Sales and marketing have been the pillars of the financial world for many decades now
Rajni completed her MBA six months back and is currently looking for a job. The question which haunts every business graduate while looking for their first desk job is: sales or marketing?
Being an MBA graduate, Rajni is well aware of the theoretical aspects of both fields. She knows how sales and marketing departments create the very essence of every successful modern-day business. Her problem is, which one is better? Sales or marketing?
The question is intriguing and has been answered by many to some extent. Like many, Rajni tried to find an answer online. But merely knowing sales and marketing theoretically doesn't solve the problem. How does one account for factors such as aptitude, growth, and forecasting? After all, any business decision is a summation of all factors.
The perennial rivals of the business world, sales and marketing together form the core which dictates the strategy formulated of any small or big company. A constant debate in the business world rages over the relative importance and segregation of sales and marketing.
While the lines of distinction between smaller companies remain blurred, sales and marketing work as separate functional departments in every major corporation in the world. The importance of these departments is self-evident, considering they are solely responsible for accomplishing any business’s primary task: making profits.
Additionally, another factor to take into account is the historic divide between these two departments which simmers to this day. Differences between sales and marketing teams are routine in every major corporation. Finance officers at companies spend a copious amount of time getting sales and marketing team on the same page.
Sales and Marketing: Historical divide
The knives have been out for a long time.
Before management became a field of study and business studies was barely on its first leg, sales was the undisputed king. Though it was never considered a trait, customers have always appreciated a good salesman. At its peak, sales were the lifeblood of any global conglomerate. No matter what the product was, good or bad, the sales team ability to sell made them indispensable to the company.
The history of sales goes back to the 1800s when snake-oil sellers became the world’s most popular salesman. For the uninitiated, snake-oil at the time was considered a healing lotion with magical powers. The impact of snake-oil salesmen is discussed to this very day. At its peak, every household in Europe wanted a vile of snake-oil.
Marketing didn’t exist at the time, but if it did, snake-oil would have been in circulation for a very long time. This is where sales and marketing come to diverge.
The sales process, in essence, has always been about the interaction between a sales representative and a customer. It is fair to say that customer attitude and behavior has changed over time, but that has merely changed the dynamics of the conversation.
Sales and Marketing have been at loggerheads over supremacy for a long time now
Marketing, on the other hand, began with the advent of newspaper advertising. When initially introduced, advertising was merely a tool to boost sales and not overhaul the importance of sales itself. Marketing was considered a narrow field with the focus mostly on customer and brand awareness.
As industries grew and markets began to organize into target zones and target consumers, marketing expanded to become a field based on the study of consumerism and trends. While old-school sales were based purely on customers and the art of selling, the rise of marketing began to dictate the flow of sales.
Rather than trying to sell blindly to any customer, sales teams were directed to target consumers identified by marketers who analyzed buying patterns of different demographics of people. This focuses approach drove sales through the roof and ushered the dominance of marketing for decades to come.
Nevertheless, the cooperation of sales and marketing departments is crucial for a company’s growth.
Sales: A wholesome analysis
Let’s begin with a story.
In 1966, a wife left her husband and her two-year-old son. While leaving, she didn’t forget to take the rent money and the only car her husband owned. Within two days, the man and his son were evicted and left homeless. The man was only 22 years old then.
In 1980, the same man started a hair products company with his colleague by taking a loan of $700 whilst he resided in 20-year-old shanty automobile. The company was called John Paul Mitchell Systems. The man in question was John Paul DeJoria.
John Paul DeJoria currently resides in $50m mansion in Malibu with a total net worth of nearly $3.1 billion. Cynics might point out success stories are one in a million, but cynics have no place in sales.
Who should join sales?
As mentioned before cynics have no place in the sales department. This point then begs the question, who should join the sales department? What are the ideal personality traits of a person in a sales department?
The movies might have shown successful salespeople being arrogant and condescending, but while dealing with actual customers, humility is an indispensable asset. Customers are quick to sense derision from sales representatives.
There is a good old saying in regards to sales saying, ‘The customer is always right’. This saying holds true to this very day. Modesty is one of the strongest assets a salesman has in his locker.
Being modest during a sales call or meeting essentially does two things. First, it makes the customer the focal point of the argument. The customer’s opinions and thoughts gain higher ground over any miniscule thought a salesman might have. Second, it gives the salesman a bird’s eye view into the customer’s mind. By detaching himself from the conversation, the salesman can analyze the psyche of the customer he is dealing with. This would not have been possible if the salesman was more concerned about himself and his target.
A large proportion of top sales executives exhibit traits of diligence and conscientiousness.
This trait essentially translates to success in any field in life. Rather than being left at the mercy of customers, top sales executives are meticulous while handling their targets and make sure they’re always ahead of the curve.
They manage to do this by being vigilant to the needs of the customer. Good sales executives can spot a trend coming much before others can notice and establish a sales strategy. These are the upsides for any salesman who is diligent in his duty.
A salesman without ambition is equivalent to a soldier without courage.
Ambition is the fuel which drives any professional higher in the socio-economic ladder. As a sales executive, a person who remains stuck on fixed targets and doesn’t try to achieve more falls below the ladder. At the same time, a person fueled by the desire to achieve more and more will always succeed and climb higher and higher.
People often mistake ambition for headless selfishness and they are partially right. However, success is in the market is driven by greed and pride. As the saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’
A salesman should be curious about everything. From customer demands and problems to product trends and market changes, every change in the world’s dynamic should make a salesman curious.
Many successful companies ask for advice about new products from the salesman of their enterprise. As foot soldiers of the company, salespeople are best qualified to gauge the pulse of the general public. Thus, every salesman should try and imbibe the willingness to learn about the nuances of customer behavior and its impact on the market.
- Avoid being too friendly
This trait might seem a bit cynical, but understanding this point can make a big difference in a salesman’s career.
As mentioned above, cynics have no place in sales, but being too extroverted isn’t much help either. Typical salespeople tend to be reserved and methodical in their approach. This does seem a far cry from the usual salesman who seems extremely responsive during a sales call. However, in professional life, reserved behavior is given more credence amongst sales managers.
- Emotionally strong
Studies showed less than 10% of top sales executives were discouraged and disillusioned with their life. This statistic brings us to another noticeable trait amongst salesmen: emotional strength.
People who can handle rejection and defeat tend to succeed more than professionals who pine long over emotional distress and problems. A significant number of successful salespeople were found to play sports during their formative years. Competing builds character and brings emotional discipline in a person. For those who can’t handle their emotional problems, a career in sales isn’t ideal.
The golden rules of sales
Average package in sales over the years
As mentioned earlier, sales have for long been based on the interaction between sales representatives and customers. Considering this fixed factor, many great sales executives formulated some unsaid rules every salesman should know. Taking cue from those professionals, a golden set of rules has been listed below which every sales management team should ingratiate into their working methodology.
- Knowledge of product
While salespeople earlier considered customers ‘blank slates’ when it came to sale pitches, the scenario has changed drastically now. Consumers are much more aware of products and their specifications. Consequently, as the customer becomes more knowledgeable, the onus is on the salesman to know miniscule detail about his company's product.
Customers always appreciate a salesman who can talk eloquently as well as provide technical specifications of a product. As customers continue to become more and more aware, salespeople have to be smart enough to be one or two steps ahead.
- Treat each customer with endless patience
As mentioned before, modesty goes a long way in making a successful sales pitch.
Customers are generally very quick to sense any whiff of derision or condescension. Even if you do manage to force the customer too but the product, he/she won’t consider buying from you in the future. A salesman who is patient enough to understand the grievance of his customer will have a greater chance of landing a permanent customer. Sales aren't just about closing deals but building everlasting relationships with customers.
- Build trust with customers
Salespeople are often considered self-serving and greedy. Lending more weight to this cliché is not only misguided but equivalent to putting a blot on the profession itself.
Sales representatives should never lie to customers about the quality of the product or its functionality. If making short-term gains is the plan, lying to customers may prove beneficial. However, in the long run, being dishonest and unforthcoming with customers can become a recipe for disaster. Companies who get maligned once have virtually no chance of gaining back the customer’s trust. This fact can be verified by what happened to the Ratners group, a British Jewelry company.
During a speech made by the Ratners Group CEO Gerald Ratner in 1991, he slammed his company’s products saying they simply were not up to the mark. This highlighted the factitiousness of the company itself who sold the same products to customers claiming them to be of top quality. Customers unequivocally deserted Ratner's stores and the company simply could not recover from the PR nightmare.
One common law in every sales pitch is that the ball is always in the customer’s court. One can practically never predict which way the customer is going to swing. To be prepared for all scenarios, it is always advised to project a positive and favorable personality. At times when the product a salesman is selling can be a pure luxury item.
In such a case, the salesman’s ability to project a likable personality goes a long way in ensuring the sale of the product. Convincing a customer to buy a product they might not need otherwise is purely down to the personality traits of a salesman. Projecting affability and confidence is a huge part of being a top-draw salesman.
- Consumer knowledge like oxygen
The form of selling products might still be the same, but adapting to the dynamic mind of a customer is a skill in its own right. In essence, every sales pitch can be successful if a salesman is smart enough to gauge the psyche of the customer.
This can be done by allowing the customer to gain control of the conversation. This makes them the focal point of the interaction while you can slowly gauge how the customer can be successfully convinced. Having such control over customers requires an incredible amount of knowledge and understanding of how people tend to behave. Every successful sales executive knows these ways of tapping into the customer’s mind unconsciously.
Marketing: The other force behind sales
Consider a very strong team with a balanced batting and bowling attack but a weak captain against a team less talented than its counterparts but having a very strong captain. Who will win? Pakistan’s win in the Cricket World Cup back in 1992 supports the latter argument.
Now consider a team with a strong team and a strong captain. One will argue this team will win everything. Australia is a prime example who won three World Cups from 1999 to 2007.
These examples show that a strong leader with a strong team succeeds for a longer period of time. A team with a strong leader but a weak team succeeds sometimes and a team with no leadership cannot succeed even with a strong team.
Sales and Marketing have always followed a similar trajectory. War needs both warriors and strategists. While salespeople assume the role of warriors, strategists are best embodied by marketers.
In purist terms, marketing is the study of every aspect of a market to maximize the revenue of a company. Any marketers aim is the same as that of a salesman, to make money for the company. The difference between these two lies in the approach towards this goal.
Who should go for marketing?
Having an inner aptitude for marketing can go a long in deciding success or failure in the given field. As is the case for any walk of life, being naturally qualified for working in a certain profession can provide a serious boost to your career prospects.
Here are a few attributes which make a quintessential marketing management professional.
- Being a skilled communicator
Marketing is a field predicated on making sure the company sends the right message through various operating channels. Thus, it is only natural to assume every marketer should be a skilled communicator.
Usually, in big companies, the possibility of a message getting distorted down the chain of command is very high. The presence of top notch marketers ensures everyone is on the same page. Besides interaction within the team, a great part of being a great communicator is being able to incorporate other teams into the fold.
Salary of marketing professionals relative to their work experience
For instance, cooperation between the manufacturing team and marketing department ensures production of products which meet consumer demands. At the same time, communication between sales and marketing team is also crucial as the former is aware of the ground reality of the market. This type of interdepartmental cooperation forms the very basis of every successful business company.
- Being analytically adept
A crucial job of a marketing professional is being able to analyze any trend or behavior under the sun.
The job of a marketer dictates studying trends and figures to forecast future sales, identifying marketing channels and target consumers, laying out groundwork for advertising campaigns and designing a cogent strategy to dominate the industry.
To serve all these purposes, a marketer needs to be good at analyzing data, trends and other indicators.
- Being creative
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties – Erich Fromm
In today’s marketplace, it is a dog eat dog world. There are competitors in every field trying to outdo each other in every aspect. This race to the top is decided by one particular aspect: marketing.
If a product is marketed well and maintains a spotless image, it will usually beat its competition even if the product is inferior. For e.g. Google Chrome is arguably is very unsafe compared to Mozilla Firefox, but the brand image of Google make the former seem insurmountable.
The role of creativity and guile while building a brand image is essential. Beating a competitor using creative genius eases the load on the manufacturing and R&D departments to come up with something unique. Many major corporations in the world survived longer than they should have due to the creativity of marketing professionals.
- Being a team player
Working in big companies usually involves working with a team of professionals. The benefits of working in a team are numerous. As mentioned before, marketing has to incorporate a strong sense of creativity to its methodology. The best way to inculcate a culture of creativeness is by building teams of professionals. By listening to other marketing ideas and forming their own, employees are able to test their mettle in a brainstorming exercise.
This is the reason why most top marketing professionals are extremely good team players. Not only does a marketer need to understand how a team works, he/she has to know when the team is going collectively wrong.
- Time management
Though this may be a habit and not a trait, time management is crucial for any marketer. Besides making schedules and reaching targets, time management is essential to create a sense of urgency and purpose which is vital for a marketing department.
Unlike other departments, marketing is based purely on building long-term customers and identifying key strategic maneuvers to propel the company. In a robust job such as marketing, time has to be given due diligence, especially with rise of fields like digital media and internet marketing.
The golden rules of marketing
Unlike sales, marketing has to evolve constantly to adapt to varying trends in the market and changes in consumer behavior. However, there are certain key pillars of marketing which remain the same and are universally accepted by all successful marketers.
- Identifying and highlighting uniqueness
In every major field of business today, there is incessant competition for domination and control. In such an environment, it becomes necessary for every marketing team to find and project the unique aspects of the product their company is offering. Distinction is everything in the cutthroat world of marketing. Every marketing team understands this and always tries to project this aspect of the product and the company.
- Consistency in everything
A company like a family should always project a united front at any given time. Once the marketing team identifies the special aspect of their product, it is important to project this message across all channels using every resource at the company’s disposal. At times one might be tempted to use old messages which worked in the past, but this sends a mixed signal to the consumers and the market in general.
- Messaging should be sharp and concise
If the target audience of a company is a general consumer, it is of vital importance that the message relayed by the marketing team is clear and not too difficult to understand. The last thing a company wants is their core consumers to be confused and befuddled by the message the former is trying to project.
This is avoided by using simple and catchy messages across the board. If the messaging is proper and present across all channels, the company stands a great chance of winning new customers which is crucial for growth. This plays a huge role in messaging across digital media through online marketing.
- Brand Image
As mentioned before, the fall of the Ratners Group serves as a lesson for every marketing team in the world: PR is everything. One callous answer here and another misguided comment there can launch any products based company into a tailspin.
However, unlike the Ratners Group in 1991 when marketing teams didn’t know how to handle PR nightmares, companies now are much more adept and proactive in maintaining their brand image in the market. Whether this means hiring celebrities to promote their product or promoting social causes, brands are built layer by layer over a long period of time.
Whether it’s B2C or B2B marketing, branding of a company is essential for its growth.
- Head in the sky and feet on the ground
Success is often deemed by some experts as being more dangerous than failure. This is because companies allow success to get into their heads at times. While being proud success is acceptable, being callous while planning for the future is just as bad. Marketing teams should always act as a tool of sobriety and vision for a company during times of success and failure.
Since the responsibility of a marketing team is to always build long-term networks for future growth, it is imperative for every marketer to remain thoughtful about the future of the company.
Difference between sales and marketing: A comparison
Sales and marketing form the bedrock of every success a company might have. Though the goals of both departments are primarily the same, they tend to diverge on an operational basis. An in-depth analysis of both fields has been mentioned below illustrating the difference between sales and marketing.
Salespeople from all types of education hierarchies. Graduates from business fields are usually preferred
Top companies usually hire only MBA graduates for marketing
Field Sales Executive Rs. 2,05,067
Marketing Manager – Rs. 6,42,672
Sales reps can’t be taught how to sell. It is something they simply do. As is often said amongst sales people, ‘We simply make things happen’
Technical knowledge of subjects such as Web Design and Analytics, Advertising and PPC, CRM, Statistics, Automation and Reporting
Customers and only customers
Customers, investors and potential endorsers
Mode of communication
Single channel dialogue with customers
Use of multiple channels to reach consumers
Salespeople are more tactical in their approach. As they deal with individual customers or a group of customers of a similar demographic, sales reps use different tactics to appease different types of people
Marketing teams have to come up with a long term marketing strategy to appease a major portion of the audience. The aim of a marketing team is to build and maintain brand image rather than selling products to individual customers
Sales have only one perspective: appeasing customers. This single-minded approach is beneficial to the company in the end as even a marketing blunder can be overcome by a steadfast sales team
Marketing deals with a number of aspects. The first priority is building a cogent name for the company in the market. The second is identifying channels to gain new customers. The third is building a healthy public relations programme with the general population
Sales vs Marketing – The need for cooperation
As two of the most important departments in any company, the relationship between sales and marketing need to be in synergy for any company to maintain dominance in a given sector.
For every financial officer of a company, a better part of his/her day goes by in getting the sales and marketing team on the same page. This difference between sales and marketing teams is due to their mutual existence in a similar sector.
While sales reps view the market and products from the eyes of the customers, marketers look at trends and cold stats to gauge which way the market is swinging. This difference in perspective is the primary reason behind divisions between sales and marketing teams. The only way these divisions can be overcome is if both departments understand each others’ importance.
For e.g. before the advent of marketing, salespeople had to traverse across every home in the city to find takers for their products. This exercise was arduous in every sense of the word. To remove this problem, marketing teams identified specific demographics and areas where selling products were much easier. This eased the pressure on salespeople.
At the same time, marketing people also need a taste of what it is like for sales reps on the ground. Trends and charts can only tell an analyst so much. Feeling the mood on the ground can give a marketer a fresh perspective for building the company’s brand and further its standing amongst customers.
Thus positive relationship between sales and marketing teams is a vital trait of every successful company.