Marketing and Sales: What You Need To Grow

[Note: The following content was originally published by the author in the 8/15/2015 edition of the Portsmouth Herald. It is part of a bimonthly column series that will appear in that paper. http://bit.ly/1uBW5KL will link you to the original article. – AEG]

Whether you’re an entrepreneur working on the “next big thing”, a retailer or restaurateur trying to compete in a crowded market, or the newly appointed CEO of a $30 million business, your company isn’t going to go anywhere unless you know how to find prospects and turn them into customers. While some business people take the “Field of Dreams” approach (“build it and they will come…”) most at least intuitively know that a more proactive model makes a lot more sense. And that proactive approach requires the application of both marketing and sales to grow the business.

While the specifics of how marketing and sales get applied depends greatly on the type of business (i.e. business to consumer, business to business, technology, services, retail, etc.), the core principle remain constant: marketing and sales are the tools—and means—by which potential business is identified and converted to real business. Sounds simple, right? But it takes more than a brochure or a flyer and a few phone calls for follow up to get the job done. What’s also required is a roadmap, a plan. Not a P-L-A-N, just a plan. It doesn’t need to be fancy, or for that matter very long. It just needs to map out what your business objectives are, who your target audience is, where to find them and how to reach them. You’ve just taken your first step into marketing! There’s certainly a lot more that can—and should—go into your plan, but just taking the first step of thinking about those key points will point you in the right direction.

Once you know who you want to reach, the work effort turns to determining what you want to say and how you want to deliver that message. Here’s where strategy and planning meets execution. Depending on your business type, you may use advertising, social media, PR, coupons, flyers, brochures, videos, demos, even a blimp with flashing lights to tell the world about how awesome you are. It’s critical, though, to know what your message is: it may be a specialized talent, the ability to do what you do at a very low cost, that little extra something that costs a bit more but is worth it. Or, you may tout convenience, variety, functionality, value, security. Whatever your story, get it down and get it out there! A good marketer works to get the right message to the right prospect at the right time, and in the right way—using the right tools.

Sales is a lot more than a pleasant “can I help you find something?” or pounding away on the phone trying to get someone to say “yes.” The sales process, like marketing, will vary greatly depending on the type of business, but again there are common threads: a successful sales person needs to understand your marketing message, have the ability to deliver it, and equally important, when to deliver the story. Good salesmanship is about reinforcing the prospect’s wants and needs, and demonstrating that your products or services can fulfill those. Really successful sales teams will tell a prospect when what they’ve got won’t meet their requirements! A forced fit always comes back to bite you—financially as well as by damaging the business’s reputation.

These days sales teams have to address an extra challenge: prospects are much more informed than they used to be. Sometimes called “the social buyer” by analysts and pundits, these consumers (B2B or B2C doesn’t matter) research (thank you Google), review, ask others and then go off to find possible vendors. The implication for a sales team is that they need to be knowledgeable, sincere, and factual; unless they’ve specifically asked to be educated (which does happen), a prospect doesn’t want a salesperson to assume they’re completely ignorant. When all is said and done, though, people buy from people, and particularly from people they like. There’s no substitute for being informed, sincere and supportive while you gently take your prospect down the sales process to a closed deal.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here: the trip started with knowing your business, your potential customers and their needs. From there we crossed over from planning to doing, and from telling the story to making sure that story is consistent all the way to a closed deal. While the pathways will be different depending on your business, understanding and leveraging the fundamentals of marketing and sales will be the keys to potential success. How you execute those fundamentals gets you from potential to realized growth. We’ll explore that as we go along.