There was a time when life was simpler. When the marketing team were about customer avatars, crafting key messages, getting in front of the right audience with advertising and PR and creating promotions to drive customer trial and sales. What was left for sales to do was the relatively simple task of converting!

Of course, this is a very simplistic view of the old world as marketing and sales activities varied even then depending on the sector and whether you were dealing B2C or B2B.

What was true, however, was that marketing and sales were often misaligned. Marketing would do lots of ‘stuff’ and the sales team were pretty hit and miss about whether they would use it. When revenue fell short of the target the sales team blamed marketing for getting it wrong and the marketing team blamed the sales team for going off piste!

Marketing and sales automation have blurred the lines between the two functions. Has it then created a new problem of where does marketing end and sales begin?  Or, is it more the case that we just need to think of it differently?

For owners of small businesses who have neither worked in marketing or sales it can be difficult to get your head round what activities you need to be doing in each. I used to talk about the relationship as a continuum. For example, Apple as a business clearly invests massively and successfully in marketing – so much so that, when it comes to converting customers, there is little left for sales to do. By contrast, the typical window and door company will invest relatively little in marketing but put a high level of resource into a sales team. On the continuum Apple would have a long line of marketing activities, followed by a short burst of sales activity. The inverse would be true for the window and door company.

But this too is over-simplistic and doesn’t do justice to the important connection between marketing and sales at all points of the customer’s buying process. Nor does it fairly reflect how different businesses will divvy up marketing and sales resources. For example, in one business it might be the role of marketing to generate leads which they then hand over to sales. In another business sales might be responsible for generating their own leads.

So, coming back to the dilemma for owners of small businesses. I often get asked, ‘Should I be doing more marketing or should I ‘be out there selling’? The question is normally asked with a pleading look … ‘Please don’t say I have to be selling!’  Rather than agonising over which of the 2 functions to focus on I think an easier, more fluid way to work out where to spend your resources is to look at the sequence of activities that need to happen to create and convert leads for your particular business – your own perfect blend of marketing and sales. With a clear picture in view you can work out what you already have in place and can leverage and what’s missing. Spending more time creating leads when you already have an untapped warm list is madness. Likewise, constantly hounding ill-fitting leads because there are no others in the pipeline is bad for your reputation – and bad for business!

Keeping it simple, I think these broad categories capture the main blocks of marketing and sales activities. They help us to quickly work out – where are we strong and where are the gaps?

Whether we then decide to do all the marketing and sales activities ourself is a business model and skills fit decision but at least it will be based on our very own perfect-fit marketing-sales model.

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