Getting someone to buy a product or service sounds easy. But as anyone who has tried it knows, the process involves so many different layers and steps that many people struggle to grasp it.
With the average sales close rate at around 19% across all industries, according to HubSpot, it’s no wonder many people who get into sales quickly get out. After all, who wants to fail more than 80 percent of the time?
In order to become more successful in selling products, you need a multi-faceted approach to customers that includes both marketing and the actual sales process itself. People often confuse sales and marketing, but in reality, they are two very different roles, although they both complement and build off each other.
Let’s break down both terms in a way that can help you see how they both contribute to landing a customer.
What is sales?
Sales refers to any activity that has the aim of selling products or services.
A salesperson's job is to identify individuals or "prospects" who are likely to buy their product or service, convince that potential client to have a meeting where a "pitch" can be made convincing them to buy, and then ultimately asking the customer to make a purchasing decision.
What is marketing?
A marketer is essentially an evangelist for a product or even the brand or company, raising awareness of its existence and laying the groundwork for a salesperson to take that reputation the marketer built and then turn it into a sale.
Marketing also aims to create relationships with customers and make sure they are satisfied, enabling future sales to them.
Marketing vs. sales: How they differ
Marketing and sales are similar in that they both aim to find potential customers and create the conditions for a sale, but they have key differences. B2B marketing strategies involve getting people interested in the product, while the salesperson is taking the steps necessary to take that customer from interest to an actual sale.
A salesperson is trying to close as many potential customers as possible. To do so, they need to start with a qualified list of prospects likely to buy from a business, pitch to them the product or service offered by the company, and then ask them to make a purchasing decision.
Along the way, they need to handle objections, demonstrate a solid understanding of the client’s needs, and have the ability to provide the paperwork necessary to finalize the sale and take payment.
A marketer has one simple goal: to put a product or service in front of as many target customers as possible in order to increase brand awareness and lay the groundwork for future sales.
It is important that marketers target likely customers rather than spread a broad net, or time may be wasted on people with no interest in buying.
A salesperson is ultimately focused on revenue, although they may take different routes to get there.
In one industry, a salesperson may try to maximize revenue with a sales strategy for a high-priced product that involves spending a lot of time on just a few qualified individuals.
While in comparison, another salesperson could be trying to make pitches to as many people as possible in order to increase the number of closes of a lower priced item.
A marketer has many goals, all tied to increasing the company’s customer base. By promoting the business to a target market, they are trying to find new customers, improve awareness of the brand, and help launch new products.
For existing customers, they seek to ensure customer satisfaction and look for opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell.
The sales process has seven key steps:
- Prospect development: The salesperson must identify people who are likely to buy based on the company's customer profile.
- Preparation: The salesperson must research the client and understand their needs.
- Approach: The salesperson introduces themselves, probes interest, and seeks to set up a pitch meeting.
- Presentation: The pitch is made to the client.
- Handling objections: The salesperson anticipates and provides satisfactory responses to the customer's objections and concerns.
- Closing: The salesperson asks for the sale, paperwork in hand.
- Follow-up: The salesperson ensures the client is enjoying the product, and offers to fix any issues that come up.
The marketing process has four key elements, according to Encyclopedia Britannica:
- Strategic marketing analysis: Marketers examine segments and niches of the industry to come up with a strategy that will guide future marketing efforts.
- Marketing-mix planning: With a strategy in hand, the marketer then comes up with tactics involving product, price, placing, and promotion to make the desired impact on the target customer.
- Marketing implementation: The marketer executes the strategy and tactics via a cohesive plan that involves all key players in the company.
- Marketing control: The marketer is always evaluating the performance of their marketing strategy so tweaks can be made in order to maximize its effect.
Technology and tools
Salespeople use CRM software to help keep track of their leads, sales pipeline, calendar, documentation, and anything else they need at their fingertips in order to maximize efficiency and spend more time selling to customers rather than fiddling with organization.
Beyond CRM software, salespeople will use analytics to take a deep dive into how they're performing and to help understand how they can be more efficient. And since they're always on the go, salespeople depend on apps that keep their contacts and calendar current.
Marketers often take advantage of software tools such as email marketing software to increase their effectiveness and efficiency, as well as to monitor how their campaigns are doing.
They may also use tools such as search engine optimization (SEO) rank checking, digital analytics, and backlink analysis to determine whether they are reaching the desired audience.
Strategy and techniques
Salespeople have many techniques that they use, but these are some of the most important:
- Magnifying the client's pain: Customers don't buy unless there's a clearly identifiable pain point, such as lost money or time, so salespeople need to focus on that.
- Creating a sense of urgency: A salesperson needs to make it clear to a client that they are about to miss out on an exciting opportunity or each week that passes means lost revenue.
- Preempting sales objections: A salesperson is ready to answer common objections and even preempt them by bringing them up during the presentation.
Marketers also have a number of strategies they might use to entice future customers:
- Referral programs: These programs incentivize customers to tell others about a company's products or services, potentially leading to new clients.
- Networking events: This tried-and-true strategy involves gathering companies within an industry at one location to develop relationships with key businesses and individuals. This provides a wealth of marketing leads.
- Search engine optimization: SEO has become the name of the game in online marketing in the last couple decades. By focusing on SEO, marketers can bring targeted traffic to the company's website virtually for free.
- Inbound marketing: Primarily practiced in B2B sales, inbound marketing uses helpful and in-depth content to attract people to the company's website, building brand awareness and developing a relationship with potential customers that keeps them coming back.
Are your sales and marketing departments separate?
If you’re like a lot of companies, you might simply merge sales and marketing together, but this could be a mistake.
Of course, if you’re a small company, you might only have one person available to do both roles, but you should at least ensure that person is not mixing the two activities.
Create a clear and distinct strategy both for your marketing efforts and your sales efforts so you get more out of both roles.
Sit down with whoever you have in this role and come up with a plan that recognizes the different goals of both sales and marketing.
The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends HubSpot and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.