Top 5 Lies That Marketing Tells Sales


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The friction or disconnect between marketing and sales is real and contributes to disfunctionality. Geoffrey James’s blog titled “Top 5 Lies Marketing Tells Sales”” caught my attention and prompt me to make my own observations.

There was a time when I was technology salesman, I also managed a sales team and did sales training. Then there was a stint I did as the VP of Marketing. Now I advise companies on how social media impacts business. There are two sides to the issue. Here’s my view the lies James brought up.

Lie #1 Branding is vital to your success. James claims maketing promotes this idea to garner bigger budgets. He suggests this is a myth. I think what is mythical about it is that increasingly a company’s brand is what customers say it is and they are saying what it is via social media. The other aspect of the brand image marketing promotes is to convince sales people that their claims are true. Modern marketing almost always involve hyperbole. However, from the perspective of at least 50% of sales people, they readily absorb the position marketing takes. It is simpler than gaining real knowledge of the marketplace and competitive offerings.

Lie #2 We can train you to sell. James claims that if you haven’t done it, you can’t teach it. I say tell that to all the male gynecologist who have never had a baby. Certainly teaching sales requires knowledge of what it is like to be involved with customers. However, if we only relied on experienced sales people to teach sales, we would never be able to make the shift from the “ABC method, always be closing” and could never learn how to listen and sell solutions.

Lie #3 Our Market Research is Scientific. James says it is bogus. I think third party researchers can do a good job. The problem comes from the interpretation market.” Marketing presents a biased view. Sales generally like this because they can charge forward with greater conviction.

Lie #4 We can handle the media. James is the media so doesn’t think marketing people understand his field. I think both the traditional media and marketing need to recognize and learn to understand new media, what’s happening online. David Meerman Scott’s book “”The New Rules of Marketing and PR” is definitely worth the read.

Lie #5 We are giving you good leads. James sites statistics that say 85% of marketers think the give good leads while only 50% of sales people agree. I am surprised that 50% of sales agree, I would have estimated it to be about 25%. All too often marketing comes up with leads, sales pursue them and report the call in the CRM system (or not). The problem is that marketing spend very, very little time trying to determine why an “A-rated” didn’t turn into a sale. They put their energy into generating more “A-rated” leads.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. First, I really appreciate that you took the time to think about my blog post and then write a thoughtful comment on it. Your remarks are far deeper and more perceptive than the comments on the blog itself. Hopefully, the track will pick up this link (I got a Google Alert) and add it to the post.

    That being said, I think your analogy about the gynecologist was a bit weak. The doctor doesn’t show a woman how to have a baby. That’s a natural process; if animals needed to be taught how to do that, there’d be no animals. However, a gynecologist does assist with a birth and handle difficulties if they occur — and needed to be taught to do that. And I should hope that the professor who provided the instruction had delivered at least one baby sometime in his or her career.

    As for the media, you probably aren’t aware that I’ve worked on both sides of that particular fence, and have actually taught courses on handling the media to several high tech analysts firms. There are exceptions, but PR people are pretty clueless. Actually, I’m posting on this subject shortly.

  2. Kephren,

    Thanks for responding to my post on your post. I thought the topic would be of interest to the CustomerThink audience so decided to post here with a link rather than comment on yours.

    Regarding the analogy, the point is that sales is not a static field and neither is the way we interact with customers. Traditional sales methods are deeply seated in closing the customer. In order for this to change, they need someone with a different perspective on the sales process to provide insights and strategies. Many of these require abandoning of what many sales people see as tried and true. Unfortunately for them the evidence indicates these methods are producing diminishing returns.

    I look forward to seeing your blog on media.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  3. John, Kephren

    I have long believed that a brand, a real brand, is what you think and feel it is. Not just what marketers say it is. Tom Asacker is without a doubt one of the most lucid writers on this topic, particularly his brilliant (and small) book, ‘A Clear Eye for Branding’.

    There is plenty of robust evidence to show that marketing does influence customer behaviour. Go to any FMCG company and they will have detailed marketing elasticities worked out for different types of marketing communications. Customers also influence other customers’ behaviour too. But social media has some catching up to do to show exactly where, when and why it has its undoubted effect.

    For me, progress will be the two combining their effect so that marketing influences customers’ behaviour in specified ways, including triggering them to influence others’ behaviour through social media. My fear is that while marketers continue to over-promise, and the real customer experience continues to under-deliver, combining the two into something bigger will remain, like the title of the film, ‘A Bridge Too Far’.

    It will be interesting to see how Asacker extends his original thinking in his new book, ‘A Little Less Conversation’. If only all business books were so lucidly written, so insightful and so compact!

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  4. Greetings,

    Graham, your comments about the over-hype by marketing and the underdelivered experience brought me back to the other player — the customer. Customers have a role to play in their own experience. Here an example.

    I use to bemoan how bored and unfriendly the clerks were at my local Safeway store. Then, one day, I started observing the way customers’s treated them, like a bad boss who complained but never complemented, with indifference, as if they really weren’t people.

    I picked out two particularly bad attitude clerks and started smiling, refering to them by name and conversing with them. Within a verys short time I would get a smile even when I was several people back in the line. After about a month other clerks and even the please stocking produce started greeting me with a smile and comment. I reciprocated. About a month ago my daughter, who doesn’t live at home, came to the store with me. Her comment, Dad, everyone knows you.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  5. John, excellent point.

    Sellers are often guilty of defining a “relationship” as a customer doing something for them, like buying something. But would customers define it as a relationship? Probably not, unless there was more to it than one value-for-money deal.

    But the reverse is also true. Customers that constantly price shop and show no loyalty shouldn’t be surprised to be treated much the same.

    Still, in business, shouldn’t the seller make the first move and at least try to get a real relationship going?

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  6. Bob,

    I agree that businesses should make the first move to get relationships going. However, any relationship that is worth its salt, is reciprocal.

    As I pointed out in my comment above, employees sometimes just get beaten down by the boredom of the job and the way other treat them, including customers and bosses. One could argue that the business should straighten out its employees. My point is that if you want to be treated courteously, be courteous.

    It goes beyond smiling and greeting. Suppose you buy a product from a hardware store and find out it was of inferior quality. You may have already used it but were less than thrilled with the performance. One strategy would be to forget about it, or you could remember and decide to agressively complain. Or, you could vow not to shop at that store again. Doing any of the above does little to help the relationship and actually might inconvenience you.

    Now suppose you decide to tell the people about the inferior quality of the product without expecting any compensation. They are likely to be appreciative since they do not have first hand experience with all products they sell. They may keep this in mind and advise the next customer accordingly. They may also let the manufacturer know. If we all act this way, the pay-off comes from more open and trusting relationships.

    Interestingly, this is what happens in most peer reviews.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  7. John, Yes, the lies you listed are not just lies, they are self-promoting what marketers use to justify what they do. When sales don’t happen, it is never their fault, it is the sales department staff that is a fault. Like you wrote, “We gave you good leads . . . ” and by saying it is your job to close the sale” is a way of denying their part in sales not being made.

    There is another factor that is left of the equation between what marketers called branding and what they really do is public awareness of what the firm has to offer. Almost all salespeople will say that the marketing materials, while very showy, do not answer the questions that come up after the salesperson leaves the meeting, hangs up the phone, pays the lunch check. Salespeople are only an avenue between the vendor and the person(s)contacted. The person(s) contacted are the salespeople! It is they who have to take the offer or presentation or discussion to others in their firm. If it doesn’t get sold there, the vendor does not make a sale.

    What marketing does is providing information that spans between vendors and those who will be discussing how the products/services will affect the business if purchased. That takes in a lot of different marketing formats.

    There is another problem that marketing does not say they do but if they did it would be another lie. That is, that they listen to what the salespeople have to say as to why sales were not made and what the salepeople might suggest be changed or added that may help facilitate making the sale.

    The above are results of my being a buyer for 25 years and having discussion with other buyers (usually over drinks) as to what our suppliers — past, current, potential — do not make available. Our discussion usually were based on the comparison to those that did. Btw, from these discussions, we all worked at coming up with marketing materials that our customers needed in order get confirmation on their considering to buy or to justify their decision either to buy or, even not to buy.


    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    Recipient of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Attitudes for Selling offers consulting, workshops and speaking on all business topics that affect sales.
    I can be reached at [email protected] or through my site at

  8. Alan,

    Thanks for your comments. I experienced many of the things you talk about when I was in sales. Marketing hated it when salespeople created their own sales material. They said it weakened the brand. Sometime is did but salespeople new that they had a quota.

    Of course, there is another side to the issue. Unfortunately, the perspectives that have been shared in this (an other) discussions indicate there is contention between the two parties. I would like to hear from some marketing people. Also, I would encourage an more open discussion within companies.
    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  9. When marketing is measured and rewarded for one thing — brand building and lead volume, and sales for something else — quota attainment, it’s no surprise that they don’t get along.

    The classic argument goes like this:

    Marketing: “Look at all the leads I generated!”

    Sales: “Most of these leads are crap!”

    Marketing: “How do you know, did you call them?”

    Sales: “Why bother, it won’t help me make quota this month.”

    The fix is simple: make sure that marketing and sales share the revenue goal. Marketing needs to be accountable for delivering qualified leads to sales, and sales needs to be accountable for following up and closing those leads.

    This takes silo-busting CEO leadership. And marketing/sales executives that will try to work together.

    Newer B2B marketing systems can bridge the gap and help marketing and sales both get more value from marketing investments. See B2B Marketing 2.0: How to Engage Social Buyers and Break Marketing/Sales Gridlock.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  10. Bob,

    The best lead is someone who tells you they are interested in what you have to offer. Increasingly, customers, in both BtoB and BtoC are telling companies what and when they are interested by what they search for online. This includes, the blogs they review and the peer reviews. One things companies need to learn is that most often they are not search by brand name, rather they are search for information on the outcome they desire. If the company doesn’t show up on their radar, well…


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  11. John, What is often left out by anyone wanting a product or service, is that they need to sell their need(s) by including not just what they want/need, but how they are going to use it and, more important, why they need it. In my consulting and speaking work about “Why Everyone Has Something To Sell,” I call this the “WHY Theory of Selling — What, How, whY. As you can guess, there are many ways this theory can be applied not just to looking for needs but also in selling uses, asking people to do something, etc.

    When any resource learns that someone (individual or business) is looking to something to go with what they are doing, planning to do, or would like to do, half the selling is already done. The resource has only to fill in the other half.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    Recipient of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Attitudes for Selling offers consulting, workshops and speaking on all business topics that affect sales.
    I can be reached at [email protected] or through


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