Death of the Salesman: Long Live Retail!


The Morning Post:- 14th May

“Death of the Salesman: Long Live Retail!”


Over the years, I have been in many meetings and discussions where the question has been asked…”What’s the difference between sales & marketing?”

My best explanation is that in fact, it is the same process but approached from different perspectives.

To coin the introduction from many a hackneyed joke…”A man goes into a shop…and he buys something”

The sales perspective from behind the counter is one of price and margin. It’s about making the sale and making the profit to be viable and successful.

The perspective from the customer’s side of the counter is about whether the product is what they need, it does the job, it has a benefit and quality that makes the price fair and there is a good experience with the store and the assistant. Happy customer.

Of course, and it’s no joke, the customer was and is not always completely happy, but in the traditional sales model the business doesn’t really care, to a greater or lesser extent, as long as the money goes into the till. And in the world of many customers and little competition from which the classic salesman evolved it was all that was required.

However today’s highly competitive market and discerning customer have changed all that, which brings us to marketing?

Well marketing is when the retail business looks at the transaction from the customer’s perspective – looking from the other side of the counter. Making the sale is not enough. Loyalty, engagement and brand experiences leading to repeat visits and sales are what is important to the retailer -building an attachment to a brand. And that is all about making the customer happy.

Brands realise that to make the sale the customer is everything.


The issue about market focused retail businesses and sales focused retail businesses is more of a discussion now than ever. I find the subject being raised by retail clients and by delegates in conferences. Not surprisingly it is a vibrant topic across an international audience with their different service cultures and equally predictable it usually centres of the sales personnel in stores. The classic scenario of the salesman on commission or the brand advocate aiming to please.

However, the differences go much deeper than the person behind the counter who is merely a result of the wider business culture, and this is where the discussion is really worthwhile. How to evolve from a sales mind-set to a marketing mentality?

It’s a complex process with many practical issues to solve. Where does marketing fit in the business…do we need a brand manager and at what level…what customer and market insights do we need and how do we interpret the findings in our product, our store experiences and our omnichannel communication? And with all these things in place we still need to consider our recruitment strategy, remuneration and reward, performance KPIs from boardroom to stockroom, and the training of our ever-so-important sales personnel – the face of the brand!

One thing is for sure. Sales orientated retailers are dying at an increasing rate and without doubt they will all disappear. The customer will ensure that.


So as a retailer, don’t face the inevitable with contempt, but begin the process of becoming a market focused brand. And that starts with changing the mind-set at the top of the retail business, which can often be the most difficult step to take.

A fish rots from the head, and for the customer of today there are now many, many more fish in the seas.



Are you a little lost in how to evolve your retail business into a market focused brand?

Do you need help in recruiting, training and rewarding your sales personnel in different ways?


Sleep on it and drop me a line in the morning…