"What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly." Lao Tzu
Sales Orientation v Product Orientation
A sales-oriented company focuses on strategies and tactics that push people toward buying products, while a product orientation tries to pull people into buying. Offering discounts is an example of a sales tactic, while adding a new feature to a product to increase demand is an example of a product-oriented strategy.
Sales strategies are often referred to as “gimmicks” because they don’t try to create a long-term demand for a product or service by improving a company’s offering. Many salespeople prefer tools such as discounts, buy-one-get-one-free promotions, free website banners when a customer buys a print ad or other means of stimulating sales. Improving the circulation of a magazine increases the quality of the magazine for advertisers as a whole, but a 25 percent discount to a particular advertiser may seem like a more direct benefit to a less sophisticated buyer.
Product-oriented companies keep in mind the adage, “Build a better mousetrap and world will beat a path to your door.” This strategy assumes that if you offer a superior product or service, customers will buy from you without your having to resort to discounts or other gimmicks. Product-oriented companies work with marketing departments to learn what the marketplace wants, developing or modifying products to meet these needs. A pizzeria that offers pies with real cheese and fresh toppings might not have to offer two-for-one or other discounts if its competitors sell lower-quality pizzas.
Sales-oriented companies can generate positive short-term sales since customers initially feel good that they are getting more for less. As customers realize they are paying less but getting less, they eventually realize they are not making a good purchase. Discounting your product may eventually cheapen its reputation in the marketplace. Product-oriented companies may take longer to generate sales, but their sales may be more stable long-term because buyers come to believe they are getting the value they need from a product or service. A product-oriented approach to sales might take too long to help a company struggling financially, while a sales orientation might result in fewer long-term customers and eventual financial instability.
Product-oriented companies that sell to business often train their salespeople in consultative marketing, which requires the salesperson to learn about the business of a potential customer. This allows the salesperson to better explain to potential clients why a product or service is best for the client. Sales-oriented companies often provide their sales force with discounts, expense accounts and other sales tools, encouraging their staff to “smile and dial.” This means calling potential clients, telling them what they want to hear and offering a benefit beyond the product. A key difference in these two sales strategies is that a sales orientation often attempts to get people to buy things they don’t really need or want, while a product orientation focuses on getting people to buy things they are looking for.