Often when I talk to business owners about their software needs I notice a blurring of the line between sales and marketing. While these aspects of business are closely related, it is important for anyone running a company to understand both sales and marketing individually. They pose different challenges that require specific solutions.
‘Marketing brings people to the door, sales gets them through the door’. This is probably the best summary I’ve heard. Marketing is responsible for bringing people to the door of you business. So making them aware of your existence. Letting them know that you may have a solution to their problem or a product they desire. Sales comes into play once they have initiated contact with your organization. The goal of your sales department should be to take someone who has come to your door over the threshold. So your sales team should use their skills to turn vaguely interested leads into customers willing to part with their hard earned money for your product.
Another way to look at it, is by the level of interaction involved. Most marketing is very one sided. You run an ad in the paper which someone reads. At this stage there is no back and forth between you and the consumer. Sales on the other hand, is much more interactive. Calls, emails or even letters may be exchanged between interested leads and sales representatives. Or they may sit down to a face to face meeting where the customer has the opportunity to ask questions about the product. A good salesperson will also ask the potential customer questions to ascertain their specific needs and point out the features of the product (or service) which are most relevant to them.
I think much of the confusion comes from situations where one of the processes is short or missing completely. Let me ask you a quick question: If you send out a sales letter with an enclosed order form and the customer fills in the order form (including payment details), without ever contacting a sales rep is this process sales or marketing? There was no interaction but the customer still came ‘through the door’. What’s your answer?
When I pose this question to business owners I often get a variety of answers. But I would argue that it is marketing. Sometimes your marketing will have a message sufficiently powerful to induce a sale without any sales interaction but it is still a marketing activity.
In order to have a successful business you need to strike a balance between sales and marketing. Companies that have a strong marketing department but poor sales skills will gather a lot of leads (people who are kind of interested) but will not be able to convert them into paying customers. On the flip side of the coin a strong sales team is worthless without enough new leads coming through to keep them busy. By understanding marketing and sales as separate activities you can locate your weak link take action to bring your organization back into alignment.