Is having a great product the only requirement to run a successful business? For most companies, the answer is no. Why? Because generating sales requires potential customers to understand that a product exists, what it does, and why it’s better than a competitor’s offering.
The responsibility to communicate that information rests on the shoulders of the marketing and sales teams. Typically, marketing has a predominant role at the beginning of a potential sale. For example, a marketing team may develop a new radio campaign to help spread awareness about a product launch. A sales team works to finalize a deal by communicating directly with leads and addressing their concerns.
Another advantage sales and marketing teams exploit, is collaboration. Rather than operating as independent units, strong information and idea sharing between the teams can help improve results and create a seamless experience for prospective buyers.
Here’s a comprehensive overview of the meaning, responsibilities, and techniques of each segment.
Sales include “operations and activities involved in promoting and selling goods or services.”
Marketing includes “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”
These statements highlight two aspects of the sales and marketing relationship:
- The responsibilities of each group are closely linked.
- Marketing has a vital role in supporting sales.
In practice, the marketing department tends to bear responsibility for raising awareness about a product and generating high-quality leads for a sales team. A “marketing-qualified lead” is a lead that meets certain criteria set forth by a marketing department. A “sales-qualified lead” adds to the initial stipulations set forth by marketing to help find the highest value prospects.
At times, a sales department may complain that marketing leads do not meet the standard set forth by the sales team. However, the potential for conflict also represents an opportunity for collaboration. The more effectively the two teams can share ideas, the better aligned their definitions are likely to be.
Sales and Marketing Responsibilities
While sometimes grouped separately, sales and marketing functions overlap. Those businesses that recognize the critical areas of overlap may get more value out of their teams by combining efforts. After all, both sales and marketing have the same end goal: increasing sales.
Follow up. A key sales function is following up with the leads generated by a marketing department. Successful businesses usually develop a structured handoff process so that each marketing-qualified lead receives appropriate and timely follow-up from a sales team member.
Relationship building. The era of the “hard sell” continues to fade. Modern sales focus on relationship building to help create trust between a buyer and seller. Effective salespersons can understand the needs of the buyer and develop a persuasive—but not pushy—message to help differentiate the company’s product.
Closing. Most salespersons are judged by their ability to turn leads into customers. While some may envision a face-to-face meeting and handshake as the close of a sale, many businesses also close sales online or over the phone. This can broaden the responsibilities of closing a sale to more employees.
Retention. Sales and marketing have responsibility for improving client retention. By checking in with an existing client, a sales team member can help demonstrate an interest in long-term client success, not just a one-time sale. The ongoing effort to build strong relationships can help improve retention and lead to “upsells”—additional sales beyond the initial purchase.
Awareness. An effort to build awareness of a product or service is the first step in the sales process. A successful awareness-building effort may help a prospect recognize a brand or product name or may ensure a company makes the shortlist for purchasing consideration.
Engagement. Engagement efforts build on an initial awareness campaign to deepen a consumer’s connection to a company or product. Marketing materials aimed at engagement may be longer (e.g. a whitepaper or video) compared to a more superficial awareness piece (e.g. direct mailer or radio advertisement).
Conversion. A conversion is the critical transition of a potential customer from an anonymous person to a known lead. For marketing teams, a conversion may be the completion of a web form, the instigation of a web chat, or a phone call to a customer service line.
Retention. Even after a purchase, a marketing team can help a business grow its repeat customers. The retention function of marketing helps maintain awareness and engagement after a sale. This may include email newsletters or invitations to webinars that help a consumer get more value from a product. The retention function of marketing is especially critical for subscription services.
The Role of Technology
Today’s technology has a key role in sales and marketing. It also has a role in facilitating collaboration between the two business units.
A prominent example of sales and marketing technology is the customer relationship management (CRM) system. A CRM serves as a single resource will all client information. This information can help sales teams better understand how a customer became a lead. For instance, a CRM may contain information about the source of a lead, such as a trade show or online ad.
From a marketing perspective, a CRM can help track leads throughout the sales cycle. This information can provide valuable feedback to marketing teams about which marketing channels generate the most sales-qualified leads, actual sales, or longest client retention.
Sales and Marketing Techniques
How do sales and marketing teams achieve their goals? The tactics vary based on the industry and company culture. They have also changed over time.
These are some of the common sales and marketing techniques that form the core of each practice.
Limiting the opportunity. The idea of a “limited-time offer” is common in retail, but creating a sense of scarcity is a tactic used in many industries. A limited opportunity may be limited by time (e.g. an offer good for this month only) or availability (e.g. the last pickup on the lot).
Focusing on pain points. An effective salesperson can frame the benefits of a product or service regarding the needs of a client. This means understanding the day-to-day challenges a client faces and focusing on how a product can solve those issues. An emphasis on pain points can also help build a relationship by showing a salesperson’s interest in a customer’s problem.
Making the assumptive close. The assumptive close is a sales technique that changes a request for a “yes” into a “no.” For instance, rather than asking, “Do you want to try this service?”, a salesperson may instead ask, “When would you like us to schedule the installation?”
Outbound marketing. Outbound marketing represents traditional “push” marketing. This includes television advertisements, direct mail flyers, and cold calling. Outbound marketing tactics often are effective at generating broad awareness among a demographic. However, some modern marketing strategies question the ability of outbound marketing to develop the persuasive, personal marketing messages that build lasting company–customer relationships.
Inbound marketing. Inbound marketing shifts marketing efforts from “push” to “pull.” The core idea behind inbound marketing is to draw potential customers in by creating marketing materials that help consumers. For example, an investment firm may offer a free webinar on retirement planning. Inbound marketing tends to focus first on providing a consumer with something valuable, rather than maintaining an inward focus on delivering a company message.
Technology can help sales and marketing teams:
- Identify the most successful tactics.
- Make it easier for teams to align best practices.
The analytics provided by a CRM can help identify each touchpoint throughout the marketing and sales process that is critical to a sale. That information, in turn, can provide a data-backed rationale for adjusting the techniques employed in each process.
Further, the modern CRM and supporting technologies may make it easier for sales and marketing teams to implement the techniques that work best. This could include automating the distribution of marketing materials or streamlining the handoff process between teams.
Technology such as computer telephony integration (CTI) can even help teams handle “unplanned” handoffs, like when a prospect calls a customer service line instead of their dedicated sales representative. CTI integration can help manage real-time access to customer data in a CRM and route calls efficiently to the most qualified representative.
How to Improve a Sales and Marketing Department
The effort to improve a sales and marketing department is ongoing. However, it begins with an understanding of the role of each service so that a business can establish clear and reasonable goals.
From there, the development of each department depends on the identification of the right tactics, which vary based on how a business prefers to interact with its customers.
Along the way, technology can help organize the process and make it more efficient. It can also play a role in improving information sharing between the two departments, which may help each reach their shared goals of more sales and a thriving business.