The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, June 18, 2007

The First Marketer I Ever Met

I don’t remember his name, but I remember what he wore.

As a young engineer, a few years out of university, I was the stereotypical technician. I thought everyone who was not technical was a bean counter. That the technicians created the real value.

And then I saw my first Marketer.

I had been forced, along with a number of my colleagues to attend some management training. Almost dragged from my computer. These were the days when only engineers had computers (or terminals linked to a super computer).

There were other speakers at the conference, but I only remember the marketer. He wore a dark purple suit (these were the early eighties). He had a cream shirt with a purple tie, and even purple shoes. When he sat down in, as it happened, a matching purple upholstered chair, we could see his purple socks.

He was the Marketing Director of ACI Industries, supplying among other things, domestic insulation batts. These were basically a commodity item. Whoever you bought them from, they all had insulation ratings. Rated by the CSIRO. For domestic use. And once they were in, you never saw them again. Not a very exciting consumer product to market.

He was quietly spoken and gradually told his tail. About the state of the market when he had started. About a business that was going nowhere. It was a case of trench warefare amongst the main competitors, where, like in the first world war in France, territory gains were measured in feet and inches. In the insulation game, it a percentage point of market share gain here, and losses somewhere else. No side had any technical edge. It was a war of attrition. It was only a question of who had the greatest stamina for losses, and would leave the battlefield first.

Now the Marketing guy had gone over to the US to see what the marketers over there were doing to market insulation batts. And at one time, he even visited a manufacturing plant. And while he was there, he saw every so often, instead of a standard yellow batt on the production line, a pink one. He asked the supervisor, about the pink batts. And he told him, these batts were seconds that had not passed the quality inspection, and were died pink so that the packagers would know to discard them.

When he returned to Australia he asked the ACI Operations Manager to dye all the batts pink, and created a marketing campaign that implied that the pink batts were superior to the yellow ones (but in such a way that could not be challenged- since technically, all batts rated the same performed the same).

But the pink batts became a brand. Not only did ACI’s sales greatly increase, but even when customers called ACI’s competitors, they asked for pink batts. To which they replied: “No Sir/Madam, our batts are yellow and perform just as well as the pink ones.” They knew they were in trouble, and started their own advertising campaigns.

But it was too little too late. And yellow was such a boring colour- even if you didn’t see them when they were installed.

ACI became the market leader. They had taken a commodity product where the competition was basically price driven. They had created a brand, and a point of difference. There was also a fun element to the campaign. (Pink is more fun than Yellow. And who do you think this colour difference influenced most?)

After all these years, they are still at it (although they have changed the name).

And there it was. Someone had created value for a business, not through technical innovation, but by marketing innovation. My transition from the technical world started shortly thereafter.

As for the Mareketer- I never saw him again.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sales Intelligence: The Forgotten Intelligence

Charles Handy in his tremendous book on change in the work place “The Hungry Spirit” (Hutchison Random House ISBN 0 09 180 1680) talks about the various types of intelligence we as humans have developed.

In fact as we have become more educated and sophisticated the specific number of these intelligences has increased. Handy suggests there will be other intelligences identified.

Handy states we are all born with basic intelligences such as:-

Factual Intelligence.............The facility of knowledge remembrance and recall we are traditionally schooled in

Analytic Intelligence............The ability to be able to reason & conceptualise

Numeric Intelligence............Being at ease with numbers of all sorts

A combination of these three will get us through most tests. But there are other intelligences we have developed that can help us in specialist ways. Handy identified the following intelligences:

Linguistic...............The facility to make our self understood
Spatial....................The capacity to see patterns and trends
Athletic...................The capacity to be physically superior
Intuitive..................An aptitude to sense & see what is not obvious
Emotional...............The capacity to be persistent, zealous, self aware, in control and self motivated
Technical................The ability to understand physical data
Practical..................The capacity to operate with common sense
Interpersonal..........The ability to get things done with and through others
Musical....................A skill that involves rhythm, sound and form

But is there another skill that the world has forgotten, taken for granted or just chosen to ignore?

All these skills mentioned above alone will not make much commercial impact unless we add the value of the neglected intelligence.

What of the binding glue of Sales Intelligence in the world? This is indeed a rare ability to bring buyer and seller, protagonist and antagonist and negotiator and purchaser together?

This unique skill is most evident in the sale of intangibles (insurance), concepts (wealth creation), ideas (aged care) and ideologies

So often in our society academics, bureaucrats, legislators and consumerists fail to understand that there is a real demand for Sales Intelligence.

So often people don’t want to face reality and purchase the product that solves their problem. Case in point: Insurance. Yet our capitalist economy depends on it to keep the wheels of industry, commerce and society rolling.

Sales Intelligence is absolutely essential to the success of our corporate, business and personal life. Yet, scant regard is given to this skill by those who wish to frame our consumerist laws and social mores today.

Sales Intelligence draws it strength and resilience from across all the intelligences. Yet people who are illiterate, blindly ignorant, stubborn, deaf and dumb, devoid of analytically skills and numerically challenged can be make tremendous sales people. Perhaps that irks the intellectuals?

So what are some of the components of this Sales Intelligence?

Compassion.....................Solving problems
A competitive spirit........Enthusiastically wanting to achieve
Empathy..........................Single minded focus to see as others do
Goals definition..............Rewards for effort
Emotional strength.........Record keeping
Self analysis.....................Skills practice
Call persistence...............Profitable productivity
Self belief.........................A sense of humour
Diagnostic analysis.........Sharing

One of the remarkable things about Sales Intelligence is that you never stop learning. There are always new challenges and there is always a constant and universal demand for the skill.

Yet many of our educationalists retire to the hallowed halls of academia and never create anything new. Do they practise any of the above skills?

Yet sales people must respond to the market and succeed no matter what the state of the economy, the budgetary condition of their prospects or the expectations of their principals.

Academics and management are aware of the explicit need for sales intelligence. But why do they allot so little of their budget for real sales training?

There have been those who have been uprooted from their normal life, moved to foreign countries, been displaced, retrenched, made redundant or generally been spurned by the nice side of life who, as a last resort have turned to their native Sales Intelligence to finally succeed above all the odds. Why is this so?

This attribute not only serves those who are successful, but it is a final last resort for many of those with nowhere else to go. They are able to achieve phenomenal results, simply because they must!

So if you live by your wits, intuition and native cunning through sales be very, very proud of it. Sadly in our well-ordered society today many commentators get fed, not for supporting those that create the wealth and opportunities that Sales Intelligence delivers but for putting obstacles and negative attitudes in their way.

Sales Intelligence allows the persistent, the perseverant and the economically desperate to succeed against all sorts of odds.

So next time you read about or hear some commentator sermonize about the way you are remunerated, the size of your pay check or how you are rewarded, remember this.

You are rewarded for the courage to ask people for the order every day, despite the negatives, the procrastination, the armchair critics and the sidelines experts.

You have the belief to continue on. Your reward is convincing and helping people do for themselves that which they know is morally, socially and economically correct, even when they are reluctant to act.

I wonder if your critics would have the intestinal fortitude to do what you every day to not just survive, but thrive!

Jim Prigg. ADVICE: Publications and Training at

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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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