Jim, an experienced retail furniture salesman, just walked in the door at his new job, a brand-new furniture store. Unfortunately, the store owner failed to do any marketing before opening day to bring people in. Not even a sign above the door!
At least the store is located in the town square, which could prove to be a good marketing move. But to draw customers into the new store will take work. Jim suddenly realized that although he was hired to be a salesman, he will also need to be a marketer if he is going to have anyone to sell to. What can Jim do?
Sales and marketing are two important components of your business. Maybe you don’t have anyone you characterize as a salesman. Nonetheless, every business carries out both marketing and sales activities.
Think about the terms “sales and marketing.” They are often lumped together, but they are also each distinct. Which comes first?” We often say “sales and marketing”, but actually, marketing comes before sales.
What is the difference between marketing and sales? The job of marketing is to generate qualified leads. The job of sales is to convert leads into customers. Let’s take a closer look at these two responsibilities.
The difference between marketing and sales
Print and digital advertising, billboards, newsletters, and promotional products are part of marketing. Note that these methods do not involve personal interaction with the prospective customer, which is one difference between marketing and sales.
Marketing goals involve the following:
- raising brand awareness
- generating new leads
- telling your brand story
- communicating your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
- educating the prospect
Sales, on the other hand, usually includes direct personal interaction with the prospect: a phone call, a meeting, an in-store conversation, or an online chat. Sales goals involve the following:
- Building trust with the prospect
- Answering questions
- Talking through objections
- Qualifying the prospect
- Consulting with the prospect
- Asking for the order
Some companies expect their salespeople to find new leads. That is normal and healthy in some industries. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll consider it the marketing department’s responsibility to deliver qualified leads to the salespeople, who will then engage with them. (A qualified lead is a lead that meets pre-determined benchmarks related to your target market and ideal customer profile).
There isn’t always a clear line between sales and marketing. A company may send catalogs to new prospects with an order form included. People can place an order without ever talking to a salesperson.
This type of transaction is expected online today. A prospect can search for a product, research and compare a few options, and make a purchase without interacting with anyone.
This leads to an underlying purpose of marketing—to make the salespeople’s job easier and more efficient.
How marketing helps salespeople
Let’s see what Jim does on his first day at work.
Jim starts by opening the double entrance doors and greeting passersby with a friendly wave, a big smile, and a few words. He experiments with various greetings, hoping to discover which one works best to get people to come inside and browse.
Of course, when someone responds to his invitation, Jim follows them inside to answer their questions, discover their desires, and hopefully find them a satisfying product so he can write up a sale. But while he is busy inside, many people walk past the new store, paying no attention.
By the end of the day, Jim has found a phrase that works well to get people inside the store. He convinces the store owner to invest in a dry-erase sidewalk sign. The next morning Jim writes the greeting on the sign and sets it outside.
Then he watches to see what will happen. Sure enough, a pair of feet step inside. This piece of marketing Jim has developed will save him time and capture more leads than he could by himself.
Each morning thereafter, Jim sets out the sidewalk sign and spends most of his time selling inside the store. He soon learns he can about guess what questions a new customer will ask. Is there any way he can answer those questions before they are asked?
Jim puts up window signage to answer one of these questions—where is this furniture made? He begins to give people an FAQ sheet as they enter the store. People can now answer their own questions without Jim’s help.
Jim convinces the owner to experiment with various lead generation messages in printed ads, billboards, and direct mail. Over time, as word of mouth spreads and the store becomes more established, more leads come in with fewer dollars invested.
Jim creates a brochure explaining the benefits of buying from the store. Based on his sales conversations about what his customers are truly looking for, he has a good idea what words to use and what pictures to show.
Because Jim continuously improves his marketing with experimentation, he is able to service more customers. In essence, Jim has eliminated much of his sales work by developing a system that does the work for him. Jim is proving to be more than a salesman. He is a marketer.
Put marketing to work for your salespeople
What does this mean for you? Here are some ways to make your sales process more efficient while converting a higher percentage of leads.
Experiment with different lead generation headlines. Like the greeting on Jim’s sidewalk sign, base your advertising headlines on insights gathered during customer interactions.
Compile answers for the 5-10 most frequently asked questions. Every business has questions they hear over and over. Communicate the answers to prospects, and save your salespeople time.
Develop phrases, stories, samples, or other ways to overcome common objections. This is similar to the FAQ tactic, but different in that it is a toolbox salespeople can pull from to help dismantle customer objections.
Train your salespeople to give you feedback on what works and what doesn’t. (Or if you are the main salesperson, keep notes yourself.) If a customer success story works well to overcome an objection one day, use it again to see if other customers also respond positively. If you have multiple salespeople, share the story and ask them to use it. After a story or another response is perfected, make it part of your standard presentation or include it in your brochure or on your website.
Continuously improve your marketing efforts based on results and input from your sales team. Glean insights from those who interact directly with customers. The better your lead generation and conversion tools, the more efficient your salespeople can be.
Effective marketing helps inexperienced salespeople become productive much sooner. In fact, you may be able to build a system where all you need is someone to take orders from customers. Or better yet, your order taker might be a piece of paper or your website.
How many leads do I need?
Did you know you can calculate how many leads you need to bring in to meet your revenue goal? Here’s how.
- What is your revenue target for the year?
- Divide your revenue target ($2,500,000.00) by your average dollar sale ($1,500.00).
- Divide that number by your conversion rate percentage (18%). This equals number of leads (9,259) needed to hit your revenue target.
You may want to calculate this by department or product type, for example, if you know that 70% of your revenue is new installs and 30% is service.
Depending on your business, you may have more steps to track in your conversion process than in the example above. Two examples:
- Revenue / average dollar sale / proposals accepted percentage / proposal request percentage equals number of leads needed.
- Revenue / average dollar sale / number of purchases per year / conversion rate percentage equals number of leads needed.
If you are concerned about missing your revenue target partway through the period, determine whether your marketing is producing the number of leads you need, and amp up your efforts as needed.
Because of the Internet, prospects interact with salespeople later in the buying process than they used to. Now they check reviews and research your product online first.
Usually the more complex your product or service, the more you need to rely on salespeople to convert leads into customers. However, we have seen cases where a sale that used to take 1-4 hours spread over 4-6 conversations can sometimes be made in 2 conversations that total less than 30 minutes, while simultaneously increasing the conversion rate. This kind of effective sales and marketing is better both for the salesperson and the customer.
Perhaps you feel overwhelmed. That’s normal. There are a lot of ways we can all improve in aligning marketing with sales, so take courage. The process takes time, but incremental gains snowball profitability over the long-term.