Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marketing & Sales

Marketing and sales are important partners in increasing an organization's revenues. However, some might perceive them to be an odd couple, but more about that later.

First, marketing and sales are different. Marketing has many sub-disciplines but overall it is the organization's investment in identifying and building demand for its products and services. Sales, on the other hand, tends to be more tactical and immediate (strategic sales and enterprise sales notwithstanding). It is all about getting the customer to purchase something as quickly as possible. It is about closing the deal. 

Earlier in my career, when I was interviewing for marketing positions, it always raised major "red flags" with me when the employer in question used the words marketing and sales interchangeably or when that employer said he or she was looking for a marketing person when he or she was really looking for a salesperson. 

In many organizations, especially B2B organizations and those organizations that are not marketing-driven, marketing's primary responsibility is to support the selling effort. In this way, the marketing function is primarily a support function for the sales force. In marketing-driven organizations, marketing typically drives many decisions including target customers, product, packaging, pricing and distribution. Product managers or brand managers may also have P&L responsibility. And this is informed by a marketing sub-discipline, marketing research. In these organizations, it would be wise not to refer to marketing as a support function or a marketing professional as a support person. 

Most marketers will have strong communication skills. Depending on the marketing sub-discipline, the ideal marketer might be more intuitive or more analytical. Many marketers are strong both intuitively and analytically. And generally, a marketer is driven by curiosity and variety. A marketer may be introverted or extroverted. 

Alternatively, salespeople must be outgoing, friendly and likable. They must be good at building personal rapport quickly. And it helps if they are good at reading people. Salespeople are often driven by money, which is why sales commissions work so well as incentives. While engineers and scientists can be trained as salespeople to pursue technical sales, the average salesperson is more focused on interpersonal skills than technical skills. Salespeople should not be afraid to make cold calls and they must be able to take rejection in their stride. On the negative side, I have witnessed more than a few salespeople tell potential customers whatever they wanted to hear regardless of the statement's veracity to close the sale.

Organizations that are serious about their marketing functions often require marketers to first take a sales position (or at least a rotation in sales) to better understand the customer and the work of the salesperson before he or she assumes his or her marketing responsibilities. Similarly, some organizations require their marketing managers to monitor or even personally handle customer service calls at least once a year. 

Marketers can help salespeople by creating the appropriate brochures, product spec sheets and other collateral materials. They can also support trades shows, national sales meetings and user conferences. Further, marketers can set up CRM systems that salespeople can use. And marketers can create many online and offline mechanisms to create sales leads for salespeople. And one should not forget strong marketing campaigns and, perhaps even more importantly, strong brands that create customer pull and make the salesperson's job significantly easier. 

Going back to my earlier "odd couple" comment, marketers are often motivated by the brilliant consumer insight, the analytical discovery or the inspired creative campaign, while salespeople are driven by the closed sale and the increased commission. However, the two functions comprise an important duo for any organization that wants to increase its revenues. 


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