Back to Back Issues Page
Active or Passive Sales and Marketing
November 05, 2012

Active or Passive Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing can be either active or passive – which are you?


My key definition of sales versus marketing is that sales is a 1:1 conversation with a specific customer while marketing is more of a 1:many approach where you broadcast your message to a broad market using a variety of media. If asked which is more active and which is more passive I think that most people would say that sales is the former and marketing the latter. I would like to challenge this thinking and believe that it is possible to be active or passive in either your sales or marketing programs and efforts. As well, as you might suspect, you should generally strive be active rather than reactive or passive (unless being passive is an active strategy on your part!). Let us quickly look at another key difference between sales and marketing and then study how you can be active rather than passive in each of these disciplines.

A second perspective in looking at the difference between sales and marketing is that of customer interest. Marketing can be seen as those activities which are geared to create interest whereas in sales you start with an interested person and your goal is to take them onwards through your sales process towards a deal. That being said, sales can exist without the marketing function and vice versa. If you are prepared to make your own cold calls as a salesperson then you are taking it upon yourself to engage and interest people. Conversely, it is possible to have an automated function like email marketing along with an e-commerce enabled website so that you can both stay in touch with interested prospects and allow them to purchase from you without the need of a salesperson.

Now that we have these two definitions of sales and marketing in mind, let us look at what I mean by active versus passive forms of these activities. The simplest example I can think of passive marketing is opening a shop and sitting back waiting for customers to find you (a more extreme example is setting up a website online and then hoping that people will find you without any help!). This approach will work as long as you are situated in a location with enough traffic of the right kind but is that all your should do? Of course not! A more active approach entails that you will expend time and effort in everything from signage to creating an attractive and ambient atmosphere in your shop to point of sale incentives to gathering customer information for ongoing marketing.

Another example of what might be called passive marketing is putting up a billboard advertisement. Advertising in general does not have to be passive when you think about product placement advertising and aggressively advertising an integrated message through a variety of channels. The difference is in between seeking out your customer and just putting up a sign and waiting for them to come. However, even with the billboard approach it is possible to be active: can you change the design or the messaging in order to make a lasting impression on people who read it? Is you ad ”you”-centric and focused on your customer's needs (and not just features and benefits)?

Looking at sales, some might consider it to be always active in terms of an ongoing dialogue with your customer. However, you have to ask yourself, is that always the case? Too often salespeople are simply interested in going through a standard presentation without engaging and interacting with the customer enough. A “dialogue” does not consist of you asking your customer every once in a while if they understand or have any questions as you go through your script! Rather, the only way you can progress through your sales process is through a joint collaboration with your customer. Before you pitch them you must engage and qualify your customer as being a good fit for your business.

The interesting thing about being more active with your sales technique is that it actually requires you to be more passive! What I mean by this is that the name of the game is to get your customer to do most of the talking. You should remember that when one person is talking, the other person is in control of the conversation. You should maintain this control by asking the right questions using the L.A.M.A. technique of Listen, Acknowledge, Make a Statement and then Ask a question. Your goal is to find out the pressing need that your customer has that you are looking to satisfy and only then link it to features and benefits. By striving to find out as much about your customer, their business or day-to-day environment and their need, you make the jump from being a pushy salesperson to an enlightened consultant.

Don't sit back but be active and not passive in both your sales and marketing!


P.S. Like it? Please share with others!

Get help with sales and marketing

Look at previous posts of The Sales And Marketing for "You" Blog here

Check out the latest updates on

Follow me on Twitter

Back to Back Issues Page