Monday, July 05, 2010

Marketing Q&A : Marketing Career Vs Sales Career

Sir , I want to build a career in marketing but I don't like to do sales. How can I get a marketing job without doing sales ?

- I have come across this question a hundred times in my career as a teacher. The eager beaver MBAs wanting to build a career in the glamorous world of marketing without having to sweat it out in sales. By marketing careers, they mean all those jobs that involves creating marketing strategies, brand management etc and not the field sales jobs.

Understandably so !

Sales jobs , although plenty to find, are tougher than ever before. Many firms focusing on growth at any cost has virtually eliminated all possibilities of ethical selling. Many firms believe sales can be /should be done by everyone in the organisation irrespective of whether that person is fit for such a function. It is not how you sell but how much you sell that is now counted.

MBAs , from those tier II business schools ,who inevitably land in such sales jobs find their dreams of a professional marketing career shattered. The high pressure selling, four letter expletives, hire and fire stories, rude clients make their initial corporate years something comparable to hell. It seems to them that they are in a rut from where there is no escape...

Is this the marketing that Kotler speaks about ? When am I going to think about the strategies, 4 P's , branding etc ? How long am I going to wait till I get such a job ?

These are my thoughts about building a career in marketing !

My personal opinion is that it is better to have some hardcore sales experience in sales before thinking about a career in the so called glamorous world of Marketing. Sales will give you lot of inputs about customers, their needs, behaviour, how the channel works etc which will be of tremendous help to you when you enter into the world of marketing strategy. You will be able to device practical marketing strategy since you know how the market works.

Having some sales experience also acts as a career insurance . That experience will help you to be employable even in times of recession. Hence even if you have landed yourself in a sales job you did not like, it is better to stay there for the experience of it ( if all other factors like pay, working environment etc are good ). I have seen many students who initially were skeptical of a sales job later thriving in it. So shed all those inhibitions on being a Salesman. You have nothing to lose except those meaningless calender years.

Having said that, there are marketing jobs that young MBAs can look for which may not have a sales content. Marketing research , Analytics, Creatives, Designers, Retailing , Business Analysts etc are some of those marketing jobs where direct sales component is not present. But these jobs are limited and hard to get.

Also remember that hardcore marketing jobs like Brand Management, product management are often not advertised. Most of these jobs are filled through lateral placements. The point is that these jobs may not come to business school campuses other than the top 10. Hence the task is to network while on the job and find the right contact who can land you that dream job.

My advice to fresh MBAs is not to be heartbroken if you don't land up that marketing job of your dreams. Slog it on sales job , get some experience, network and land your dream job.