One of my friends, who I really look up to for entrepreneurial advice, once told me this:
“Selling and marketing is a way of life.”
He is an engineer who worked with a robotics startup for a few years, setting up sales channels for them across India. Following this he worked with an MNC as a marketer for their cutting edge technology, then was a consultant for an investor and finally he is about to start his own startup again.
One day he was working with me on some pitch with me in the office, when an unsuspecting job seeker came to meet me with a CV in hand. So we did an impromptu interview. The fellow was a law graduate, quite desperately looking for work. Given the current market it is not exactly very easy to secure a well-paying job for a fresher. I asked him why he is not exploring work opportunities at chambers of litigators, which is easier even though it pays less – at which point he said that he wants to work with a dynamic organization, and lawyer’s chambers don’t really appeal to him.
I asked him what skills he possess, which I almost always do. His answers made it evident that only skills he can think of are legal skills, like drafting. A few questions made it clear that his legal skills including drafting are short of even basic, which is not surprising given that Indian law students are not exposed to the practical side of law at all while they are studying. As for other skills, he could not even imagine that he may need other skills.
I asked him if he has any skill in persuading other people. He said yes, he is great at persuasion. Would you say that you can do some marketing related work then? His expression changed. Marketing? No way. He is a lawyer, why would he do any marketing?
I asked him if he thinks lawyers and law firms never engage in any marketing. He was visibly confused now. Can a lawyer succeed without any marketing? There must be something, even if word of mouth marketing, that brings in clients. If no one knows what a great lawyer you are, no one will come to you – no matter what skills you have. Even if you are a lawyer within a bigger organization, you need to sell your skills to the seniors, to the management – otherwise you will perish.
We are a startup, we need to do a lot of marketing. In fact, we want everyone, no matter what function they work in, to understand and be good at marketing. Marketing and sales is not just pushing things to unsuspecting people – it is telling a story, convincing people about what you are doing and winning supporters over to your side. If you don’t build your own image, someone else will, and you will have no control over it.
My friend stepped in here. He asked the job seeker if he heard of CERN. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research – which operates world’s biggest particle physics lab. The scientists who work there also need to market what they are doing. They need to sell an idea to funders, government bodies and senior researchers to get any research project sanctioned. They have to pitch for positions and fund. Is there anyone who can avoid marketing and flourish? If the scientists at CERN need to think of marketing too, can you ignore it?
If you are not going to do any sales and marketing, you, or your work will never be known. No one will understand the significance of what you are doing – no matter how great or how important it is. Sales and marketing a basic way that human beings convinces others about what they want. If you are bad at it, if you do not seek to tell your story, you will perish, no matter whether you are an individual, a product or an entity.
Don’t ignore marketing – as we evolve as a society, become more connected than ever through globalization and the internet – the need for being a good marketer and a good salesman is increasing. Learn the skill no matter what you want to do in the future. Start by explaining what you want to do to others, convince people about your ideas. If you are going to be an intelligent and successful professional, you will always have to do it, every day. Build up your ability and your channels of marketing. Learn how to sell something to a stranger.
If the job seeker was a good marketer, I would have hired him, not matter how bad his knowledge of law was. It’s very rare to meet lawyers or law students who get marketing. That makes them very valuable for the right organizations.
Yes, there are jobs where you can still get away without any marketing skills, but they are probably not the most lucrative or impactful ones.
Marketing and sales is beneath no one.