Also known as the selling concept, the sales/promotion era is based upon the assumption that a customer will not buy, on his/her own, enough products or services from a certain company. Therefore, any organization needs to set up an aggressive and efficient selling and promotional system on an ongoing basis.
It is one of the five main marketing eras discussed in many marketing textbooks.
Basis of the selling concept
The most common belief in the selling era was that the inertia (or resistance) of customers could be effectively overcome through aggressive selling and promotional tactics.
Before producing a certain product or service, the company’s main questions were: “Can we sell this product?" and “How much can we charge for this product to make a good profit?"
Most companies that adopt a the selling concept have an objective to sell their existing, usually surplus, products, and were not really interested in what the customers really needed.
This is the reason why the promotional and selling tools are considered to be more effective in the market of unsought goods – even in today’s marketplace. Unsought products are defined as products that potential customers do not know whether they exist or not, or do not yet want or need that particular product. Common examples include home security systems, charity donations and prepaid funeral services.
Promotion before consumer needs
In that era, “marketing" was simply considered a promotional activity that should take place after the product was produced. This is the reason why many individuals came to confuse marketing for hard selling or TV advertising. Such hard selling strategies were considered to be somewhat risky for strong brands – although the theory of brand equity was still being developed at this time.
Gaining a customer through aggressive selling techniques had the risk of increased customer dissatisfaction, which could lead to complaints to consumer organizations, negative word of mouth on the market. However, given the focus was primarily on “the next sale" these concerns were not given much credence in the organization.
Therefore, in this era, it was a common focus in the selling process to see the consumer as someone who can be manipulated. This is why many managers believed that a good sales person has the ability to sell any product – and the old cliché of “selling ice to Eskimo’s".
The selling concept in today’s world
Fortunately, this era has generally passed for most industries that have moved on to the marketing and societal marketing concepts. However, it is still prevalent in charities and some direct marketing firms.