Pet Peeve #35: Companies That Say “Marketing” When They Mean “Sales”

The year was 2000, and I needed a summer job.

This was before and craigslist; companies posted jobs in the classifieds section of the newspaper back then. I was pursuing a degree in marketing at that point, so I went through the paper and circled all the marketing jobs.

I sent my resume to a company that was looking for a “marketing account executive.” I thought I was aiming a bit high, but it was worth a shot.

During the first “interview,” I found it a little odd that the manager wouldn’t tell me what the job was or what the company did. He kept saying that in less than a year, I could be running an office of my own, just like him. I told him that I was a rising sophomore in college and that I was just looking for a summer job; he winked and said, “We’ll see if you want to go back to school after a summer on the job.” Clearly he thought the company was great , and I didn’t have any other prospects yet, so I agreed to come back at 8:00 am the next day for a follow up interview.

Can you name what Amy Adams was selling on The Office?

When I showed up that morning, I was assigned to my interviewer, who ushered me to his car with two other men. My interviewer was a young guy, maybe 20 or 21, and the other two men were haggard and older. I asked where we were going, and the young guy said, “This is part of the interview.”

Then we drove off.

The young guy peppered me with questions for a good 10 minutes before I could turn the questions back around to him. I finally got the first clear answer about what they did: They sold coupon packs for Pizza Hut. $20 for a sheet of coupons.

“Oh, okay,” I said. I knew immediately I wasn’t going to take the job. “So, are you going to watch me make a sale and then we’ll go back to the office?”

The young guy shook his head. “We’re making sales all day.”

It hit me. This “marketing interview” was actually me shadowing coupon salesmen for an entire workday. I was about to spend eight hours going door to door in a terrible neighborhood.

I considered trying to get out of it. Calling a cab or my mother. But I told myself to suck it up, deal with it, and try to learn something. You know what I learned?

  1. Many jobs listed under “marketing” are actually “sales.” Dinky little companies flat-out lie about this. There is a huge difference between the two. Marketing involves developing a product or brand and figuring out how to tell the world about it. Sales is nothing other than getting someone to give you money for something else. All marketers are salesmen. Most salesmen are not marketers.
  2. Don’t apply to work at any company that isn’t completely transparent about what they do in the job description. If they’re hiding something,Β it’s for a reason.
  3. There are a surprising number of people home during the day in poor neighborhoods. Thank you, welfare.
  4. People in poor neighborhoods are surprisingly friendly to random people, even salesmen.
A few months after that fateful day, I was home when I heard the doorbell ring. At the door was the young salesmen. After we exchanged pleasantries, he said, “Well, you know what we’re selling.”
I smiled and replied, “Sorry, we’re a Papa John’s family.”