Every month the Discover Small Business Watch Index tracks economic confidence of small business owners throughout the country. According to the latest numbers, if the overall economy is improving in 2011, small business owners aren’t feeling it. Their outlook on the direction of the economy and the climate for their particular businesses has been in decline since January, and more than half of them have rated the economy as poor for 19 consecutive months. The monthly barometer of economic confidence dropped to 86.5 in March, down from 90.2 in February.
This report reinforces what those of us in business already know; that one of the biggest challenges we continue to face is the need to increase sales while, at the same time, decrease costs. But how do we effectively tap in to new revenue streams without investing in the process? The answer lies in two seemingly similar yet distinct business development functions, marketing and sales.
Marketing, at times, seems so inextricably bound to sales that they are often considered to be one and the same, when in fact, they are quite different.
As many small business owners would concur, these two disciplines are often times lumped together for financial reasons. Many companies simply do not have the resources or operating budgets to carry a marketing department and a separate sales department, and that’s okay.
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But as companies change and grow they find that so too do their needs. Lines get drawn and distinctions are made between roles in an effort to maximize efficiency. Responsibilities shift to make way for a more specialized approach in order to meet those changing needs.
In addition, many companies justify the combining of both the marketing and sales departments because in the end, both are viewed as “revenue-generating” activities and this is absolutely true. Both marketing and sales will generate revenue. The difference is in the approach. Regardless of where your company is in the sales and marketing evolutionary process, understanding these key differences will help you to both market and sell more effectively.
Sales takes a very direct approach to generating revenue. The single most important element in the sales process is the relationship between the company or salesperson and the prospect or client, and the single most important component of any relationship is communication. The important thing to remember is that communication involves listening as well as speaking. In sales, listening is often times more important than speaking because it allows us to truly understand our client’s needs, thereby increasing the likelihood of meeting that need with the right product or service. But what if we didn’t have the right product or service? Here comes marketing to the rescue.
Marketing differs from sales in that it takes a more indirect approach to generating revenue. Think of marketing as the “assist” in an NBA game. Someone in sales may make the basket, but it’s the set up from the marketing department, the perfect pass, that makes the basket possible.
Marketers also focus on building relationships, and communication remains the single most important component of the relationship, but when marketing departments communicate they do it on a much larger scale. Like effective salespeople, marketers listen, but they listen to the market itself. They identify trends and casualties, changes and patterns. They analyze what the market is doing and what the market will do and they develop strategies to meet the changes in the market. Marketing departments maintain their company’s relevance in the market and ensure that their sales force has the right products or services to sell. When a marketing department speaks, it speaks to the world via product placement, brochures and advertising campaigns. It communicates what your company is all about and why you even exist in the first place.
It promotes the brand and creates the image which draws potential buyers to the company thereby assisting sales and generating revenue.
In an article by Mark Smock of the Business Buyer Directory, he states, “Typically ‘sales’ cannot exceed revenue objectives without an effective marketing plan and support, and “marketing” directives ultimately become useless without sales to implement the plan.”
Whether you’re on your own, have a combined marketing and sales department, or two separate departments handling each role respectively, understanding the difference between sales and marketing will help you generate revenue more effectively.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter who makes the basket or who provided the assist. The most important thing is that the team wins.
Manny García-Tuñón, executive vice president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.