Sales and Marketing: The Timeless Essence.

August 22, 2012

Running through all of the complex formulae, one-minute pitches, expensive marketing courses, and intensive sales training rewards or retreats …. the common intent is always the same: just make that sale!

Some schools and entities have focused on the hard pitch, some on the soft sale, others on some form of psych. play in a “trend-trap” or a “pity-pitch”; and now …. there is Social Marketing (for some, Social Engineering), where your smartphone can do most if not all of the seller’s prior research as you blissfully (and with voluntary consent through your own location and privacy settings) walk and surf, search and like, tweet and text, post, and otherwise share your entire shopping and social history to the four (north, south, east and west) by four (friends and vendors, foreign and domestic government entities, third-party data and transaction processors including contracted aggregators and data miners, and cyber-criminals) winds.

The more that things change, however, the more they stay the same, as there is still a timeless essence in sales and branding, that, if paid sufficient attention, can constitute a best practice.  I intentionally exclude “marketing” and “promotion” as separate elements in the selling process, because these can be included or embedded, at various levels, deep within the elements that I do list here.  Some interesting and thoughtful examples of marketing (and de-marketing) embedded within the terms, price, relationship and reputation, amongst others, can be seen in this footnote;[1] although the article itself is some 2 years old, these examples are still quite applicable and relevant.  We have also heard of that phrase “it sells itself”, which is the ideal and every marketer’s dream.

 

What is this Timeless Essence?

If you have been reading some of my posts, you will know that I like using acronyms and mnemonics, i.e. first letters in a string of words that actually spell something meaningful or make … some sort of sense when put end-to-end.  The reason for this is because it forces and inspires a deeper level of thinking, and an active justification for putting things where they are in the chain, in the first place.  So as not to disappoint, I will continue that trend in this post.

With the first element not necessarily being the most important element, this “Timeless Essence” has 9 (“nine”) individual parts as follows: Price; Quality; Relationship and Reputation (the “R” complex); Selection, Seniority, Selectivity, and Security (the “S” complex); and Terms.

 

PRICE:

A listed price can be all-inclusive with taxes factored-in, or with a listed price subject to the fine print, or with a listed price exclusive of taxes, or in some other configuration or combination.

Specific pricing options can range from new arrivals at full price; through loss-leaders (insufficiently priced to make an appreciable profit on their own but rather designed to drive volume sales and encourage browsing sales or move co-branded products and services); to liquidation sales at give-away prices.  With regard to food staples, for example, yes, price alone can draw the customers.  However, if the quality or relationship is poor, or the selection is not sufficiently broad, then reputation will suffer and all but those who are tied to that location or vendor, will soon start to do their shopping elsewhere.

 

QUALITY:

Quality can refer to the item for sale or hire (product or service), the place and décor of the selling or hiring (trade dress, and the experience), or the knowledge or skill of the staff (relationship, and the rapport).  Very knowledgeable sales staff, for example in the realm of either mass-market or high-end electronics, can generate a good reputation, develop a loyal following that turns to them for mundane questions on products that the business does not even sell, and lead to incidental sales, or the offering of new products due to customer demand; and even the creation of new and profitable lines of business – i.e. becoming the one-stop source for repairing the products of different (and competing) vendors, for a fee.

 

THE “R” COMPLEX (2 distinct elements):

Relationship, refers to the “experience” on one level, and the “rapport” between the vendor and buyer, or the vendor and the referral source, on another level.  Where word of mouth marketing brings the lead in the door (or to the website when we de-emphasize the bricks and mortar), it is left to the salesperson or the online marketing department to make or break that sale.  The act of referral does play upon the reputation of the vendor in the eyes of the referring source, and this may or may not hold true for the one being introduced as a follow-on rapport is or is not developed.  Word of mouth advertising can be both positive and negative.

Of course, showing the interplay between these essence elements – a reputation for quality or offering good terms (long warranties, no money-down, extended hours), can also bring large volumes of people through the door (or otherwise, to the e-commerce store).

Reputation sometimes also suffers if and when unscrupulous competitors (or members of a different political party), engage in highly questionable competitive practices.  These will need to be countered, curtailed, and corrected.  At other times, however, the prospect will already have been sold through marketing or a description of the experience or the rapport from others.  A good example of this is the opening of a new movie in theatres.  Those first in line will have been pre-sold, or in the company of others who have been so enticed.  And others, visiting the theatre in the second and subsequent evenings, will go because of the ratings, the descriptions of those who went before them, or continued media hype and coverage.

Relationship and Reputation can come together with successful product or service placement in that opening movie.  The audience can both develop a rapport with the performers through the product or service (by rushing out to do likewise and share or repeat the experience for themselves), and thereby capitalize on the reputation of that product or service by their patronage, which also furthers its reputation …. all for what?  A minimal outlay if the actor or actress is already an avid user or fan of said item, and whether or not compensated for same.

 

THE “S” COMPLEX (4 distinct elements):

These 4 elements (selection, seniority, selectivity, and security) are all related.  Selection refers to the variety of items available.  A wider selection is a significant part of what allows the Big Box Stores to draw people from both near and far, despite the isolated or even desolate locations in which you sometimes find them.  Seniority, of course, distinguishes some older vendors or long-established businesses from the new ones that may eventually be short-lived fads, or soon out of business due to some other reason for their non-sustainability.  It also used to give some assurances – financial shenanigans aside – that a vendor would be around long enough to make good on its warranty promises if any problems arose.  However, in a market where prices have fallen and comparable replacements abound, this becomes less important.

Selectivity is what distinguishes the “hard-to-get” item or service from the more commonly available.  However, “at-first-glance” good knockoffs through piracy, and their obvious advantage in price, are causing significant and rising consternation for several famous brands – especially in a challenging economy where many customers want to feel and look fashionable but do not have the disposable income (or even employment) to go about it properly as the law-abiding citizens that they ought, and were long ago taught, to be.

Security, as in “a sense of personal security”, has always comforted knowing buyers of counterfeit outerwear, because to date, it has generally only been the sellers of knock-offs who faced the penalties and prosecutions.  This changes, of course, and very quickly, when fake jewelry or wrist-wear causes one’s skin to go green, or brings-out a severe allergic reaction.  The ultimate buyers of counterfeit drugs, foods, and beverages however, are generally quite unaware that they are buying fakes, and they sometimes pay with their health or their lives.

Security can also be a strong selling point with businesses prone to problems.  This can be passive security in cameras (as long as they work, are watched, and the tapes are kept for long enough to be relevant), in patrolling armed guards, or in perimeter controls and screening of entrants.  However, if the grocery store or convenience store in the middle of a hot zone or a war zone is the only place to get food and other necessities, then despite the insecurity, people WILL still find a way there.  So, there must always be quite some give and take amongst all 9 factors, and between “S” Complex factors.  Whether you speak of a Big Box Store or a War Zone corner store, “location, location, location”, long ago lost its leading-edge, pride of place.

 

TERMS:

Jurisdictions will differ on what constitutes the “essential terms” of an agreement, and when an agreement has been fully formed.  However, and though varying from case to case or category of agreement to category of agreement, recurring “essential” elements include price, the item of agreement or sale, and the fact (often by signed writing) that there is some sort of an agreement.  One term can always be a deal-breaker or a deal-maker, and both knowing (discovering) the other party’s squeal point, and how to sufficiently sweeten the deal by give on that point or take on another, will be key.  This is why good sales and marketing people always ask questions that, although not always seeming pertinent, are intended to reveal something directly, or to lower a barrier that prevents the person asking, from seeing it for themselves.

Summary:

This then, is the Timeless Essence, a best practice, in effective sales and marketing, including branding.  Real world examples may come to your mind as you think through these points and look around you, or, you may be spurred-on to become your own mogul.  Good luck (in the effort), give thanks (to those who inspired you), and really, go for it …. just make that sale!

***************************************************************************

Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer, with experience in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S.A.).  See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com.  An avid writer, blogger, and reader, Mr. George is a published author in Environmental Law and Policy (National Security aspects).

Mr. George is also an experienced strategic consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, high stakes, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders, large budgets, and multidisciplinary teams.  See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”), in whole or in part for their content, or their accuracy, or their availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.


[1] Nicholas P. Hopek, TSYS.  De-Marketing in Practice: Survival of the Fittest – and Most Profitable – Customers. Published in Thought Leadership n>genuity Magazine, Spring 2009.  Online: >>http://www.tsys.com/thoughtLeadership/ngenuityInAction/current_issue/Spring09DeMarketingInPractice.cfm<<

 

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