The Real Difference Between Sales and Marketing

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What is the difference between sales and marketing? Nothing, if you believe the many North American business people who seem to use the terms interchangeably.
This always makes me shake my head, especially when I see universities promoting their business diplomas without any true sales training in the curriculum. Oh, there’s plenty on marketing, but little to nothing on actual selling.
Zig Ziegler, the great sales guru, once said, “Selling is the only activity in a business that contributes to profit; every other activity contributes to cost.” That is a sobering thought, especially if you have an extensive marketing plan but no real sales strategy.
I used to read business plans for a living – honestly! At the time, I was managing a business program where participants had to submit a viable business plan to get accepted to a government-funded program. After reading dozens of these plans, I had a rubber stamp made up which said, “Sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring is not a sales strategy.” I used it extensively.
All too often, these entrepreneurs would create a marketing strategy full of expenditure; there were newspaper, magazine, and Yellow Pages ads, radio spots, brochures, business cards, and more. Nowhere, however, did they explain how they were actually going to get orders. Their strategies were based totally on reactive marketing rather than proactive selling.
Now I’m the first to say that a business needs a good marketing strategy and a realistic budget to go along with it, but unless a business owner knows how he or she will actively go out and get the sales that are the lifeblood of any business, trouble looms ahead.
{advertisement} So what does a sales strategy look like? Is it something that could double as a thesis for an MBA? Do you have to have the writing skills of Mark Twain? Not at all. It can be as simple as a one-page document with a diagram on it showing the steps you are going to take to achieve sales. It’s a road map — follow it and it will lead you to the sale.
Let’s take a look at a typical sales strategy for a business-to-business company selling a product or service. This is just one way to go; you can adapt this to suit your business, your market, and the way you like to work.
The first thing you need to do is build a list of prospects. Once you have a database, you need to decide what you want to do with it. This is where many people panic — “You mean I have to talk to them?” Yes, this is the difference between sales and marketing — the act of selling is interactive!
Okay, cold calling is a real pain and there are few of us who actually enjoy it, so your sales strategy should include something to warm up your potential customers. An old-fashioned sales letter will do the trick, something to let them know you exist and that you have something of interest to talk to them about. With so many unwanted emails hitting our inboxes these days, it’s pretty pointless sending out unsolicited messages, but a properly addressed and well-written sales letter has a good chance of being read by the intended recipient. Depending on the type of product or service you are selling, including a piece of sales literature might also be worthwhile.
Once you have mailed your letters — small batches, several days apart — you need to get into selling mode and call the prospects who have received your sales missive. Here is where many an enthusiastic sales person comes unstuck and all because they try to make the sale over the phone immediately. The purpose of this first call is to sell yourself, not your product or service. Way back in the mists of time, a time of sales myth and legend, someone once said, “The three golden rules of selling are sell yourself first, sell your company second, and sell your product or service last.” Whoever this person was, they spoke great words of wisdom!
The purpose of your first call is to introduce yourself and your company and get them to meet with you. The most effective type of selling is face-to-face, so getting one-on-one time with your prospect is your first sale.
Now I hear some of you say that this is all very well, but getting to speak to the prospect in the first place is often nigh well impossible because of the dreaded screener. Screeners are only bad news when you handle them poorly. The secret is to treat them like real people and with a great deal of respect; after all, they can be an extremely valuable resource to you. Often these corporate guardians are powerhouses of knowledge and can help you navigate the politics of the company. So instead of trying to sidestep them, solicit their opinion: tell them why you are calling, tell them about your product or service, and ask their advice. Often they will advise you speak to a different person, or approach your prospect in a different and more effective way. They may even tell you about your competition, especially if they dislike them!
Once you get through to your prospect, your goal is to get a meeting with them. Suggest a short meeting with a strict timeline, for instance, 30 minutes. Give them several days and times that you might meet, or suggest that you could meet them anytime the following week at their convenience. Make it easy for them to say yes, and difficult for them to say no.
Now that you are face-to face and able to make a presentation, the chances of closing the sale are high, although for larger commitments you may have to have several meetings.
So create yourself a road map to the sale and remember — sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring is not a sales strategy!