Sales and marketing now, a unified operation | Sunday Observer

Sales and marketing now, a unified operation

21 June, 2020

Marketing is the process of connecting and communicating with the customer at the initial stage of the buying process to make them aware of a product or a service. This process generates leads and produces prospects to the organisation.

On the other hand, selling is the process that proceeds further and manages the prospect through the subsequent stages until the sale is completed successfully. Changes in consumer behaviour that occurred recently due to the availability of the internet have caused the two processes to work flawlessly together to become more customer-centric.

Prior to the 1990s, the awareness of a product or service was communicated to customers through TV, newspaper, radio or magazines and outdoor advertising and promotions. The salesman was contacted to obtain further details. With the maturity of the internet, customers are no longer dependent on sales people to find details and use the internet first to find information.

The more pressing point is that customers can easily  make comparisons. Data derived from the internet can be less biased and more trustworthy to an average customer. Therefore, the vast majority of customers take decisions without the need to talk to salespeople. Especially when purchasing online, they do not ever talk to salespeople.

In this new era, marketeers have recognised that they are compelled to redefine their role. They are moving away from the traditional function of sales support and focus on engaging in primary selling mechanisms. New salesmen realise that their own role must be reformulated to suit the prevailing situation. If they do not work with the marketing section hand-in-hand, they would be disconnecting from the source of new customers.  

Sales and marketing functions were considered two separate skills until recently. Organisations recruited two sets of employees, mostly with separate managers to overlook the functions independently. In the new practical scenario, this will not be helpful any longer.  The solution is to organise the business structure with the sales and marketing functions as a unified operation and place it under one person responsible for sales and marketing. Many successful Sri Lankan marketing companies have already made this change.

However, whatever the title or designation the head of this operation holds, it is imperative that he or she understands the skills set of both functions. Thus, he will recognise that both functions are equally essential for business growth. The fact is that sales cannot bring in revenue without leads and marketing cannot create value without completing sales deals.  Nevertheless, another fact that remains and need to be  realised is that sales and marketing are separate functions and should not become blurred together. The interface between the two functions should be clearly defined and understood by the whole team.

Functions

In business, marketing is best placed to engage with the customer to create awareness and the sales team is considered best to engage the actual customer. Therefore, clarifying the functions of the two is vital for the organisation.

The task of marketing is primarily to provide information to create leads for the product or service. Unlike previously, today the ultimate goal is to provide contact information for the sales team to do the follow up. This is referred to as lead generation strategy. On the other hand, sales is responsible for pursuing actual customers and closing deals.

However, in a small or medium sized organisation with limited budgets, the sales team is expected to network, call or prospect to generate leads by themselves as there are a large number of prospective customers who still prefer to do purchasing in the real world. 

Although Sri Lankan organisations, particularly small and medium, are not yet adequately familiar with evolving sales and marketing methods, there has been an explosion in software and online tools to enhance efficiency.

There are software tools for appointment setting, video conferencing, webinars, desktop publishing and presentation to augment effectiveness. Among them, the most used program is customer relationship management (CRM) which contributes mostly to combine sales and marketing.

The basic function of these tools is to measure and manage step by step the stages of the sales process from lead generation to closure of a sale. Management of leads from the beginning presents a clear idea to marketing to ascertain the next step of the process. Marketing can penetrate the system to study how the sales team is progressing with each lead. This monitoring process helps them to improve the quality of leads in the future. 

Developing a lead generation campaign is an important task for any marketing organisation to maintain customer relationships. Through a campaign, the team can generate leads to be followed up by the sales team as unqualified leads.  Usually, lead generation models are developed in several stages. Content development is the first. Well developed content which speaks of customer needs or their issues may result in a series of positive communications that will identify potential solutions.

The next step is to slice and dice the content to suit the different channels of communication and distribute to customers online. For example: social media, webinar, email or online advertising content must be ideally suited to the effectiveness of each channel of the mix. Of the leads received, some of the prospects will want to know more. The team should offer more information to convert them. Finally, the leads received by marketing are transferred to the sales pipeline for follow up. At this stage, we may know only basic details such as names, e-mail address and sometimes the phone numbers.

New trend

The ultimate step of this process is to ascertain how to reward the teams. Traditionally, throughout history, only sales people were rewarded for performance through financial incentives and recognition. With the new trend, as marketing and sales teams work together, a new method should be devised to compensate the combined efforts. Companies adopt policies such as conventional cash commissions, annual incentives or bonus depending on the type of business. The internet has changed many things related not only to management, sales and marketing but also general day-to-day life.  Digital media has disrupted how information is created, distributed and used. Therefore, the role of a salesperson has altered greatly.  The sales role has become more consultative and less transactional. The need to be more data driven and tech savvy has become important. Therefore, the combination of sales and marketing has become compulsory to optimise and improve sales revenue.

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