The number of disciplines it takes to bring an idea to life is staggering. As the ways to market and advertise have proliferated, so too have the number of people and disciplines it takes to see an idea from concept to production.
Specialization is a necessity. With specialization comes the risk of myopic thinking. You get SO wrapped up in your one part of the puzzle, that you forget to see the bigger picture. Yet great execution from concept to production happens only when every discipline plays exactly its proportionate role to the idea.
Organizations that consistently perform at the highest levels understand this. Their teams function this way; there is healthy respect and trust between all disciplines.
I believe one of the keys is being able to sell.
Everyone knows an idea hasn’t truly been sold until you see it alive and in the world. Once an idea gets sold to a client, it needs to get sold to their boss, and their boss, and their boss. Even after approval, clients can get cold feet. Objectives can change. Personnel changes can happen. Budgets can get cut. Sometimes it’s a miracle that ideas come to life at all.
Selling is often portrayed as the dirty part of the business. He/she is considered too “sell-y.” “Stop trying to sell all the time.” It is portrayed as something that is dishonest. I’d argue that it’s only dishonest if you don’t believe in what you’re selling, or if what is being sold is below average. We’re in a highly competitive business. In this industry we pitch for our business. Without selling, it’s called fine art —not marketing.
Selling the power of an idea
Marketing’s job is to develop ideas that will inspire consumers to act, feel, think or behave in a certain way. Selling is about communicating the promise of the power of the idea. It doesn’t just happen between client and agency. Selling an idea also has to happen within the walls of an agency. You have to be able to sell to internal audiences before you even have the chance to present to a client.
If the sale becomes too complicated, it can’t be understood by all the different specializations that will bring it to life. The sale has to be clean, simple and inspiring.
That’s what great salespeople and organizations do. They can sell an idea in a clean and simple way. In doing so, they make it easier for a client to hold true to an idea, even in the face of adversity. They also help everyone from specialized disciplines stay focused. This comes from good salesmanship.
Selling is everyone’s responsibility
The responsibility for selling doesn’t just rest with one person or with one discipline. The business problem to be solved has to be properly identified and distilled. The consumer insight must be razor-sharp. The engagement strategy must be opportunistic, appropriate and inspired. The idea has to be brilliant. The execution flawless.
At each point there is the opportunity for the idea to come apart. Like the passing of a baton, each discipline needs to do its part to continue to sell the idea and bring it across the finish line.
The difficulty is that salesmanship isn’t something that is taught. It is a strange blend of integrity, persuasion, trustworthiness, passion and expertise. That cocktail of skills isn’t unique to any one discipline. In fact, it is needed in all disciplines. It is something that comes with time and experience.
In business, the ability to sell allows David to defeat Goliath. It allows startups to take on the establishment. It breaks through into the future vs. staying stuck in the status quo. It allows brands and companies to embrace risk, giving them the confidence to try new things and believe in possibilities.
When everyone sells, ideas come to life and business problems get solved. Selling is good.