Sales & Marketing: dogs & cats?

Lunching with a client a few weeks back, I found myself listening to the challenges she (a marketing person) had working with her sales group.  She loves them and they her, because she’s always providing them with statistics and backup for sales challenges, and she never loses sight of my favorite question, “What are we selling here?”  But they always want more and they want it right now.  Offhand I tossed off a consoling explanation that made more sense the more I thought about it (not always the case with my off-the-cuff pronouncements).

“They’re sales, you’re marketing.  They’re dogs, you’re a cat.”

Before parsing this somewhat lighthearted comment, let me hasten to assure readers that I have owned both dogs and cats for many years.  So if it comes to one vs. other, I have no horse in that race, as it were.  But you don’t have to argue that one or the other is “better” to know that they’re different.  And so are sales people and marketing people.

Sales people are dogs:

  • They live in the now.  “Make the appointment!”  “Get the decision-maker!”  “Close the deal!”  This week’s sale is next week’s paycheck.  To marketing folks, that means they sometimes seem to have attention spans like the dogs in the movie “Up” (“squirrel!”).  But sales people with slow reactions lose business.
  • They’re always optimistic.  They have to be, to deal with the frequent rejections and discouragements that come with a sales job.  After all, a rep with a 20% close rate – pretty darn good – hears “no” four times as often as “yes.”  Like dogs, they’ll wag their tails at whatever opportunity comes up: taking a walk, chasing a ball, changing focus in mid-pitch if the prospect suddenly shows interest in some other product entirely.
  • Their bark is usually worse than their bite.  The very energy and focus that make good salespeople often make them seem a tad confrontational.  But five minutes later everyone is friends (particularly if they get their way).  Like dogs, the answer to “Are they playing or fighting?” is usually “Yes.”
  • They sometimes put their noses in inappropriate places…OK, let’s not go there.

Marketing people are cats.

  • They take the long view.  The food will come to them if they wait in the right place. The primary measure of success is to economize energy expended per kill. “Cost per revenue dollar” is the primary metric of success.
  • They make few sudden moves.  “Let’s think about this” is a good summary of what seems to dominate both species’ heads.  Short-term successes that hurt the brand or margins in the long run may not be successes after all.
  • They’re phlegmatic.  It’s often hard to tell a really happy marketing person from one that’s just waiting for you to go away so they can get back to work.
  • They like to play with their food before they kill it…OK, let’s not go there, either.

The thing is, they are different species.  And both species are necessary.  Most dogs are really terrible mousers, and few watchcats have ever foiled a burglary.  “Nothing happens till somebody sells something,” as Red Motley used to say, yet very few really long-lasting great products or companies have been built on sales alone.  And dogs and cats can live together in peace – it just takes some give and take on both sides. 

And good management – but that’s a story for another day and metaphor.

Mike Baum, Sophia Consulting LLC


About mhbaumk12

Mike Baum has 40 years of experience with all types of direct marketing, has run several companies, spent 25 years as a consultant in franchising and in K-12 education, and currently helps companies find solutions to growth challenges.
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