Selling? Or Marketing? Is there a difference?

by John Counsel on January 21, 2010

90% or more of network marketers don’t know the difference — and it costs them dearly!

There’s an old saying that goes “if you think the cost of education is high, try ignorance!”

There’s a fatal flaw in this insight, however, that’s simple but profound: it’s not what you don’t know (ignorance) that sinks you… it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know (unconscious ignorance) that really sabotages you.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the widespread ignorance in network marketing of the difference between selling and marketing. (Even the name itself demonstrates this lethal ignorance.)

Why am I raising this issue now?

Because I was just reminded, yet again, of the viral nature of inaccurate information, and how quickly and easily it’s propagated — especially online.

Not long ago I was visiting a popular MLM community online when an article caught my eye about selling, and how most people hate the idea of being sellers.

The article was excellent, and drew a large number of positive comments. But it perpetuated a fundamental fallacy — and the evidence could be seen in how it was repeated in the comments.

What was this fallacy?

“Selling is nothing more that finding a need and filling it.”

Why is it incorrect?

Because “identifying a need and satisfying it” is the definition of MARKETING — not selling.


SELLING is the art and skill of getting people to want what they need — because no matter how much they need it, until they want it, they won’t buy it!

This highlights a widespread misunderstanding amongst sellers, who tend to think that “marketing” is just a nicer or less offensive word for selling, or that it refers to promotion — just one of 7 or more components in the real marketing mix.

It’s not.

Two FREE Insight Reports from The Profit Clinic explain the differences in detail. Click here for details (opens in a new window).

By the way, if ever you need proof that sellers — including network marketers (and the people who run the site I visited) — just don’t “get” marketing, take a look at the topics and sub-topics menus for posting articles on that site.

I wanted to post under the topic of selling, sales or retailingbut they don’t exist!

The only form of selling listed is Advertising. (The other two selling activities — visual merchandising and personal selling skills — don’t rate a mention. But the word “marketing” is everywhere, despite the reality that very little actual marketing is done outside of MLM companies’ professional marketing departments, staffed by graduates of marketing degree courses.)

Run that by me again? NO mention of selling — on a web site dedicated to providing training and support for people who are, in reality, members of the outsourced SALES departments of the companies they represent as independent SALES agents?

(Can you say “D-E-N-I-A-L”? How about “A-P-P-E-A-S-E-M-E-N-T”?)

If a pharmacist claimed to be a physician, or a drug store promoted itself as a medical clinic or surgery, there would be serious consequences… like heavy fines and jail time.

Yet this kind of blatant misrepresentation is rife in the selling profession — including network marketing.

There are extenuating circumstances, however. In selling, it’s usually the result of ignorance or misunderstanding, combined with the opportunism that’s so essential to sales success.

All this dodging and weaving, ducking and hiding, just to avoid calling selling — well… selling! — is symptomatic of ignorance and incompetence… which nobody wants to admit to.

But here’s the simple truth: ignorance and incompetence are NOT shameful.

We all start out in life totally ignorant and incompetent, in just about everything (except for making noise, mess and fuss!) But as we grow and learn, we progressively master the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to survive and thrive. We become knowledgeable and competent.

It’s called life!

The only thing shameful about ignorance and incompetence is trying to cover them up with subterfuge and deceit. All this really achieves is to compromise our own integrity and destroy our self-esteem.

Hardly intelligent behaviour.

The sad irony is that it’s so unnecessary!

Instead of trying to hide reality with declarations that we “share”, not sell, and all those other lame swerves and delusions, why not learn what selling really is, so that we finally break through to the accurate perspective that clears the smoke and mirrors away completely and frees us to rise to our true potential?

And what is that reality?

Let me digress for a moment and talk about something else. Then I’ll answer that question for you.

One of the most important aspects of network marketing is leadership.

Leadership is all about vision.

There are three hallmarks of a true leader:

Hallmark #1: A true leader (made or born — leadership is about knowledge attitudes and skills, so it can be learned and taught, or duplicated) has the ability to create a clear and compelling vision of a reality that doesn’t yet exist.

Hallmark #2: A true leader has the ability to communicate that vision to those whose resources are needed to help realize that vision. (These are necessary resources that the leader doesn’t already have.)

Hallmark #3: A true leader has the ability to inspire and motivate those people to contribute their resources to help realize that vision.

In every honorable, selfless or altruistic calling or profession — like parenthood, teaching, health care, ministry, public service, etc — that vision will typically be for the other person: the person being led (educated, inspired, motivated, persuaded, etc) to contribute their own resources to its realization — for themselves!

The wonderful thing about vision in network marketing — and raising children, shaping lives, saving souls, etc — is that it’s typically based on someone else’s existing reality!

Someone like their sponsor or other upline leaders.

So… what’s the reality of selling?

A true seller has a vision of a reality that doesn’t yet exist — for their prospect.

The seller communicates that vision to the prospect in the hope that they’ll be inspired and motivated to contribute their resources — money to buy the products or join the income opportunity, plus time, effort and self-discipline to build their businesses — in order to realize the seller’s vision for that prospect

  • Less stress (from having more free time and more income),
  • better health (from less stress, better nutrition etc),
  • better relationships — and
  • more happiness!

That, my friend, is a vision worth realizing for as many people as possible!

Can you see this more accurate perspective of selling for what it really is?

It’s nothing less than visionary, inspired — and inspiringLEADERSHIP.

Author Profile: JOHN COUNSEL is a network marketing professional with more than 25 years of experience. Consults to managements of direct selling companies. Writes regular columns and feature articles for various business media, online and offline. Author of several best-selling business books. Presents seminars and workshops, webinars and other training programs. Creator of Fourth Generation Thinking, Selling, Business Systems. Read more from this author

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