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Marketing / Business marketing

Tying the knot between sales and marketing

‘Wait—aren’t sales and marketing one and same?’ If at one point you’ve thought this and used the two terms interchangeably, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

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The confusion is common in small businesses, mostly because having limited manpower means a single person or team is often tasked to do both. Like married couples who act and work together like one entity, these two functions are different, yet closely intertwined. So how exactly do we differentiate the two?

Sales as we know it

When we think of ‘sales and marketing’ as one function, what people actually refer to is just the sales aspect of business. In a nutshell, these are activities that focus heavily on revenue generation. This includes the effort you apply to convert qualified leads, close deals, and essentially push out your supply to customers.

In sales, the focus is being active in making the prospect’s current needs match a product or service that your business offers. These one-on-one interactions are all about persuading leads and successfully turning them into customers.

While it seems like sales is a pretty straightforward function of business, there is more to it than highlighting the features of your product or service. Wandering aimlessly and pitching at random may work once, but it won’t help you consistently hit targets. In reality, getting people to part with their hard earned money is more complicated than that. Your success in sales goes back to having an effective strategy—a solid marketing plan.

"While sales is all about the action, marketing is all about strategy."

The pull of marketing

While sales is all about the action, marketing is all about strategy. In many ways, this encompasses other aspects of your business such as product development, pricing, branding, and communications. Instead of ‘pushing’ your product to individual customers, marketing is all about the ‘pull’— creating demand for your products and services by identifying what your target market already values and shaping your offerings accordingly.

Getting people to buy is not always the end goal of effective marketing. As an entrepreneur, you must have the foresight to identify market patterns and emerging trends; and use these insights for long-term planning. Your focus should be on the bigger picture. Instead of a one-off sale, your goal is to build relationships that allow you to nurture leads and existing clients into loyal customers.

It’s a match!

Like any couple with different expertise, sales and marketing are two aspects of business that require different sets of skills. At the same time, they rely heavily on one another in working towards your bottom line. So how exactly does the two fit together?

Marketing focuses on creating optimal conditions that will nurture leads until they are ripe for the picking.  Just like watering and fertilising a garden, your marketing team boosts the value of your prospects. And what better value to offer your customers, than your expertise in your area of business.

Thanks to the convenience of the internet, small businesses can easily build a relationship with their market. You can share business tips and news through email marketing campaigns, run ads across multiple channels, send a free e-book, start a podcast, upload video tutorials, or engage your followers on social media.

Once your leads are ‘ripe’ and in a position to purchase, sales’ job is to choose which ‘low-hanging fruit’ are ready for the pitch and are likely to turn into a sweet deal. From holistic marketing strategies, your sales team switches to more personalised techniques that vary depending on the specific needs of the customer.

To complete the process, all the information gathered through the sale will be used by marketing to enhance existing strategies and kick off the cycle again.

Better together

Just as couples shouldn’t fight over which individual is better, there is no point in trying to pit sales and marketing against each other. Instead, make sure that the two stay in sync, communicate, and share insights with one another to achieve a perfect marriage that works better together in accomplishing your common business goals.

Pia Rios

is head of marketing for Alltel Australia. Her expertise in digital marketing, brand, and business communications has been key in helping businesses achieve their marketing goals and bottom line. Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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