My headline isn’t going to win any friends across the aisle in the land of sales teams, and I’ll admit there’s a bit of attention-seeking there. But, even though I won’t suggest that sales is by definition easier than marketing, I do feel that strong marketing can have an outsize impact on sales results and sales efficiency.
Marketing can only have that impact on sales when there is a progression of thoughtful activity from a firm’s earliest contact with a prospect to converting the sale, and beyond.
So the real headline should perhaps be, “Sales Is Easier When Marketing Is Done Well,” but that’s a mouthful. Let’s take a closer look at how marketing can make sales easier, if not truly easy.
Who Really Wants a Super Bowl Ad?
Most of us in B2B sales and marketing are not seeking the mass audiences of, say, a Super Bowl ad. Our prospects can be much more tightly defined and more pointedly targeted. Rather than wading through a stadium full of people to find those few who might be interested in what we’re offering, we want to talk to the few hundred — maybe even few dozen — without all the additional noise. We want to connect with those who are likely to be a good fit for what we’re offering.
If our marketing can target our prospects tightly, we make the sales process more efficient; we don’t need to put 1,000 salespeople in the field, because we don’t have a stadium full of “prospects” to follow up with. A smaller team can communicate with the more select group who marketing has identified as qualified candidates.
Of course, if those candidates aren’t truly qualified — ever the sales team’s lament — the process breaks down. Which is why we need a strong marketing team to support the more focused sales team.
What Does Marketing Need to Do
Marketing then, needs to focus on content and other tools that appeal to the target audience and that are able to get a brand-relevant and useful message in front of them. When that happens, sales is a much more efficient task — less wasted time, fewer never-really-interested prospects, and a higher close rate. In other words, sales is easier because marketing is strong. (Thought, I’ll admit, sales is never easy, my headline notwithstanding.)
What About Branding?
It’s worth applying this concept to branding, as well, because the same things we can say about sales in relationship to marketing can be said about marketing in relationship to branding. Good branding makes marketing much, much more effective. Easier, even.
So now our headline should read: “Sales Is Easier When Marketing Is Done Well (And Marketing Is Easier When Branding Is Done Well)” Which is even more of a mouthful …
Of course, all of this well-planned activity will be for nothing if you don’t have a fantastic product to sell. And “fantastic” doesn’t have to mean a groundbreaking technological advancement. (Though clearly, the product has to provide a strong benefit to the client.) “Fantastic” means a product that is conceived and positioned to be better than any other available option for a particular audience segment.
So there is a bit of a circle here with product leading to positioning/branding, branding leading to marketing, and marketing leading to sales. There’s also a two-way connection between strategic thinking and tactical implementation that have to feed on one another. (Virtuously, we hope.)
All of this means that while sales isn’t really easier than marketing, when you do more of the hard work in the earlier steps, the later steps get easier. And because this is all quite circular, everything gets easier when you focus on strategy before tactics and seek ways to improve incrementally with each prospect interaction.