Marketing…Sales…what’s the difference?

There is always a healthy debate between Marketers and salespeople (at least from what I recall in my career) and the issue of which department matters most in a company. I guess you could compare this debate and logic to ‘what comes first? The chicken or the egg?’

Marketers need to understand sales effectiveness. This seems terribly simple but ultimately the most direct effect of sales (as a result of marketing) is that sales generates revenues.
Plus as a Marketer how you can’t expect to drive top line revenues from market initiatives unless you have a thorough understanding of your company’s sales department and how effective they are.

Fact:

There is a strong link between sales and marketing and dynamic marketing leaders are always seeking feedback from the sales team when it comes to reading the market, understanding competition and fine tuning products and services.
In fact you should always welcome it.

Ask yourself when was the last time a sales peer gave you feedback on prices, the promotion or the new products launched last week?
If you can’t remember – that’s a problem; either:
1) As a marketer you are not getting feedback from sales since they don’t have your phone number or email or a method/channel to give to feedback,
2) You are not welcoming feedback,
3) You have not created an environment where sales can openly give feedback.

In all cases, something has to be done immediately.

Any customer centric organization has to provide an environment where sales can for example, get on the phone or email you to say ‘hey…this client is telling us that our prices are too high’ (common sales reply)…or this client has decided to leave for x/y/z reason because of the product.
Another reason could be that customers expect a higher group discount or are asking if we can modify the product/package or distribution somehow. These are all legitimate questions and market feedback and it implies that there is a dialog between marketing and sales.

As a Product Manager, I would get the distribution sales team to call me on a daily basis to complain (read, suggest) about one aspect or another about the products. This is healthy. As a Marketer, you have to welcome this kind of feedback and you have to toughen your skin since you may get a lot of criticism.

In Romania we initiated this environment of informal feedback since the sales team simply did not know that they could or should give feedback to Marketing.
We also had a product development board (formal feedback) where new products and enhancements were presented because existing products lacked a better price/package or feature.

Informal since you want to hear it ’live’ or before someone has to write an email and formally since it’s important that if you are getting similar feedback from many sales teams about the same problem, this implies that the problem must be addressed immediately or it has to be elevated to your boss or the next product development board.

Experience:
I am assuming that all good marketers have some form of sales experience. If you don’t I would try to deflect this aspect about your career as long as you can. In my opinion you need to have sold something to be effective in marketing. Sales may seem easy but it’s not. There is a lot of work to even get a customer interested in your pitch and even then, that does not guarantee that you will close. Marketers must understand this pain of trying to ‘make the sale’.

If you wish to stay in marketing and you cannot leave your marketing job tomorrow to start a new sales career, then I strongly suggest that you engage in a MLM (Multi-level marketing) or network marketing organizations like Amway, Tupperware, HerbaLife, NU Skin, and Avon in your spare time. Even if you try it and don’t like it, the fundamental part of this exercise is to understand what is required to sell. You’ll get free training and initial products to sell to your friends and family. After a while say in 2-3 months you will either love it or hate it. That’s the pain I am talking about.
Bottom line- Selling isn’t easy.

Sales discipline: Basics
The success of any organization resides in the Sales department’s ability to reach sales targets that were established in the Business plan – this is imperative.
Each Sales representative – let’s call them Account Managers (AM, for short), must go through a consistent prospecting process till a sale is made. I’ve described for illustrative purposes the most basic sales process below. I will assume for sake of example that the Account Manager is new and was not given any particular segment focus – a ‘shot gun’ approach in other words.

Day to Day Plan:
Daily Activities

0930 – 1030
Account Managers starting their day early, on time to do Telephone calls
Returning phone calls of previous day
Leads generated internally
Cold calls to prospects
Confirm presentations booked by other team members
Call on new contact developed within existing clients
Follow up on Direct mail program

Goal: Book a meeting even if it short in nature. The AM does not try to sell products/services over the phone.

1030 – 1230
Customer meetings either booked or “in the neighborhood” calls to existing clients.

1230 – 1300
Lunch

1300 – 1600
Customer meetings

1600 – 1900
Returning phone call messages on same day
Leads generated internally.
Follow up on Direct mail program.
Cold calls to prospects
Confirm presentations
Call on new contacts provided by Marketing leads or Customer Service.

This has to be done religiously – every day!

Adding to the rigor of cold calling, prospecting and meeting customers, the AM needs to initiate the following:

1) Direct mail to selected targets such as Romanian publicly traded companies, banks, manufacturing, trading firms, NGOs, insurance companies, government institutions or other relevant vertical markets.

2) Telemarketing to customers. Purpose of call is to introduce your company. Other reasons are to explain offerings, getting feedback on existing suppliers, product/service guarantees – but not on the phone. Remember the objective is to get an appointment!

3) Chamber of commerce/trade association events.

4) Accompanying the Sales Manager for customer visits, both to introduce company and prospect for more business.

5) Customer ownership focus:
Develop/add/ complement the customer profile and account review in your CRM for new contacts that you have developed.

7) Thank you letter after each call and place lead information in CRM that can be recalled for future prospecting purposes.

You get the idea.

The trick in sales is that if you repeat all these steps in a consistent manner, you will develop a small yet growing database of good customers.

It takes time.

I have sold water filters (yes…MLM), mobile phones, computer equipment, consulting contracts, sponsorships and coaching services. In my experience the AM starts to become effective and on ‘top of his/her game’ after approximately 1 ½ years of selling. It takes that amount of time to get to know your customers, learn the tricks of the trade; you avoid mistakes and become focused on customer needs and an expert at ‘closing’.

Rome was not built in a day, nor will you become an effective Account Manager overnight.

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