Words matter. If you’re not sure, try to teach a child how to tie her sneaker without using the words lace, loop, or bow. Just like when important words are missing, confusion results when two words that mean different things are combined.
The terms, “sales” and “marketing” have been tied together so often that many business owners think of them as one function. As a result, their businesses don’t do either of them well. So, I’m going to break down the key parts of each activity to show how different they really are.
The thing to know about both sales and marketing is that one supports the other. Selling is the absolute most important function in your business! Above everything else you do, it’s the only activity that creates revenue. No matter how your business distributes its product – whether it’s purchased online, in a store, or through direct labor – the sales process is the method by which all income is produced.
Marketing supports sales by creating channels of communication between the business and its customers. Marketing is not a profit producing activity. Its sole purpose is to generate attention.
With that understanding, let’s highlight the critical elements that every business needs to master to perform both of these functions well.
Forget for the moment any books you’ve read on selling. There are scores of methods and techniques that can be effective for your business if you have the discipline to use them. The best way to look at sales from a high level is by remembering the old reporter’s tool you learned in school: “The 5 W’s and 1 H”.
Who, of course, is the customer. He/ she/ or it must be clearly defined for the sales process to work. Whenever an entrepreneur tells me that her product is for everyone, I know she won’t be selling it to anyone. What is your product or service. Where is the place that the sale occurs (in person, online, etc.). When is the timing of the purchase. Effective selling requires the product to be available the moment the customer is ready to buy. And Why is the customer’s motive for buying yours or a similar product.
That leaves the “H”. How refers to the design of the sales process. It’s a defined set of steps to identify the buyers and lead them through the what, where, when, and why to close a sale. No business can sidestep this. Many smart businesses can shorten the sales cycle or automate some of the steps. Some even do it so fast that it looks like they don’t have to sell at all. But even Amazon has a defined sales process.
Marketing, as I noted earlier, is a support function. It’s used to create and distribute information that helps speed up the sales process. At its most basic, marketing is used to describe your business’ product – the features, benefits, options, and prices.
Good marketing creates compelling messages that appeal to the particular buying motives of the customer. Great marketing persuades a potential customer that he must have what you’re selling, or he’ll just die!
The marketing function is comprised of 3 main elements. Content, media, and channels. Content is everything written about your business and your product. It can include product descriptions, tag lines, and even educational information. Media are the tools that carry the content. From business cards, brochures, articles, and videos; to promotional items like pens and mugs.
Channels are the conduits you use to push your media out to the buyer. You can advertise online or in magazines. Run radio spots. Put up billboards or send snail mail. Channels aren’t limited to paid advertising either. They also include signage on your vehicles and your building, events, social media posts, and influencers wearing a T-Shirt with your logo on it. The channels you choose will determine the reach and impact of your messaging.
Remember that no matter how sophisticated the marketing process is, it doesn’t generate income. And though you can certainly sell without marketing … it’ll be ten times harder to grow your business.
I’d like to share one final thought for you to keep front of mind. Sales and marketing are not only different activities, but they also require different expertise. A great salesperson probably will make a lousy marketing manager (and vice versa). So, if you’re a one-person operation, focus on the selling and get outside help for managing your marketing. If you’re running a larger business, make sure that you put the people with the right skills in each role.
It’s not “sales & marketing”. It’s sales, and marketing.