Q: What's the difference between marketing and sales, and how can I integrate the two to build my business?
A: This is an important question, because a carefully crafted combination of sales and marketing is vital for successful business growth. "Selling" or making sales consists of interpersonal interaction-the one-on-one meetings, telephone calls and networking-that you engage in with prospects and customers. The term "marketing" encompasses programs businesses use to reach and persuade prospects, including advertising, public relations, direct mail and more. You'll often see the terms used incorrectly, such as when a business advertises for a marketing professional but is really looking for someone to make telephone calls, meet with prospects and close sales.
Did you know it takes approximately eight contacts or more with a single prospect before the average sale is closed? That's because prospects normally move through the sales cycle from cold to warm, and then finally hot-where they're ready to "close" and become clients or customers.
Imagine the prospects in your database moving through your sales cycle the way hands on a clock travel around the dial from noon to close at midnight. The coldest prospects are situated from 12 to about 3 on the dial. They may recognize your company name but know little or nothing more about you. Warm prospects are located in the middle of the dial-from 3 to about 8-they're familiar with your company and what it has to offer, but they're not ready to close. Your hottest prospects, who have come to you either by referral or moved through your sales cycle, are located between 8 and midnight-the point at which they'll become customers.
Throughout the sales cycle, it will take multiple contacts using both sales and marketing to move prospects to the next level. To build a successful business, you must develop a program that combines sales and marketing and reaches out to prospects in all three stages-cold, warm or hot-on an ongoing basis. Entrepreneurs often get into trouble by choosing only those tactics with which they're most comfortable. For example, someone who is inherently shy may forgo important sales tactics, such as networking, and rely solely on impersonal marketing programs. On the other hand, a more outgoing entrepreneur may spend countless hours making cold contacts at networking functions but fail to move prospects through the sales cycle due to lack of ongoing marketing support.
To avoid this trap, divide your prospect database into cold, warm and hot prospects. Then, impartially identify the best tactics for reaching and motivating each group. Sales tactics that help you reach out to cold prospects include networking, cold-calling and trade show participation, while cold marketing tactics are advertising, public relations, direct mail, seminars, special promotions and having a Web site. To reach warm prospects using sales tactics, your business may rely on follow-up calls, meetings, sales letters and literature, e-mail or more networking. To reach them through marketing tactics, select from advertising, PR and direct mail, plus electronic newsletters and broadcast faxes. Closing sales generally requires adding "personal heat," either one-on-one or on the telephone, whether it's to make a presentation or present a proposal, estimate or contract.
Rather than avoid vital tactics with which you're less comfortable, such as cold-calling or public relations, take the opportunity to brush up on your skills or bring in the proper talent by teaming or partnering, subcontracting, or hiring. Start by choosing two sales and two marketing tactics, and plot all the activities it will take to carry them out. The key is to be realistic and not go overboard. It's important to create a sales and marketing plan that includes a combination of tactics you can engage in year-round to support the growth of your business.