A lot of small business owners conveniently combine marketing and sales under the same, big umbrella.
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But that's a mistake because marketing and sales are two distinct activities. And a misunderstanding of sales or marketing – or both – can have a devastating impact on your company's bottom line.
The confusion between sales and marketing usually arises from the fact that they are both trying to achieve the same goal: Putting products in your customers' hands and money in your bank account. Although they are two separate functions, sales and marketing strategies are most effective when they are utilized in an integrated fashion. But before you can do that, you need to understand why they are different and how they can work together to accomplish a common goal.
Marketing is the art of persuasion. Its objective is to pique the interest of customers lurking around the general marketplace. At the heart of every marketing campaign is the understanding that instead of trying to convince one customer to purchase your product, you are trying to appeal to as many people as possible. Marketing can involve a variety of activities including advertising, branding, public relations, and other promotional devices. If done effectively, marketing can precondition consumers for the next step of the buying process: Sales.
If marketing brings customers in the door, sales closes the deal. Unlike marketing, sales is designed to function on a one-on-one basis. Instead of focusing on as many people as possible, sales attempts to persuade a single (presumably pre-conditioned) customer. So it makes sense that the sales objective isn't to generate interest, but the objective result of a signed contract or completed sales transaction. This can happen through any number of sales techniques such as cold calls, direct sales, or incoming call centers.
Understanding the Cycle
An integrated approach to sales and marketing results in a cycle that is both observable and predictable. Marketing primes the pump by generating interest in the marketplace. Sales then goes into action in an attempt to close the deal. If the consumer is still hesitant, marketing can re-engage the process by providing resources that further work to pre-condition the buyer for the close. Ultimately, sales will be the closer. But in the meantime, sales and marketing work in tandem, turning a cold buyer into a red hot one.
The first step in developing a combined sales and marketing strategy is to classify your contacts according to their current willingness to purchase from your company. Cold leads are those who are currently disinclined to buy your products while warm leads are the ones who may be open to purchasing right now. Your sales team should start working on the warm leads right away. However, the cold leads should be targeted for marketing initiatives in the form of mailings or other promotional devices before the sales team makes contact. In other words, the sales team shouldn't move on a prospect until it has reached the level of a warm lead.
Achieving a Balance
The key to integrating your sales and marketing strategies is to achieve a workable balance. If your company is weighted too heavily toward marketing, you'll never close a sale. But if your company neglects marketing, your sales team will be frustrated by the lack of pre-conditioned prospects.