Different companies interpret “sales” and “marketing” in widely varying ways, assigning different roles and responsibilities to the people who manage those functions. Understanding the different concepts applied to sales and marketing departments will help you understand and prepare for the jobs you might take in these areas at different companies.
Classic Marketing Wags the Dog
In the most formal interpretations of sales and marketing, marketing is the most important component of the equation, with the product mix, or “Four Ps,” the key driver of the department. These refer to product development, pricing, place of sale and promotion. This means the sales and marketing team’s role has a heavy emphasis on market research, customer profile determination, product development, distribution strategies and brand management. After the sales and marketing team develops these elements, it creates marketing communications, such as advertising, public relations, social media and promotions, to support them. Sales staff members then sell using a brand message created during the marketing development phase.
Layperson’s Marketing Reverses the Role
At smaller companies, once the owner or top managers decide what the company will sell, the sales and marketing team focuses on advertising, PR, rebates, discounts and other marketing techniques to help sell product. In this type of scenario, the sales manager is often the main person heading the sales and marketing department, with “marketing” referring to advertising, promotions and PR.
Some sales organizations, often in business-to-business companies, use a consultative approach to selling. This requires a salesperson to learn about a potential client’s business so the sales rep becomes a consultant. The sales rep helps the customer increase his sales, cut costs or improve quality using the product he is selling. The salesperson uses his knowledge of the client’s business to teach him how to use the product to the best effect. This can include offering free training, on-site visits to make sure the customer is using the product correctly and ongoing customer support. Consultative selling assumes the buyer doesn’t know exactly how to use the product and needs to be taught to see the value.
Smiling and Dialing
A common responsibility of a sales and marketing team selling a simple product or service is to make a high quantity of calls to generate sales. This often happens when the product is simple and doesn’t require education on the part of the buyer. The more competition, the more likely discounts will sway a buyer, so sales and marketing teams of this sort create a sales-oriented approach, offering discounts, buy-one-get-one-free promotions and other enticements.
Sales managers are responsible for setting sales goals and sales rep quotas. They use historical data, customer surveys and industry reports to project demand. Sales managers at smaller, sales-oriented companies often help develop brochures, website pages, catalogs and other materials. They might offer input on pricing and distribution strategies at any size company based on their knowledge of the customer base.