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Marketing or Sales: Who Ranks?

There’s an old adage, you can’t effectively lead or manage what you can’t, won’t or don’t define. When the definition, and roles between sales and marketing are unclear, the result is confused, demotivated team members creating a drain on valuable resources of time, energy and money. Without clarity, there is an inability to meaningfully and effectively measure and manage activity and results, usually leading to disappointing sales and long-term anemic growth.
While many seem confused, functional differences between the departments are fundamental. Marketing is strategic, in that it identifies and defines a market and its potential, establishes estimated revenue share of market along with price, and identifies what different benefits various micro components of markets expect to be met by the features of a company’s product line and or services. Through its research into market appetites, marketing feeds sales with valuable information and leads.
Sales is tactical, tailoring features to each buyer’s appetite for benefits. Sellers represent a product line’s features to a network of relationships they have developed (relationship selling) while matching the product line’s features to the specific buyer’s need. Relationship selling responsibilities including proactively opening doors, building relationships, forging value based partnerships rooted in trust and ultimately, demonstrating the product line’s features and company services and capabilities to meet specific buyer’s needs.
Marketing team members produce content, collateral and brand awareness targeted to the markets their research identified. If strategic marketing efforts expand too deeply into trust based relationship selling efforts, tension and unhealthy competition between marketing and sales may surface. Misplaced marketing efforts cause sales team members to become more reactive responders and less proactive initiators.
Make no mistake about it—marketing in many cases is largely a cost center. Sales generates revenue. But ideally, that’s a distinction that should permeate the entire organization. All of the divisions of an enterprise should recognize they have the responsibility to drive/earn revenue, if not, they need to be retrained or replaced. Fundamentally a business makes and keeps promises. Every team member is responsible for that transaction.
Marketing’s research identifies revenue generating opportunities for a product line then generates awareness for the business among the identified targets. To that end it is responsible for brand creation and strength. So it manages overall content and strategy, along with public relations, advertising, digital and social media activities.
For marketing to actually drive revenue it would have to drive buyers directly to the point of sale. Of course that’s largely the burden of retail marketers whose sales staff are mainly order-takers. But it’s not the case with respect to the producers of many businesses that sell B2B instead of direct B2C. In the case of say a manufacturer, its marketing division must drive decision makers toward its brand with sufficient strength to encourage its B2B buyers to initiate the interaction with the manufacturing company’s sellers. The message or call to action has to be inordinately consistent enough to compel someone to pick up the phone, inquire and actually buy. There is a dangerous precedent set in businesses when the sellers rely inappropriately on marketers to initiate inquiries from buyers.
Thus, marketing needs sales team members to implement the strategy at a tactical level by getting in front of decision makers. Tension can be minimized between marketing and sales if clarity and collaboration are at the core of the organizational structure and systems. When marketing and sales strategy and tactics are in sync, it will support their own needs by encouraging the other’s success.
Intelligent conversations and collaboration between marketing and sales can uncover the answers to critical questions. Daily sales numbers seemingly track that division’s success, yet it’s important to develop metrics that allow measurement of sales/marketing interaction. How have leads contributed to closings? How has advertising turned cold-calls warm? What is the company’s name recognition among target-market buyers? What is its reputation? Who’s the competition? What is its differentiation? How best is the unique selling proposition framed? What is the level of spontaneous enquiries? How are potential buyers funneled into the sales pipeline?
While marketing and selling may be positioned to be needlessly competitive with each other, the more valuable question is how does each division support the other? What normal channel exists for marketing to mine selling’s word-of-mouth and buyer resistance and/or feature acceptance?
In the best of all worlds, marketing discovers who wants what and sellers go out and show how their product’s features uniquely and affordably match the benefits that marketing revealed exist. That world would be a nice place to live and it’s useful to have senior management work toward that objective. In the interim, even within the most supportive marketing environment, there are specific challenges facing sellers. Fortunately they are well defined and as we go forward, we’ll deal with best practices that work to overcome them.
This post originally appeared on Business 2 Business Magazine. View it here.

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