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Sales and Marketing: Separated at Birth? Whether you believe it or not, one is nothing without the other, and here are four steps to merge them.

By Mark Stevens

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I hear this question a million times over, and I scratch my head in wonderment every time: "To achieve the growth we are targeting, do you think our company needs to focus on marketing or sales?"

The question perplexes me because it makes me wonder why so many otherwise smart businesspeople fail to see that marketing and sales are inexorably linked. You can't focus on one without the other; what's more, they must be tightly integrated and reinforced.

The question arises from the fact that most marketing people dislike salespeople. They don't understand selling and, even worse, have a disdain for it. They build "beautiful and creative" bridges to nowhere. They expend big budgets. They vie for the dubious honor of being named Agency of the Year. They compete to recruit hotshot creative directors. But increasing sales? That's not on their head-in-the-sand radar screens.

When I first cast the spotlight on this Madison Avenue version of the Wall Street credit default swap, the classic empty-suit ad men came down on me like a ton of bricks. They don't understand sales, they don't care about sales and they want to be free to engage in marketing without the accountability of achieving business growth.

That wastes time and money, and it leads businesspeople to believe that marketing doesn't work. And it doesn't when it's not designed to drive sales.

How can you successfully fuse sales and marketing in your business? Consider the following:

  1. Develop an overall marketing umbrella that establishes your brand and trumpets the value it provides.
  2. If your organization creates this umbrella, be sure you understand it and find the angle in it that you want to base your sales approach on.
  3. Make sure that all of the marketing tools and initiatives at your disposal or that you invest in are structured to capture customers. For example, if you have a website, what do you do to drive traffic to it? Most sites are forbidden planets hardly anyone visits. And once you drive traffic to your online destination, offer a reason for visitors to leave their e-mail addresses or other contact information. On my site, visitors sign up for my blog and they are part of our family for life.
  4. Contact every lead that arrives at your website, visits your stores or stops by your trade show booth. It amazes me how often companies of all sizes spend thousands of dollars to attend trade shows, collect fishbowls full of leads and then wait weeks to contact them--if they contact them at all.

Well-orchestrated trade show participation can and should be the perfect example of the power of marketing and sales acting as one. Companies managing trade show exhibition effectively:

  • Develop a message for the show in consultation with the salespeople as opposed to handing it to them after the fact.
  • Send salespeople, not marketing strategists, to attend the show, prepared to make sales on the spot.
  • Target every lead that is not sold at the show for immediate contact that week and for continuous follow up through to ultimate conversion.

Sales and marketing. Marketing and sales. Each needs the other. Each must reinforce the other. And always keep in mind IBM founder Tom Watson's truism: "Nothing happens until a sale is made."

Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.

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