It does make a difference …
Is it sales and marketing or
marketing and sales?
Without exception, every salesperson is a marketer, although often times a
frustrated one. To prove the point, recall what salespeople are always talking about.
They never stop trying to figure out a way to grab the customer’s attention, find the
customer’s pain or push a customer’s hot button. But that’s not sales––it’s marketing.
When salespeople speak this way, they think they’re just trying to figure out how
to get the order. In reality, they’re actually attempting to get inside the customer’s head.
They know if they can do that, they will get the customer to say “yes.”
No matter what you call it, this is marketing.
As amazing as it may seem, marketers often fail to confront the issue of the
relationship of marketing to sales. Somehow or other, they sidestep the unavoidable
fact that marketing and sales are not only two sides of the same coin but marketing is
Savvy salespeople get the message. They are forever looking for ways to attract
customers. They are constantly seeking “marketing support,” be it direct mail, letters,
advertising, brochures, newsletters, web presence or email campaigns.
Isn’t this what they mean when they say, “We need something new to sell,” “Our
prices are too high” or “Can’t we offer an some incentive?” They’re looking for
something that sets them apart from the competition.
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Again, this is marketing.
Here’s the point: Marketing creates a proper environment with customers and
prospects for salespeople to be successful in closing deals. The marketing task is to
influence how customers think and feel about a company and its products and services.
It’s then that salespeople can do their best work.
One of the most dramatic examples is the marketing of the Apple iPod and
iShuffle. Legions of consumers ignore lower priced products because they want Apple.
This is pure marketing.
Yet, there are company owners, high-level managers, CEOs, sales managers
and others who are quick to say, “We don’t need marketing; we need sales and we
need them now.” You can hear them pound the table and beat the drum every day, but
if they just took 20 seconds to reflect on the issue, they would recognize the problem is
The fundamental problem is not having enough customers who want to buy what
your company is selling. Either they don’t know about it; or they don’t understand it; or
they don’t appreciate the value. These are the daunting hurdles that affect every
salesperson, but they should not be labeled “sales problems.”
Those are classic marketing issues and primary examples of marketing failures.
Overcome these hurdles and it’s far easier for the sales force to hit its stride and cross
the finish line of the sales race.
If this analysis is accurate, then there are some interesting implications for every
sales department. Here are several:
1. Every sales manager and salesperson should be uncompromising and
outspoken advocates of marketing. It’s only necessary to look as far Dell Computer
to understand the concept. The sales leadership of Dell is legion, not because it offers
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cutting-edge products. It has established itself in the mind of millions of millions of
computer buyers as the company that is the leader in customer satisfaction. In other
words, “it’s safe to buy Dell.”
Dell has also positioned itself as the value manufacturer. The endless Dell ads,
the stream of newspaper inserts, and the continuous flow of direct mail make it difficult
for other manufacturers to hold on to market share. Dell’s relentless inroads into H-P’s
personal computer business make the point: it’s all about marketing.
Far too often, salespeople are asked to spend their time pushing gigantic rocks
up one mountain after another. They find themselves trying to sell products and
services to buyers who have no understanding of the company they represent or the
value of the product or service. If this were true, then why would a buyer bother taking
time to speak with a salesperson? Answer: more and more they don’t.
Salespeople are quick to lament, “If I can just get a chance to meet with them,
they’ll learn all that.” While this is true, it’s not happening today. Buyers want a comfort
level in advance of meetings, before they commit their time to a salesperson. The task
of marketing is to help create that comfort level.
2. Every sales manager and salesperson should demand that his or her
company’s marketing be based on solid research. Once again, this seems contrary
to how salespeople think. Ask salespeople if their customers are well informed about
the products they sell and the response will be swift and clear: “Absolutely.”
But a recent survey of business owners conducted for an insurance organization
in Maryland revealed interesting results. Taking a profile of the agency’s “best” business
insurance customers, a group of businesses was identified in the market area that
matched the same qualities.
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The survey findings revealed that these insurance buyers were not well
acquainted with their own insurance programs. They lacked a basic understanding of
their insurance coverages. This was measured against the results of the agency’s
business insurance customers, who revealed a much more complete working
knowledge of their insurance.
In this case, as in others, ignorance is far from blissful; it’s downright detrimental.
Armed with this data, the insurance agency conducting the survey now knows how to
develop a marketing strategy for going after business insurance prospects.
Even though it’s easy to understand why salespeople believe they understand
their customers, it’s not always true. Supported by a marketing program that’s based on
fact and that focuses on accurate issues, salespeople are in a far better position to
attack the real buyer issues.
3. Every sales manager and salesperson should demand that marketing
open doors. In many industries, salespeople were expected to find their own leads.
Such thinking continues to linger in some industries. In his book, Clued In, Lewis P.
Carbone, the founder of Experience Engineering, Inc., cuts to the core of the problem,
when he writes, “With modern management fixated almost solely on the bottom line, the
value proposition of far too many businesses has become increasingly one sided: lots of
emphasis on the company but little on enhancing customer value.”
To put it simply, company-focused businesses don’t attract customers. For years,
Apple was the butt of jokes. For years, it couldn’t break out of its minute Mac market
share. Then it introduced iPod and history is being written. The marketing of iPod is
growing Macintosh computer sales.
From bottom to top, a sales force should be asking the marketing people to open
doors and to generate leads based on what’s of value to the customer. In one case, it
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may an attractive payment plan, as in the case of today’s high-priced TV sets. It may be
doubling computer memory without charge and offering free shipping.
Giving opens doors. Giving means connecting with what’s important to
customers. For the buyer who pays cash or uses a home equity line to buy a car, a
discount counts most. For the person financing a purchase, it may be “zero interest.”
Convenience also unlocks customer doors. If you’re in the service business,
guaranteed response time is key, as mattress retailers have discovered.
The key to effective marketing is opening doors and everyone in sales has a right
to expect marketing to deliver for them.
There’s nothing complicated or esoteric about the relationship of marketing and
sales and some excellent salespeople are marketers without even realizing it. On
December 31, 2004, 81-year-old Mario Corsaro closed Varese Shoes in Boston’s North
End for the last time. Nearly half a century had passed since the Sicilian immigrant sold
his first pair of shoes in this Italian neighborhood.
While Mario never found his way to nearby Harvard Business School to take a
course in marketing, he could have taught it. He was an expert marketer. His goal was
to make sure each customer always had the right shoes for a particular occasion.
The Boston Globe captured Corsaro’s simple, clear marketing philosophy. “It’s
about class,” he said. “I would not allow a customer to leave the store with the wrong
shoe even it they wanted it. I wouldn’t sell it to them. I’d tell them, ‘I’ll get you the right
If someone had told Mr. Corsaro the customer is always right, he would have
been appalled at the thought.
It may seem that this North End shoe storeowner was out of sync with much of
the business world. Actually, he symbolizes what marketing is all about: Customer trust,
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confidence and satisfaction depend on delivering on the promise of meeting needs and
Marketing isn’t about dialing for dollars––trying to find someone to sell something
to. That’s a tactic used by companies trying to dig themselves out of a hole, only to find
themselves in a deeper one.
Marketing establishes credibility so business flows consistently, so there’s trust
and credibility when the company’s name or product is heard or seen.
Marketing isn’t about the sale; it’s about the customer.
It not about taking the customer; it’s about taking the customer seriously.
It’s about the customer wanting to come back time and time again.
And it’s being able to go back to customers time and time again without having
the door slammed, phone calls ignored, or mailings tossed in the trash.
John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and
sales consulting firm. He is the author of The New Magnet Marketing and Break the Rules
Selling, writes for a variety of business publications, and speaks on business, marketing and
sales topics for company and association meetings. He is the winner of an APEX Grand Award
in writing and the only two-time recipient of the Door & Hardware Institute’s Ryan Award in
Business Writing. He can be contacted at 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170 (617-328-0069; fax
617-471-1504); firstname.lastname@example.org. The company's web site is grahamcomm.com.
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