Methods of sales promotion are inherently techniques for encouraging someone to do something. Whether the promotion is in the form of a coupon, rewards program, free sample or many other methods, to most marketers the "something" they are looking for almost always involves customers spending money.

However, methods of sales promotion do not always have to be about building sales. As we note in our definition of Sales Promotion, the ultimate goal in using these methods is to get people "to respond or undertake certain activity."  Yet, getting someone to do something is not only about having them spend money. Parents and teachers have known this forever as they are masters of offering incentives to get kids to do non-monetary activity, such as cleaning up their room or speaking up in the classroom.

The extent to which sales promotion techniques are being used to incent non-monetary activity is discussed in this Trendwatching story. For example, in the U.S. an insurance company is offering its policyholders Amazon money if they attain a fitness goal. To monitor policyholders' fitness level, the company is also giving out free wearable fitness trackers. In Brazil, as part of an anti-smoking campaign, people can place cigarettes in a vending machine and in exchange receive free gifts. And in Canada, police officers are handing out tickets that reward positive behavior by children. The tickets can then be redeemed for various prizes. Other examples discuss how promotions encourage use of sustainable methods of transportation and promote recycling. There is also an example of a shared social incentive program, offered by Fitbit, where participants can help feed those in need by burning off calories.

Overall, the examples presented in the story can offer ideas for any organization that wants to achieve an objective.

As we note in our Targeting Markets tutorial, to be considered a qualified target market, customers must meet five criteria: 1) have a need; 2) are eligible to buy; 3) can afford to buy; 4) have authority to buy; and 5) can be reachable by the marketer. Depending on the product or service, a big problem exists when potential customers have needs for a product (criterion #1) but lack the financial ability to afford the purchase (criterion #3). Of course, we frequently see this with very high-end products, such as luxury goods, which are often not an option for the majority of consumers due to the perceived high price. But, we also see this problem among low-income consumers seeking to satisfy basic needs such as food, clothing and health care.

While many businesses that market basic products will steer clear of trying to figure out ways to address the needs of low-income consumers, others are addressing these consumers by engaging in socially responsible activities. For example, in 2014 we saw how a candy company's social responsibility strategy was helping it enhance the value of its brand.

Yet, making a company look good is not the only potential benefit from being socially responsible. As discussed in this Harvard Business Review story, organizations in France are forming "social businesses" to address issues with economically isolated consumers. The social businesses have three major characteristic: 1) they provide solutions to important social issues; 2) they run a sustainable operation; and 3) they reinvestment profits back into the social business. The story provides insight into how various social businesses work. What is most intriguing is that these businesses are not all about providing low-cost, low-end products. In fact, the way these social businesses operate, many are providing very good quality products at low prices. How they are able to do this, including the relationships that need to be forged among different participants in the distribution channel, is a key takeaway from this story.

Another issue brought up that should also attract marketers' attention is how the social business model can lead to innovative ideas that can be applied to other markets. Several examples are discussed including how automobile company Renault learned that using computer driving games can help boost car sales among younger French drivers.

how-to-sellIn our last post, we mentioned that while advertising may hold more excitement than other forms of promotion, many organizations consider personal selling to be the most critical. However, one might raise the point that there are lots of organizations that do not field a sales force, so isn't selling only of concern to firms with salespeople?

Yes, it is true that many organizations are successful using other methods of promotion to get people interested in their product. For example, let's assume someone clicks on an Internet advertisement that directs them to an online retailer, such as Once on Amazon, if they make a purchase they are doing so without a person selling to them. While it may be true that Amazon made a sale using an advertisement, it is important to realize that Amazon did not get to where it is today without engaging in personal selling. In its early days, Amazon (like many start-up companies) had to convince (i.e., sell) many others, such as venture capitalists, transportation companies, book distributors and even some authors, to believe in the company. In other words, selling should never be viewed as an activity that is only limited to getting customers to buy. There are other things individuals and companies must sell besides products or services. For instance, consider the following:

  • Librarians face the challenge of getting customers to use their services as the Internet now offers access to numerous information sources previously only available in libraries.
  • A writer, who has completed her first novel, must figure out how to reach a publisher and then convince the publisher to market the book.
  • A parent may have to "sell" their teenager on putting down a video game and dressing in better clothing in order to go to grandma's house for dinner.

In each of these situations, something is being sold. Though it may seem far removed from what most people perceive as selling, the key is whether one person is persuading someone to do something. Whether it is making a purchase, obtaining a loan, accepting a point-of-view, changing attitudes or an infinite number of other behavioral decisions, it all comes down to mastering persuasive communication or selling. This is why we stated in our last post that all marketers (and even non-marketers) can benefit from understanding the skills that make a salesperson successful, including understanding the skills needed for persuasive communication.

Since what many people in organizations and social situations do can be classified as selling, it makes sense to expand the learning of selling skills beyond sales professionals. For instance, university librarians may find that understanding selling skills could help to persuade students and other library customers to continue to rely on librarians for key service assistance.

But, how does someone, who is not part of a sales force, learn to sell? Fortunately, there is no shortage of sales training options. Essentially sales training is divided into two camps: 1) Self-Directed Training, where the trainee learns on their own; and 2) Professional-Directed Training, where someone teaches selling techniques.

Options for Self-Directed Training:

  • Multimedia Training – There are many self-directed sales training programs available for purchase, including websites with online sales courses, that include multimedia content such as videos. A simple Internet search should produce many options.
  • Books – A search on Amazon will reveal hundreds of trade books and textbooks on selling. Generally the best are those with the highest sales rankings or have been published in several editions over many years.
  • Online Sources – Check out our Marketing Links section under Personal Selling and The Selling Process for links to other excellent Internet resources.

Options for Professional-Directed Training:

  • Sales Trainers – The sales training industry, where an outside consultant offers on-site instruction, is huge. While more expensive than self-directed training, in-person training can be more effective since it can be customized to an organization's needs. Instructor-led training also offers trainees the opportunity to engage in role play situations to help develop their skills.
  • Local Sales Professionals – Members of not-for-profit groups looking to learn more about selling techniques may want to tap into the knowledge and expertise of some of their local patrons or contributors who are sales professionals. These people may be happy to contribute their time to help with sales training.

Regardless of which training option is chosen, understanding basic selling techniques can help almost anyone perform better in business and social situations. Remember, everyone sells something, so why not learn to do it better.

Appreciating Sales SkillsIf you were to conduct a poll asking people what they believe to be the most exciting method of marketing promotion, nearly all will select advertising and not sales promotion, public relations or personal selling. The reason advertising would likely be the overwhelming selection is because it is the most familiar form of promotion. Thanks in large part to our frequent exposure to ads (possibly hundreds a day) and also the entertainment value ads can present (e.g., Super Bowl ads), it is easy to understand why advertising would rate as the favorite promotional method.

However, while most people may favor advertising, it would be a wrong to say advertising is the most important method of promotion for all marketers. The fact is, in many marketing organizations and especially those in the business-to-business market, the most important promotion exists with the sales force. Without effective salespeople, it would not be realistic for these organizations to operate a viable business, no matter how much is spent on advertising.

In addition to appreciating what salespeople do and the contributions they make, understanding certain skills that lead to sales success can benefit all marketers. In particular, as we point out in The Selling Process tutorial, the process salespeople follow to make a sale may be "beneficial for many others who do not view themselves in sales roles."  This is particularly true for anyone who finds themselves in a situation that requires they persuade others to perform some action (e.g., convince boss to provide more funding, get staff-wide buy-in on new product). In other words, selling an idea or action rather than selling a product.

With this in mind, this story from Entrepreneur Magazine discusses ten mistakes salespeople regularly make that can lessen their chance of generating business. The mistakes include not asking the right questions, missing buying signals and not understanding key influencers. While the message in this story is clearly directed to those who sell, the insights provided can apply to anyone looking to improve their persuasive communication skills.

Throughout our Principles of Marketing tutorials, we make a strong effort to point out how marketing is not just something that is only undertaken by for-profit companies; not-for-profits must also direct attention to developing a strong marketing plan. While both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations must engage in marketing activity, when it comes to the advertising side of marketing, it would appear there is a major difference between the two groups in that for-profits are by far bigger spenders. This is easy to see when watching television. It seems nearly all ads that appear are for products and services offered by for-profit companies.

But while ads by for-profits overwhelming dominant television, not-for-profits also use television ads to get their message out. In fact, because not-for-profit advertisements are less frequently presented compared to ads that promote products, advertisements by not-for-profits may be more likely to catch audience attention because they are often considered to be different. In the U.S., the most famous not-for-profit television advertisements have been developed by the Ad Council. Since the 1940s, this group has produced many legendary public service advertisements covering such issues as wildfire prevention, anti-pollution, crime prevention, autism awareness and many more.

While the Ad Council and other not-for-profit groups, such as charities, medical support groups, rights groups and environmental groups, focus on creating public awareness of important social, health and environmental issues, not-for-profit trade associations primarily use advertising to create public awareness of its members. Some examples of trade groups frequently promoting the services of its members are National Association of Realtors, with their message of how realtors can help; California Milk Processor Board, with ads encouraging milk consumption; and the American Petroleum Institute, with ads supporting energy independence.

We can now add to the list of not-for-profit trade groups who spend large sums on advertising, the American Institute of Architects (AIA). As reported in this AdWeek story, for the first time in its 157-year history, the AIA has launched an advertising campaign with the goal of building awareness of what architects do. Apparently the motivation for this comes from research suggesting, that while architects are well respected, the tasks they perform are not well understood. While the amount of money being spent on this campaign is not known, the group does indicate this is just the beginning of a three-year campaign, suggesting they have budgeted several million dollars to get their message out.