The 11 Most-Deadly Sins in Sales & Marketing

Neil Mahoney

By Neil Mahoney

Selling goes back to the days of Adam and Eve and the sales pitch made in the Garden of Eden. Selling is still very much with us, and will be with us come doomsday. Marketing, sad to say, is a relatively new discipline, and it’s already in decline.

Marketing is to business what G-2 is to the military—intelligence, strategy, and planning. It’s essential to creating strategies and programs that can be executed by the functions that report to it:
1.    The Ground Forces (sales and customer service)
2.    Artillery and Air Arm (marketing communications) in the form of direct mail, publicity, and advertising.

Properly executed, these strategies and programs are what lead to increased revenue and profits for the company.

To optimize revenue and profitability long term, a company must develop long-term marketing strategies and plans that go out three to five years. The loss of long-term thinking and planning is primarily the result of the First Deadly Sin—the one that began marketing’s big decline. It’s called “The 1-Minute Management Mentality,” and it’s led to several others:

  • Too much focus on too many markets; too little on others
  • Ignoring related buying/selling influences
  • Overestimating/oversimplifying branding efforts
  • Poor-to-non-existent positioning
  • Non-starter start-ups and product launches

Some of the 11 Most-Deadly Sins in Sales & Marketing have gone unnoticed for many years—long before marketing’s rise and fall.

  • Salespeople: How they misperceive their proper roles
  • Sales: The least time-effective process in all of business
  • Failure to prioritize wants and needs of key prospects
  • Why the sales and marketing team isn’t really a team

Marketing, as a discipline, reached its zenith 20 or 30 years ago, and has been in decline ever since. Today’s emphasis on the short term is the major culprit. Most businesses are now managed quarter to quarter instead of decade to decade. Long-term planning has all but disappeared. Time Warner reports that 90 percent of all businesses don’t even have a long-term sales and marketing plan.

A second big factor is the thinking and behavior of the generations that grew up with the computer. Some of them—those who missed the golden years of marketing—no longer take the time to learn and study in-depth—or even absorb the facts when they’re handed to them.

How to Recapture What’s Been Lost. . .

CEOs have to understand that the discipline of marketing as it was practiced 20 years ago must be restored to its previous condition—if they want their company to grow and prosper long term.
Each of the installments that will be posted in the months to come discusses one of these Deadly Sins—sins I observed during my 30-plus years of in-depth, hands-on experience in all areas, and at all levels of sales and marketing:

  • Market Planning and Corporate Communications at General Electric
  • Managing Partner at ITI, Inc., an Incentive Travel company
  • National Sales Manager and VP, Marketing, at Bausch & Lomb
  • VP Group Publisher at ABC Broadcasting
  • Founder of Mahoney/Marketing

In addition to exposing and explaining these 11 Most-Deadly Sins in Sales & Marketing, the major purpose of this book is to provide a road map that can take businesses back to the way things were when marketing was at its zenith.

All observations, overviews, and case histories are based on personal experience and/or first-hand knowledge.

Coming up next month, the next installment discusses what I firmly believe to be the greatest sin—“The 1-Minute Management Mentality”—which is at the root of many of the other sins discussed in the following chapters.

Neil Mahoney is the founder of Mahoney/Marketing and has 30 years of experience at all levels of sales and marketing, including stints at General Electric, ITI Inc., Bausch & Lomb, and ABC Broadcasting. Visit for more information.