Selling Bricks

I tweeted earlier today about the NYTimes article covering The OgilvyOne Brick Sale.

I’m torn, really torn. I like the fact that they are encouraging the noble art of selling, but they are going about it in a very poor way I think.

They use the analog of a door to door salesman. A bad start; to me that conveys high pressure tactics unrelated to the need of the ‘buyer’.

And is a YouTube video ‘selling’ especially by a person? How does it develop the contributor’s sales skills? Advertising, perhaps.

“Salesmanship has been lost in the pursuit of art or the dazzle of technology,” said Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and chief executive at OgilvyOne in New York. “It needs to be rekindled in this postrecession environment, as consumers are making more informed and deliberate choices.” (As an aside, can you pronounce the chairman’s name – without using the web?)

Now that I agree with! Helping consumers make informed and deliberate choices is EXACTLY what we as marketers and sales pros should be doing. Now how are you going to do that? Are you really going to develop and hone those skills in the individuals taking part? With a video, really? Explain how please! Or are you simply employing a cheap gimmick to promote your company? It feels more like the latter to me.

“Those involved in developing the contest considered something more exciting as the subject, said Mish Fletcher, worldwide marketing director at OgilvyOne, but “the iPad does not need ‘the world’s greatest salesperson.’ ”

This quote simply reinforces The ‘they don’t get it’ feeling I have. Apple are the master storytellers and they DO do it with video more than most other organizations (and yes, I am a fan boy, I’ll be picking my iPad up at 9AM tomorrow). Back to my point though; none of knew what to do with an iPad until Apple told the story. We don’t know the full story yet; we’ll learn a lot by using the tool In the future. But Apple told a story compelling enough that we rushed out and said ‘that’s good enough for me’. The (rumored) sales Figure was over $75million in the weekend it was available to order.   

So let’s hope that OgilvyOne do a bit more to develop sales skills in the wider world than a flashy piece of PR. How about an ongoing effort to help people grow their skill? That would be a real boon. But only once you ‘get it’ that sales is about storytelling and helping people make choices. Not about kicking down the door.

So what’s the lesson for YOU? I’m back on my authenticity kick. Is the offer you are making to your customers authentic? More importantly, do THEY find it authentic? How do you know, have you asked them?

4 Replies to “Selling Bricks”

  1. Thanks for your post about our search for the greatest salesperson.

    You’re absolutely right that a video is not the beginning, nor the end, of what makes a great salesperson or a helpful effort to the customer. We chose video because the pitch is merely a part (not the) of the process that is helpful to what we do as marketers — a good way for us to get better at our part of it. The art and science of persuasion is part of our charge.

    To help find the right person to work with us, video is a good (and yes simple) way to zero in on a person. Honing skills only on the pitch, or even through video, is actually not our goal. The end goal is broader than what this ‘test’ offers.

    From our experience working with clients and with their sales teams, we know well that sales begins long before any pitch and extends long after. It includes research and data, it values relationships and two-way dialogue, it nurtures, it adapts. And more. Perhaps you too are also seeing huge increases of indirect sales, especially via peer-to-peer, which is making the social networks that much more important to how a customer makes a decision.

    I think we do ‘get it’, but we certainly don’t ‘get it’ as well as professional and experienced sales experts which is why we’re looking for help from the sales community.

    The goal is to both recognize the importance of sales — and especially within advertising and marketing — and develop a dialogue (like this) and carve a future that is more interesting, nuanced and robust, reflecting modern sales techniques and also proven wisdom which hasn’t changed. One of the outputs will be a ‘sales guide of the future’ (quite an ambitious name I know) and it certainly (and hopefully humbly) will cover far more than this one piece of it.

    I hope this posting clarifies at least part of why we’re doing this and how the simple video pitch is not intended to diminish the complexity of the sales process at all; instead it’s a tool to bring some wisdom and people in that we crave for our part in it.

  2. Thanks for your input Mat,

    Perhaps we are closer than it seemed for reading the NYT article! I’m delighted to hear that, for example, the ‘sales guide of the future’ will be an outcome of this process. That is a good step forward.

    The art of the sale is definitely missing! We will be tearing up our solar contract today after the sales person failed to come through in time for us to meet the (utility imposed) deadline last week.

    This is the third or fourth time through this process and the ‘salesmanship’ has been abysmal at best. From ‘you can get that information on the web’ to simply not showing up for an appointment (twice), we are too often on the receiving end of sales people who are order takers. This for an order value of close to $30K.

    Compare and contrast (and back to the article), I reserved my iPad when orders originally opened. I was NOT charged upon ordering, as I’d only pay when I had had the chance to try out the device. Since then I’ve had a few, personalized, emails reinforcing my wisdom in ordering, how I’ll be able to get my hands on it, what it can do, etc., etc.

    In line on Saturday we were carefully guided to either a ‘pre reserved’ or ‘not’ line. The process was smooth, the staff personable, knowledgeable and good under pressure. Coffee was served in line. With chocolates!

    When at the head of the line, I was invited in to get “hands on”. Not pushed to pay, actually steered to the iPad counter (practically the whole store) that day. When I said I knew enough to buy now, I was handled with efficiency through the payment process.

    And I was CHEERED by staff (and people still in line) when I exited. For a six hundred dollar product! When was the last time you were cheered for buying ANY product, let alone a modest consumer purchase?

    Apple don’t get everything right, and despite being accused of being a fanboy, there are some areas where I have very strong reservations about their policies (another post!).

    But I’d give a lot to see more attention in the sales process to that level of customer experience and engagement in the majority of the sales encounters I have.

    What thinks you?

  3. You’re also hitting on the critical relationship between sales/marketing and customer service, the link of which some companies could improve: The promise made vs. the reality delivered.

    Sales (and many marketing folks!)care about what happens on day 2 and day 3 especially if they’re in the relationship business. We’ll figure out a way to engage on this discussion as well as the one prompted by your posting. Give us a day or so to figure that out.

    Good stuff. Important stuff.

  4. Now you are talking! The critical gap in many (most) organizations marketing is the difference between their brand promise and how the customer perceives that promise.

    There are few, very few, organizations that manage that so there is a match!

    As an long time marketer and sales professional it grieves me to see such disconnects going unaddressed.

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