Revisiting the Sales and Marketing Conversation
Back in October 2015 we shared an article called “5 Ways Marketing Departments Help Salespeople Catch Butterflies.” Recently a tenfold article was shared with us, titled “What is the Meaning of Sales & Marketing and Their Advantages?” and, I have to say, it does a pretty awesome job of breaking down the differences, responsibilities, and links between sales and marketing roles. Why revisit this now? Because it has never been more apparent that the relationship between sales and marketing is still just as misunderstood as ever, especially with advances in marketing technology.
Setting the Record Straight
Many in the business world, especially those who rely on sales and marketing for success, don’t actually have a concrete grasp on exactly what sales and marketing are. Yes, the two are linked, but they are not one and the same. Sales departments rely on marketing; marketing departments and strategies exist to feed sales (notice I didn’t say “make” sales). You wouldn’t engage in marketing if you had nothing to sell, and your sales strategy would be much less informed and successful if not for your marketing efforts. Yes, many old-school salespeople (or go-getter small business entrepreneurs) are quite capable of drumming up business on their own, and may even have some tried-and-true marketing tactics up their sleeve – but few have the time, skill, or technological resources to effectively capitalize on the true potential of their market.
A common mistake made by older, more established businesses is to assume that salespeople are skilled at marketing and that marketing people are skilled at making sales. In some cases this may be true, but certainly not across the board. While trying to conserve capital, many of these companies will attempt to combine their sales and marketing departments, essentially tasking their employees with two job descriptions, and that’s usually a bad move. It’s no accident that more recently established companies, tech giants, and organizations that employ a large number of millennials are killing it with their marketing efforts.
Breaking It Down
As the tenfold article explains, some of the key responsibilities of a sales team include:
- Follow Up
- Relationship Building
The mark of a great salesperson is the ability to cultivate a personal relationship. Many consumers who have stayed loyal to the same brand, dealership, or salon for years will say that they appreciate the personal attention they receive there. It is not a marketing employee’s responsibility to follow up with a salesperson’s existing customer once the lead has been handed off, nor is it their responsibility to convert a lead to a sale, “close the deal,” or make sure the client remains a client for many years. Short of having an outstanding relationship with a skilled salesperson, product quality and excellent overall experience are the main things that will bolster client retention.
On the marketing side, primary efforts are:
- Conversion (from anonymous to known)
It is not a salesperson’s job to generate awareness or buzz about their brand, product or service. If they are expected to use their energy to make sales by nurturing leads and relationships, then how can they also be expected to have the time to do the leg-work up front that brings those leads to the table in the first place?
The marketing department creates awareness, builds engagement by creating information that will invite audience members to take action, and targets and tracks engagement by motivating audience members to provide contact information or initiate a free trial or consultation (converting them from a cold prospect to a known lead or potential buyer). It is important to note here that the retention function of a marketing department doesn’t really overlap the retention efforts of a sales team.
On the sales side, client retention refers more to the salesperson’s efforts to use the client relationship to continually check in with the client, attempt to engage them in further discussions about additional products or services they may be interested in, and seek referrals to the client’s friends and family members. On the marketing side, however, retention refers to maintaining a higher level of consistent engagement (through targeted marketing based on buying preferences, interests and history) so that the customer relationship doesn’t end at the initial purchase. Those email newsletters you receive after becoming a customer somewhere are not random – they have a purpose and are often tailored to things you’ve viewed or expressed interest in. A sales team simply doesn’t have the insights, time, or often the resources to execute these types of strategic campaigns.
The Fine-Tuned Coexistence Of It All
The ideal sales and marketing relationship is a symbiotic one. Marketers and salespeople work together to determine what consumers need and how to deliver it. Sales and marketing should motivate, inspire and feed one other. They should collaborate and coexist. In the hierarchy of the business food chain, sales and marketing should not be seen as rivals or equals, but counterparts. One truly cannot exist without the other, but their skill sets are not the same – especially today, where advances in technology require the modern marketer to have a very specific, honed, and competitive set of skills that most sales people simply do not need to have.
For this reason many marketers are introverted, analytical, and deep-thinking individuals. Whether they’re crunching numbers and analyzing data, compiling reports on trends and conversion rates, or writing awesome ads and creating beautiful websites and collateral material, they are required to intensely focus on what works, what doesn’t, and adjust their creative efforts accordingly. Usually a marketing department will have creatives, analysts, and more tech-oriented people (who dive into the numbers and algorithms behind advanced marketing tools).
In contrast though, many salespeople are extroverts – they light up a room, they have excellent “people skills,” can easily relate to others, and have the ability to pick up on social cues that might actually help them close a sale. Oftentimes salespeople have a broader focus, preferring to spend their days with appointments and meetings – activities that build relationships – rather than sitting behind a desk doing what a marketing department does best. For this reason, many salespeople have administrative assistants to help them with follow-up, paperwork, appointment setting, phone calls, proposals, and calendar management. This type of functional assistant role is less widespread in the marketing realm.