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Is there a different approach to sales and marketing?

Sales and Marketing used to be a tool to motivate customers, shift product and increase profit. Now, 21st Century Organisations have moved beyond these basic objectives, so have no need for this kind of tool. Sales and Marketing is a different beast defined by a completely new set of conditions:

The 20th Century sales and marketing norm were heavily characterised by:

  1. Never enough - more sales, more profits, more customers, more market share etc.
  2. Inward facing - a primary concern with what it can get people to buy, rather than how much meaning and value those goods/services add to the world

  3. Misdirection - capturing your attention for something you may not even need, or manipulating stories and details to present a message of choice
  4. Ownership - having full control over the content, message and direction of the products, services and the way they are disseminated

But 21st Century Organisations are faced with a set of conditions characterised by:

  1. Balance - an understanding that endless consumption causes more harm than good and a sensitivity towards corporate greed
  2. Outward facing - a requirement to see companies try and add real value; to provide goods and services infused with meaning and a concern for people and planet

  3. Authenticity - for companies to provide an authentic, honest relationship that puts truth and the value of relationship first

  4. Partnership - sharing in the endeavour of product creation and accepting that the market and the messaging can be successfully co-created

How to respond?

Use marketing to educate customers about your purpose

Old paradigm organisations tend to create mission statements that are inward-looking: “to be the market leader,” “to be the global standard”. 21st Century Organisations need a sense of purpose that evolves over time and brings real meaning to what their people do (why they do it). With that, sales and marketing will inspire and direct people towards being purpose driven, not profit driven (profit will follow).

Self-motivated employees as well as customers with passion, not monetary rewards

There is an awareness of the detrimental effects of external reward systems and top-down target setting. So, preferably, people are aligned with organisational purpose through connecting their personal purpose with the organisational one, involvement in the decision making and a willingness to see their organisation and colleagues thrive.

Enable everyone to be your sales and marketing team

Sales and marketing is no longer the primary responsibility of a particular group of people; it’s for everyone. Some might spend more time on it than others, but there is a cultural awareness of collective responsibility to add value to the end user. As such, all customer and stakeholder experience, however it occurs, is a sales and marketing experience.

Embrace partnership, not competition

In purpose driven environments, other organisations outside the traditional boundaries are allies by default, not competitors. Sales is therefore not a competition but an exercise in adding value to the collective human experience. Yes, companies compete, but they compete in good grace with an understanding that we all have to share the same space. Customers are people, not pawns in a pseudo-war game. But they are also potential partners, not just profit providers: customers can be worked with to co-create the sales and marketing platform and the products themselves. Finally, organisations stop competing internally over the sales function - dealing with customers as one coherent whole.

Example: Community-based ‘neighbourhood nursing’ care providers, Buurtzorg, maintains close relationships with patients, media companies and stakeholders with a genuine (not just a functional) interest in the organisation.

Nurture empathy and authenticity

By spending time alongside the customer base and the various stakeholder groups, organisations gain a deeper understanding of their needs. Also, the basic humanity of the people within the organisation means they can lean on their intuition over what is really worthwhile for people and can be more vulnerable and honest in their dealings.

Example: Patagonia’s ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign is a famous example - making people aware of the implications of buying more clothes at both the production and waste end of their product life-cycle.

Revel in taking responsibility, champion sustainable behaviour

Organisations must shoulder the same courage and moral frameworks that we expect of one another. If something is unsustainable or harmful they must at least confront that reality and not simply point to customers - who may not understand the context of that product - and say “well, they want, it so we provide it.”


“We have this idea about business— everything we do has to help us make more money, be more productive or whatever. But that’s not my view of business. My view of business is that we are coming together as a community to fill a human need and actualize our lives”

Tami Simon, CEO of Sounds True

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  1. John Featherby

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