I’ve been in sales and marketing for about a decade, and before that I worked in IT.

I was no technical wizard, but I could speak to people, understand their requirements, and make sure that reliable systems were in place to meet those needs. That gets you a long way in IT.

The move from IT to sales and marketing was a big one. Most of my peers in IT held sales and marketing in contempt. Sales people were considered clueless, mercenary and devious, and the marketing folks simply vacuous.

I was head of IT for DigitalThink, a San Francisco-based startup, when my perspective changed.

Pete, the CEO, had a background in marketing, but he was sales through and through. My desk was beside his, and I had the unalloyed pleasure of listening as he spoke to customers, pitched investors, and wooed the unending line of analysts, journalists, and partners that the company needed to succeed.

Pete talked at machine-gun pace, and spoke in a way that brought customers, investors, and the best people onboard. Of course, in the early days the company had virtually no customers and faced formidable competition. But to hear Pete talk, you would have thought that we had the market already sewn up.

The marketing guy was Steve, and his background was branding and digital media. His genius was in communicating, first to the employees and then to the world outside, the purpose of our company. His description gave a wider meaning to our work. We weren’t just a dotcom doing web-based training; we were at the forefront of a revolution in pedagogy that was helping the world to learn faster and better.

In all the years I heard Pete or Steve speak, I don’t remember ever hearing a lie or misrepresentation. Instead, each corporate achievement was communicated strongly and repeatedly. Stories of individual brilliance, effort and success were blended skillfully with a wider narrative that explained where our industry was going and how we were at the leading edge.

The employees, customers, and investors believed it. DigitalThink went public in 2000, and was soon acquired by a much larger company.

Pete and Steve showed me that sales isn’t lies, and marketing isn’t bullshit.

I quit IT, went to business school, and I’ve been doing sales and marketing ever since. At Whitepeak we’re hands-on practitioners, but we read the literature on sales, marketing and strategy. More gibberish than insight is put to paper, but there’s an old quote from Philip Kotler that captures something of our approach.

There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.

Whitepeak gets to work with a lot of smart people in interesting companies. We’ve started this blog so that others can learn from our successes and failures. Most our work is confidential, and we’re grateful to the clients who’ve allowed us to share their stories. We hope that they’re useful to you, and we look forward to an ongoing conversation.

Category : Marketing / Sales