'Hammer' says combo of marketing and sales gives Samsung edge in U.S.

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Every salesman is a marketer, but not every marketer is a salesman. Luckily for Samsung, Peter Weedfald is both. After four years at the helm of Samsung Electronics' U.S. marketing operations, Peter Weedfald was recently promoted to senior VP, adding responsibilities for all North American sales operations.

While sales and marketing officers are fairly common in small businesses where budget constraints can demand the two-fer role, multibillion-dollar companies rarely combine those functions at such high levels. It's an unusual vantage point for a chief marketing executive, but one Mr. Weedfald relishes, and views as a competitive leg up for Samsung.

"It's a great advantage that our competitors don't view sales and marketing as the same," he said. "They've parted the waters between sales and marketing. ... We've been on an insidious climb over four years and we're poised to grow even more rapidly now."

The climb he's referring to has been more of a skyrocket for Samsung. Just 10 years ago, the Korean brand was practically unknown in the U.S. Last year, it ranked No. 21 on Interbrand's list of Top 100 brands, up 21 spots from 2001 (when it was No. 42), and now just one spot behind electronics brand perennial powerhouse and rival Sony. Sales are also much improved with Samsung making significant leaps in digital TV and wireless-handset sales.

Mr. Weedfald's contributions include a myriad of marketing and sales programs including assembling a network of 425 top Web sites for Samsung online advertising; and innovative marketing programs like a deal with cable companies to push high-definition TV, a deal with New Line Cinema to use Samsung products in its films, and a nonprofit effort giving away Samsung equipment to the best school essay writers in America.

If anyone is right for the combined job, it is likely the 51-year-old Mr. Weedfald. He spent almost 20 years in sales, where he earned the nickname "The Hammer," and then almost another decade in marketing executive positions.

Mr. Weedfald began in sales after graduating with a degree in economics from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1976. His first job for Lanier Business Systems selling word processors would define his career-long passion for technology. He began by knocking on doors in his first territory, 46th Street on the West Side of Manhattan, selling $21,000 word-processing systems. The company paid its sales people on a draw vs. commission basis; that is, each salesperson was paid a monthly sum and if they didn't earn at least as much in commissions that month, they would go on the books as owing the company the difference. It resulted in an 80% turnover rate for most salespeople, but for Mr. Weedfald it was just further incentive to close the sale.

`THE REAL DEAL'

After nine years at Linear, Mr. Weedfald moved to publishing. He took a $75,000 pay cut and went from VP-sales at Linear to a sales rep at Ziff Davis' PC Magazine in 1989. "I had real difficulty acclimating myself to the different kind of sale," Mr. Weedfald said. "I went from selling the cold steel of a PC to selling the almost esoteric magazine ad."

He got the hang of it, though, and spent almost a decade rising through the ranks to a variety of executive publishing roles before leaving to go to the marketing side of ViewSonic, a consumer-electronics manufacturer of visual display units like LCDs.

"When I first met him, I wasn't sure about him. He talks a good game," said one executive with frequent Samsung dealings. "But once I got to know him, I became a believer. He's the real deal."

Mr. Weedfald faces a new challenge as Samsung has begun working with a new agency network, WPP Group, in part to continue to push the brand to the next level in the U.S., from competent competitor to No. 1 desired brand. But don't expect the Hammer to change his approach.

"Our goal internally is to determine our strategy and then take it to the agency," he said. "Agencies are very important, but the best agencies take what the best clients deliver to them, a very thorough and clear strategy, and then match it."

Just Asking

What's the coolest job you used to have? Concert pianist. I studied piano from the time I was a little boy. ... I made the decision if by the time I was 21, I hadn't become the next Elton John, I would quit and get a real job. Now about once every three or four months, I'll sit down and play for about two-and-a-half hours; so much that the muscles in my fingers ache for days.

What's the best opening sales line you've ever heard or used? It's not exactly a specific pitch, but I would say creativity allows you to escape the predictable. So the best sales pitch I've heard or the ones I like to give are both creative and highly relevant to the business.

What do you do in your down time? I have a wife and daughter (now 20 and attends Villanova University) and we have a phenomenal life together, so when I'm home, I'm home. I love my personal home life, which is really just spending time with them.

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