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What Came First: Marketing or Sales?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Remember when you were first looking for a job in the advertising and marketing industry? Not in the agency world, but in Corporate America? You finally got called in for an interview for a marketing position that you applied for, and everything was looking up.

Until you find out it's actually a sales position.


In our not-too-long experience, we have not only encountered that scenario ourselves, but have plenty of friends and colleagues who have been drawn in to firms and companies hawking the "marketing manager" position only to have them switch to offering a sales job.

What do you think came first — the sales job or the marketing job?

As we were first formulating this question, we thought it was a no-brainer: marketing, obviously. We figured that sales serves as a function under the marketing umbrella, therefore marketing had to be recognized as a field before sales. And though most often the simplest answer is the right answer, we felt hesitant to be so confident.

Enter the door-to-door salesman.

Personal selling is one of the longest-enduring types of business activities. There are books, movies, and plays about the traveling salesman. The art of selling is modeled after the best practices of these early, brave, and energetic souls. Could sales, now considered a function of marketing, have started out as the recognized communication model of business? It does sound like a convincing argument.

How, then, did marketing blow up into the support model that currently drives modern sales activities? It could be the rise of the written word; newspapers, magazines, publications and journals. It could be the rise of advertising; no longer did people have to wait for visits to hear about the latest and greatest in terms of technology, household goods, and services. So as salespeople continued to serve a modern, thriving society, they needed a bigger support system to handle the needs and wants of consumers.

Enter the field of marketing.

It makes sense. When we dive into the early history of fields, we see the personal touch became antiquated quickly when big business wanted things faster. Ogilvy began his rise into research-backed advertising when he worked for Gallup taking polls after movies. He saw the necessity of consumer feedback in order to provide the goods the people wanted.

In an unscientific way, then, we could think of sales as the forerunner to the robust and exciting field of marketing we now interact in. Marketing will continue to serve as a crucial element in the sales process, but we must continue to remember: Sales cannot equal marketing. 

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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