Sales and Marketing – Aren't they the same thing ? At first glance, this might seem a stupid question, and I suspect that most professional people could eloquently explain the difference between the two. However, this article will explore how important it is to put the academics aside and view the whole sales and marketing process as a single continuum. If we consider that the inception of the customer relationship might start with the recognition of the company name and logo and conclude with repeat orders from a loyal customer, then it is easy to see that this relationship has been developed and maintained by the combined effort of effective marketing and careful sales management. Looking at the challenge from a different approach, we could consider the 'brand'.
Whatever the product or the service, the 'brand' only ever exists in people's minds. The brand consists of the perceptions that people have about the product or service. The logo and corporate colours may be the physical manifestation of the brand, but the brand that really matters is how people feel about what you offer. In this respect, the marketing department may create important brochures and adverts that help shape these perceptions that will attract prospects but the sales experience and user experience is equally important to the success of the brand and long terms sales revenue. It is clear that both the sales and the marketing effects people's experience of the company, and that maybe they should be in a combined department called 'The Brand Experience Custodians'.
A little radical maybe, but in so many companies the two departments often operate independently, missing an important opportunity to get ahead of the competition. When I was just a 'technical salesman', one frustration that I often had was that the marketing department was rarely interested in my opinion on their ideas and strategies, despite the fact that I spent most days in the marketplace talking to decision makers understanding their technology and future requirements. I can recall times when the company launched products that I simply did not want to mention to my customers, and adverts that I knew would be ridiculed in the marketplace. I was rarely wrong when predicting the results of such mistakes. Often they were very costly in terms of wasted marketing budget and damage to the brand. As an engineer in my earlier days I also saw sales managers that constantly wanted smaller, faster and cheaper products. They thought that beating the competition on a technical level was all that mattered. If sales flagged, it was because the product was not good enough. Often it transpired that we were losing business to inferior products that had better branding, better market positioning and wider awareness.
The competition had a healthier respect for the power of effective marketing. Maybe the first step towards having a harmonious and productive relationship between sales and marketing is achieving mutual respect. It is interesting that when companies start up, the owner of a company is usually the inspiration behind both the sales and the marketing, which certainly helps to create a clear brand strategy with a future. The challenge for a growing company is to maintain their understanding of a changing marketplace whilst holding onto the values and ideas that formed a successful brand in the first place.
The answer to the opening question might be, that in the technical sector, sales and marketing should be closely connected and sympathetic to each other's role in the creation and maintenance of the brand experience. Are they the same thing ? Maybe not, as they have different skills sets. However, effective sales and marketing departments will share the same understandings and objectives.
They will have more in common than that which differentiates them. Article written by Richard Blackburn, Managing Director of Energi Technical Ltd. http://www.energi-tech.co.uk Energi provides sales and marketing support to engineering and technology companies across Europe. Energi will be running a one day 'Technical Sales Training Course' on July 3rd. More details are available at http://www.energi-tech.co.uk/technical-sales-training.htm