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Are You in Marketing Because You Can’t Sell?

March 31st, 2009 by Bob Bly

I saw in e-mail exchange today between a famous sales trainer and a successful information markter and copywriter.

In it, the sales trainer arrogantly proclaimed: “Marketing is for people who can’t sell.”

I’ve heard this many times before.

When I was in the corporate world, the sales force and the marcom department often had an adversarial relationship.

It was mainly based on salespeople not believing that marketing has value — and the marketing people resenting that snobby attitude.

The sales trainer who said “marketing is for people that can’t sell,” by the way, is a guy who actively teaches cold calling.

In essence, he advocates calling people who do not know you, interrupting them at work or at home, and pressing them into buying from a total stranger (you).

I much prefer marketing, in which I follow The Silver Rule, a principle first articulated to me by consultant Pete Silver.

The Silver Rule says that it is better for prospects to come to you than for you to go to them.

Cold-calling selling completely violates this rule.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather spend my time talking to potential clients who call me or e-mail me because, thanks to a referral or my reputation, they are interested in hiring me.

I mean, if you just pick up the phone and cold call strangers, these strangers must certainly wonder how busy and successful you really are. After all, aren’t you spending your day dialing numbers in a prospecting directory? I can’t imagine Tom Peters or Seth Godin doing that.

Wouldn’t prospects rather buy from someone they consider a busy and successful expert and authority than a salesman calling them cold over the phone?

Wouldn’t YOU, Mr. Famous Sales Trainer, who says marketing is for people that can’t sell?

Wouldn’t you, Gentle Reader?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 12:57 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

37 responses about “Are You in Marketing Because You Can’t Sell?”

  1. dianacacy said:

    I agree whole-heartedly. It’s why I love the internet. You’re able to opt-in to get what offers you’re interested. Wastes less time – both for the seller and the potential buyer.

    I don’t want to sell my services by cold calling. I’ve been the business manager those calls would go to – I’ve worked in busy offices where those calls come in. Interrupting their busy day like that instantly ignites a defensive, negative ‘first impression’. Not something that encourages a good sales call.

    Some speak against cold emailing because of the spam issue, but if you must do something like cold calling, I feel that is received better. At least it was in the places where I worked and managed.

    I’ve had great results in introducing myself by snail mail first and letting them know I’d call within 7-14 days to see if they had any questions. Some even contacted me before the follow up call by email to let me know if they are interested or not.

    When I think of trying cold calling, I cringe, so I haven’t done it at all.

  2. Ken said:

    I’ve been reading the book The 80/20 Principle and upon looking at our own business discovered that an overwhelming majority of our best clients are ones who contacted us.
    It seems that many who we’ve called on cold either end up being severe micro-managers or have trouble paying invoices etc…so yes, I definitely agree with you.

  3. Dan said:


    I tried and tried and tried to succeed at direct, outside, face-to-face sales. I managed to feed my family, sure. But not much better. I bought into the old school sales trainer cold calling, persistant-as-a-gnat, objection clobbering style. And I was miserable. I hated it.

    Then I stumbled into direct marketing. And I saw how many of the very things that killed sales face-to-face made me an excellent marketer. I’m happier, and I make a much better living.

  4. Samuel said:

    “The Silver Rule says that it is better for prospects to come to you than for you to go to them.”

    This statement is very true. It is very hard to find prospects who will buy your offer/s. Definitely, it is much better if you think of an effective marketing strategy that can attract people without going to them personally. In short, they will be the one to look for you if they need to buy your product.

  5. Terrance Charles said:

    Good point, I use to hear that too that marketing is for people that can’t sell their product or service, which is true to a certain extent, but all you have to do is concentrate on relationships and you’ll sell yourself.

    Terrance Charles

  6. Gab Goldenberg said:

    I’d differentiate the two otherwise. Marketing = fill the top of the funnel. Sales = Push users out the bottom.

    I’m in marketing cuz I’m better at that than pushing users out, which is largely a 1-on-1 thing and involves lots of rejection. I suspect most marketers feel the same.

  7. Bob Bly said:

    Gab: I think your answer is correct and you articulated it well.

  8. Ian Brodie said:

    As a sole practitioner consultant I do both for my firm (and advise on both for my clients who are in similar situations).

    Both are important – no point in getting leads if you can’t sell, no one to sell to if you can’t get leads. Perhaps in different measures in different businesses – but nevertheless both important. And both require different types of skills.

    In the case of cold calling, it works well – better than any other type of marketing or sales approach – in certain specific circumstances (e.g. laser targeted prospect list, who are highly likely to need your product/service right now) and if done right. In other circumstances it’s like wading through treacle.

    The best skill to have is the skill to figure out which approach works when (I think so anyway!)


  9. T. Lavon Lawrence said:

    That’s kind of like saying I love to eat oranges but don’t see any reason why we should grow orange trees.

    While there is a time and a place for both of them, without marketing you have to sell one on one, I would much rather sell 1 on 100 or 1 on 1000.

  10. Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan said:

    What I’m also thinking is that if you do good marketing with lots of education and careful pre-selling, like the warm-up section of a workout session, qualified prospects come to you ready, willing and able to buy, there is not much selling to do.

    Traditional selling is about convincing prospects to buy something.

    To me it sounds like General Carl von Klausevitz’s definition of war,

    “War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.”

    Paraphrasing Klausevitz… “Selling therefore is an act of manipulation intended to compel the prospects to fulfil the seller’ will.”

    That’s why a significant part of sales training is overcoming objections. That is, keep badgering prospects until they give in and hand over the money in many cases for stuff they don’t want.

    Or as an editorial put it in the 2006 August issue of The Harvard Business Review…

    “Customers’ buying processes have evolved in our world of ubiquitous, instant, global communication…but companies’ selling processes have for the most part stayed the same.”

    And with consistent, perpetually improving direct marketing, the Silver Rule an be pretty nicely maintained.

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  12. John W. Furst said:

    Yeah, the marketing team said, “The sales people are lazy and cannot sell,” and the sales people used to say, “Marketing comes up with products nobody wants.” There seems to be a dislike on a global scale.

    Love the Silver rule. Much better if they come to you.


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