Two years ago I received a note from a young person who had another year to go in university. “What,” he asked, “would be the best thing I could do to prepare myself to succeed as a marketer?”
I love questions like that.
After thinking about it for a day, I responded. “If you are genuinely interested in succeeding in marketing, start your career with a job in sales,” I wrote back. “Spend a year selling every day, and then start looking for a job in marketing.”
I am not sure if he ever took that advice, as I never heard back from him after that. But since then, my conviction about my answer has only grown stronger.
As marketers, the only objective we have that matters is to help our companies or clients sell more stuff at the highest margins possible. That’s why we were hired and that’s why we have budgets. Branding is a strategy; advertising, direct marketing, and promotion are tools. Strip away the candy-coated job descriptions, and selling is our trade. If that makes you uncomfortable, stop reading right now, resign, and go find another line of work.
The way we help sell more goods or services is to ensure that by the time the customer comes face-to-face with our heroes on the front lines - the person at the shop counter, the salesman making cold calls in a remote territory - all our people have to do is build a relationship with the customer and take the orders. The longer their pitch, the deeper our failure.
No matter how empathetic you are, you cannot learn how to make a difference at that critical point of contact from behind a desk. You have learn by doing.
Want a job in marketing? Get out and sell. Because in an age where the internet and social media are ripping down the barriers between marketers and consumers, there is no place in this business for someone who cannot make a sale.
This article was originally published in the 11 March 2010 issue of Media.