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Waging war: marketing vs sales

Should marketing be less of a focus than sales or are they equally important to retail businesses? DALE FURTWENGLER discusses the relationship between the two and if a peace treaty can be made.

Over the years I’ve heard much commentary about the roles of marketing and sales within business. Popular sales writer Geoffrey James has written that marketing should be subordinate to sales instead of a separate function.

Obviously, marketing experts disagree. War is expensive; let’s see if we can put an end to this one.

The role of marketing

In many businesses, marketing’s role is to get the word out about the store, attracting new customers by creating front-of-mind awareness and a buzz for new offerings.

A firm strategy is required to ensure businesses see returns on their marketing expenditure.

However, often, businesses contribute their largest marketing investments – both in dollars and production capacity – towards their least profitable lines.

This raises some important questions when assessing the marketing strategy:

  • Are the right customers being targeted?
  • Are businesses touting the right offerings?
  • If they are doing both the above, how is it that retailers end up with so many low- margin customers and offerings?

Market research is another role that falls under the purview of marketing. Product innovations and improvements are often supported by, if not initiated through, research conducted by the marketing department or officer.

The question is: should this be marketing’s province exclusively?

The role of sales

The role of sales staff is, simplistically, to generate sales. Unfortunately, too many retailers operate from this very view, and, when asked, salespeople can rarely identify their ‘ideal’ customers, what those customers value and what that value is worth in monetary terms.

To make matters worse, the current models for sales commission encourage staff to relentlessly pursue customers and to do anything they can to make the sale.

This occurs whether the business’ marketing is targeting the right segments or not.

How can retailers stop this madness? Here are some thoughts.

The importance of cross-pollination
”When marketing and sales are both targeting the same highly profitable people and categories, a business will generate higher revenues more quickly and at premium prices."

In small businesses, like jewellery stores, staff often handle both marketing and sales – but it’s rare that someone analyses profitability by both customer and product line/service categories.

A caveat here – storeowners often calculate profit in ways that make it easy for them
to report financial results under external reporting requirements.

Marketing and sales people should make sure they are comfortable that profit numbers reflect the economics of the various markets they serve.

There are a few fundamentals to consider:

  • Why are some customers willing to pay more for an offering?
  • What do they see that other customers do not?
  • Are the marketing messages designed to attract more of these customers?
  • How can this information help salespeople focus their efforts toward this market?
  • How can staff make marketing messages and sales scripts more congruent to increase the likelihood of sales?
  • What opportunities are staff seeing in the market for innovation and/or product improvement?
  • Are these opportunities something for which buyers are willing to pay extra?
  • Which offerings are languishing? Should they be invigorated or abandoned?
Leverage relationships

Customers will always have stronger rapport with sales staff than with marketing staff, and sales staff have access to the shop floor to see first-hand how customers react to products.

They also get the opportunity to have more candid exchanges with customers than back- office staff. Therefore, their observations can be extremely valuable for improving the sales and marketing approach.

Customers are more likely to offer feedback to salespeople they like and to let them know when a competitor is about to release a product of value.

At the same time, salespeople are able to share trends that they see in their customers’ shopping preferences.

Salespeople should also be encouraged to share any language they’re using that helps close a sale or establish a relationship. Likewise, they should also be encouraged to share complaints they’ve received from customers.

All of this information can help shape a retailer’s marketing messages so that they resonate with their most profitable customers.

When marketing and sales are both targeting the same highly profitable people and categories, a business will generate higher revenues more quickly and at premium prices. Now, how’s that for a peace treaty?

Dale Furtwengler

Founder • Furtwengler & Associates

Dale Furtwengler is the founder of Furtwengler & Associates. Hs is a speaker, author and business consultant. Learn more:

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