Sales vs Marketing – a nonsense debate, fuelled by the uninformed
If I hear this mentioned again I might get upset….
I have been asked this question more times than I have had hot dinners. I find it worrying that the issue features so frequently in the minds of sales and marketing professionals. There are no winners in this debate. It stems from a lack of understanding of how sales and marketing fit together hand in hand. One is part of the other and vice versa. Pursuing the argument that I am a sales person and marketing is not up to it or I am a marketer and those sales guys have ideas above their station belongs in the kinder garden. So rather than “them and us” it should be more about “we”.
I will try to explain where the uninformed are going wrong. Let’s start at the beginning. Marketing strategy, that’s Marketing with a capital “M”, is really about making some big decisions for the business way before deciding whether to employ a sales team or not. The decisions to be made are what customers or customer groups to target and what to offer them and then to decide how to allocate scarce resources towards which opportunities for growth or which issues to manage for the firm?
Let’s make it up. Let’s say we have made these big decisions in our strategic plan. We have prioritised our strategic imperatives in order to deliver future double digit growth and thus our direction of travel is laid down. We now need to decide what our intended positioning is vis a vis our competition and what key messages we wish deliver in order to explain how our service or product proposition will meet or better meet the needs of our customers at the right price.
We have multiple communication channels open to us through which we can connect with our customers. These channels can be complementary so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The choice for the business may be to invest in a sales force. Not a small investment, but sales forces can be very powerful in driving growth by ensuring our benefits are made clear, repeatedly to the right customers at the right time. I don’t in anyway wish to undervalue sales techniques here. I am not talking about “tell selling” I am assuming the readers of this blog are smart enough to use best practice selling techniques. We can also choose to use other communication channels such as the web, social media, public relations, advertising, direct mail, trade shows and so on. All have their pros and cons.
So if you are a marketer and have hopefully been part of the strategic decision making process for the firm to employ a professional sales force you better be making damn sure they are armed with all the right materials and supported to do a great job. If on the other hand you are a sales person you would be wise to over deliver versus expectations and be constructive about how you can partner with the marketing function in order to deliver more value for the business. Your customer relationships and insights will be invaluable to the business.
So no more bitching please. More “we” than “I” if you could. Then I can finally relax and worry about something more important.