Sales and marketing…. The source of one of the greatest debates ever known to man. Ask any sales rep, and they’ll be happy to make it all-too-clear that they are completely, 100 percent distinct from their marketing counterparts. And ask any marketer, and they’ll give you ‘the look’ if you even think about suggesting that there’s some sort of overlap between the two departments.
Of course, sales teams and marketing teams are indeed separate, but that doesn’t mean that there are no lessons to be learned from each other. So what pearls of wisdom can marketers share with sales reps to help them boost profits?
1. Fortify your sales process with a consistent marketing content
In order to sell your products, you need to generate brand awareness and increase engagement with your customers. One way to build a strong sales process is by taking advantage of the growing trend for cross-channel exposure. Cross-channel marketing is an essential technique for reaching different demographics (consider the age distribution for social media channels, for example), but while content may differ across channels to attract different ages, genders, financial status etc, the overall message must be consistent wherever it is.
This is a lesson that hasn’t truly reached sales teams quite yet. However, at a time when the digital transformation is happening, and more and more sales teams are introducing new ways to buy (such as e-commerce options, for example), cross channel sales is becoming increasingly apparent and the idea of consistency is becoming increasingly important. No matter how a buyer opts to buy — over the phone, in person, at a conference, directly online, through online third party options…. — the information they have access to must be consistent if they are to use this information to help them in making decisions during the buying process.
2. Sell partnerships instead of just selling products
Buyers want to buy. But they don’t want to be sold to. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. A common tactic in sales is to tell potential customers what to do. ‘Buy this product’. But this is something that we don’t really see happening in a marketing environment. Marketers don’t sit down with the product team and say ‘this here is your campaign, this is what we’re going to do’. No. Instead, they sit down with the product team and discuss the product, discuss the best ways to highlight the product’s features, and discuss what demographics will likely be attracted to it. This two-way relationship is important for success.
Market intelligence agency, The Aberdeen Group, has delved into this further, and has found that buyers don’t want a ‘vendor’ who sells to them. Buyers want partnerships, much more like the relationships we see within the marketing world. Interestingly, there is a growing trend for buyers not choosing companies based exclusively on the products or services on offer, but more on how this company can help them to achieve their goals. Think about what building relationships with buyers could do; you could help your buyers to solve problems, to learn more… this is one of the most effective ways to boost brand loyalty.
3. Do your homework and get to know your target buyer personas
Hats? Yeah. Scarves? Sure. But winter wear and sales approaches are two very, very different things. The classic saying ‘one size fits all’ may be relevant when it comes to accessories, but when it comes to sales, there’s unlikely to be a standard approach — a standard size — that will fit every demographic. And that’s OK! The problem is that while marketers acknowledge this and find ways to work around it (look at ‘his’ razors and ‘her’ razors, for example; same product, different packaging), sales teams can sometimes overlook the importance of tailoring their approach to meet the different preferences of their audience.
A really important lesson that sales teams can borrow from marketing teams is to conduct a target audience analysis… dipping a toe in and testing the waters before jumping in head first. Marketers often create ‘personas’; they generate what is essentially a group of imaginary friends, each exhibiting a different quality or characteristic of the potential audience pool. They then put themselves in the shoes of these personas, determining what each is looking for, and what will attract them to the product or brand. ‘Sell products’ isn’t an effective sales approach. ‘Sell products to the audience’ is much better.
4. Learn as much as you can about your products
Products are like people. They have their own unique characteristics and personalities which are a top priority for marketers. After all, that’s what makes the products stand out from similar offering from competitors. It is why highlighting these individual traits and showcasing them to the audience has always formed the overall basis for a good marketing campaign.
Sales reps need to know that an audience wants a product. Marketers need to know why an audience wants a product, and that means immersing themselves into what the brand is offering. Marketers will use a product themselves, they’ll learn about every single feature and function to create in-depth tutorials for their customers, and they’ll usually be heavily involved in product updates to keep on top of the changes. Sales reps are usually a little more detached than this, but they should be more involved.
Sales reps (at least the good ones) usually understand the importance of knowing their products. However, there is a difference between ‘knowing’ the products, and ‘knowing’ the products; viewing them and understanding them on a deeper level. This really is key to resonating with customers. When you understand more about what makes the product ‘the product’, it becomes easier to engage with audiences. Why? Because there is a significant shift between telling the buyer what the product is and what it does and showing the buyer how this particular product can solve their individual problem.
Know It? Share It
Knowledge sharing is fast becoming one of the most essential aspects impacting business success. At a time when many businesses are really starting to see the benefits of improving internal communications between teams, providing the time and space needed to spark healthy debate, and encouraging better business connections, there has never been a better time to look at what lessons you could learn from those around you. And don’t worry — It’s not just marketers that have ideas worth sharing. There’s plenty that marketing teams could learn from sales teams, too…. But that’s a topic for another day.