this cool article.

  • http://nogurusnecessary.com/ Nando

    Having been in automotive sales for the last twenty years, your post about sales and marketing practically being one in the same is right on the money.

    Nowadays consumers are armed with all kinds of information (whether it be correct or not) thanks to the internet.

    No longer can you just point someone in a direction or make a conclusive statement as to your recommendation, but now these thoughts have to be substantiated with fact.

    It's a matter of educating the prospect as to the best possible solution to their situation.

    Doctors and anyone else involved with making recommendations for the benefit of the consumer are more and more like affiliate marketers.

    Thanks for the insightful post,
    -Nando

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ zuri

    The change in the selling landscape nowadays due to digital information has given consumers a lot of benefits. As a consumer we can now have access to different information, especially about the products or services so that we can have the better chance to choose which one works for our individual benefit.

  • dpeterson101

    Sales has obviously changed over the past 25 years. To think that when I first started we didn’t have ACT! or Salesforce.com you had 3×5 index cards that you used for tracking prospects and customers.

    Now just like you said I’ll make a sales call and the prospect is on the web double checking my work from 3,000 miles away.

    But to be sure today’s prospect is certainly more educated. That presents its own challenges but an educated buyer is easier to speak with so I appreciate them knowing as much as they do.

    I try to tell my new hire sales classes that you have to do your homework. Since every prospect has the ability to know all about your product and your competitors product you have to be just as educated as they are when they start throwing out the objections.

  • http://www.atlantasalesandconsulting.com/new_hire_sales_training.htm David Peterson

    Sales has obviously changed over the past 25 years. To think that when I first started we didn’t have ACT! or Salesforce.com you had 3×5 index cards that you used for tracking prospects and customers.

    Now just like you said I’ll make a sales call and the prospect is on the web double checking my work from 3,000 miles away.

    But to be sure today’s prospect is certainly more educated. That presents its own challenges but an educated buyer is easier to speak with so I appreciate them knowing as much as they do.

    I try to tell my new hire sales classes that you have to do your homework. Since every prospect has the ability to know all about your product and your competitors product you have to be just as educated as they are when they start throwing out the objections.