Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

Lori Wizdo

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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Q&A with Carol Sustala, Sr Director, Global Sales Enablement At Symantec

Scott Santucci

The sales enablement profession is evolving from stewards of "broken things” into a more strategic function that helps CEO’s bridge the gap between the business strategy and field execution. Our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum is dedicated to these emerging HEROes and sharing the path forward to a more efficient and adaptive selling system.  Having said that, I am excited to share an interview we had with Carol Sustala, senior director of Global Sales Enablement at Symantec and one of our keynote speakers. I have the privilege of getting to work with her hands on a lot over the past year and am excited for the rest of you to hear her story.  

So, enough about me - here is Carol in her own words:

(1) Sales Enablement is a big, cross-functional role; what did it take to motivate your peers to team with you on some challenges?

The function of Sales Enablement requires tremendous cross-functional alignment and collaboration, and that's not something that happens overnight. One of the key elements to success in driving an aligned sales enablement effort is not really motivation so much, as it is relationships and shared commitments to success.  Invest in building strong relationships built on mutual respect for unique talents, expertise and experience across the key stakeholder organizations responsible for some aspect of Sales Enablement, and the motivation to team up on challenges will follow close behind.

(2) Sales Enablement is an emerging role and discipline; where do you see the Sales Enablement role headed at Symantec?  

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