No man is an island’ - why sales & marketing depend on each other

Salespeople like to think of ourselves as independent – free spirits roaming the highways in search of our next conquest, resilient to the slings and arrows of outrageous rejections. We don’t need anyone, but everyone needs us.

Really? Ridiculous and yet I have seen and heard such arrogance from salespeople I have dealt with. ‘No man is an island,’ as John Donne said in 1624. He went on to say that ‘every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’, meaning that we are far from being loners and we are dependent on many others. This is as true for sales and marketing as it is in most walks of life.

How does marketing support sales?

For salespeople, our customers need to have found out about us in the first place, and this is where our partners in the marketing department play an essential role. Raising awareness in an overcrowded market is of fundamental importance, and nurturing this awareness and turning it into desire is imperative to business success.

I still fundamentally believe that advertising is an essential cost of production in order to let your prospects learn that you have a new product or service to sell. With no marketing budget, how are you going to tell prospects that the product exists?

I say ‘advertising’ but this is to over simplify the myriad of routes to your prospect’s awareness. Good marketers know what prospects look like, where they hang out at both work and play and which messages are likely to appeal to them. Most salespeople do not.

This marketing investment is designed to raise awareness and then to get an idea of the relevance of the product (or service) in meeting your customer’s needs. This may take months of effort using a multitude of routes and many variations of message before hopefully, something resonates. Only if some of this effort, knowledge and a variety of messages work will the phone start to ring.

How does sales support marketing?

Marketing efforts are imperative in the first stage of the sales pipeline and will begin to build brand awareness with your target audience. Then, your telesales team can begin to develop a rapport. The key aim is to get a greater understanding of the prospect’s needs and see if we can help them.

One of the key questions to be asked at this stage is ‘How did you hear about us?’ This information provides the marketing team with feedback to channels that are working.

Learning about effective messages and routes to market is essential as good companies learn what works and get amend their strategies accordingly. Modern marketing methods may already reveal some of these answers electronically, but the qualitative data provided through talking with your audience provides information about what emotionally resonated with your consumers.

Once your salespeople progress to face-to-face meetings, there are further benefits for both departments to capitalise on. Your sales team must identify opportunities through questioning and listening, using their soft skills, technical product knowledge and the process of taking the customer to the point of making a positive decision.

As with marketing, this process might take many meetings in a variety of formats before a decision is finally taken. Either party (not just the prospect) might call off the process if they feel that they are not right for one another.

What benefits do the marketing team get out of a sale?

Through face-to-face meetings, your sales team can listen to feedback and go deep on some of their questions to that they can understand things like competitor activity, product deficiencies, promotional opportunities and get their perceptions on the relevance on the product. This market research can be fed back to your marketing department and incorporated into new product development.

If sales and marketing see themselves as distinct ‘islands’ rather than part of the same continent, a high level of disjoint will ensue, meaning that funds will be wasted in both disciplines and customer feedback will be missed. A great way to solve this is to encourage accompaniments and even temporary job placements between the departments so that each discipline can ‘walk a mile’ in the other’s shoes. Common communication systems like CRMs will also help, but a shared set of values with the customer at the core is the best way to realise common goals for both sales and marketing.

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