Marketing versus Sales: What is the Difference?
I’d like to thank my co-authors, ACE members Tom Morgan, of Breakthrough Sales Solutions LLC and Bob LaBrie, of LaBrie Training and Consulting, for their contributions to this post.
Marketing is company-focused; it communicates your brand identity and message. Sales is customer-focused; when you approach a potential customer you need to convince the customer that his, her or its need can be filled by your unique value proposition.
Marketing provides critical support for your sales team. Through marketing you promote who you are, make it easy for customers to find you, and measure your reach. Your brand, your message, your website content, and your newsletter are all opportunities to communicate your brand personality, and all of them must appeal to your target audience.
Your success is not measured in dollars, but in reaction. As you’ve discovered, in the digital world you can measure your audience response down to the click. You can determine whether a marketing campaign or initiative makes an impression. How many people enter their email address into the pop-up page when they look you up on the web? How many later unsubscribe from your email?
One way or other sales are measured in revenue, or revenue opportunities. A sales process is critical to the success of any organization and always starts with the customer need. To improve your revenues your sales team must understand that need and demonstrate how your product or service can fill it.
A typical sales process will involve these steps:
- 1. Prospecting for and identifying potential clients
- 2. Discovering the prospect’s needs
- 3. Offering solutions
- 4. Proposing terms and asking for the sale
- 5. Negotiating and addressing final objections
- 6. Agreeing on terms and plan for the service
Your marketing research and efforts should be directed toward identifying potential clients. A successful marketing campaign will allow you to identify and qualify specific clients or groups of clients to contact for a meeting.
In the meeting, your objective is to understand the client’s true needs. The most successful salespeople understand that thorough discovery is well worth their time. They ask questions regarding need, timing, and budget. We recommend preparing questions ahead of time that will allow you to understand the client’s “pain points” and goals, also known as pleasure points. Once you fully understand the pain and/or goal, you can propose solutions to remove it (pain) or achieve it (goal) in terms that resonate with the client.
A successful discovery process allows you tailor your proposal to your client’s specific need, and lets the client know that you have a genuine interest in providing a solution. Take care to express your scope of work clearly. Your client should have no difficulty understanding what you will do, and what it will cost. At this point what you have to offer should be well-established and sets the stage for another meeting with the client to review the proposal, reach final terms, and close the sale.
In this meeting you will almost certainly hear objections. Often the objection is because the client misunderstood. Don’t freeze! Instead, ask a few simple open-ended questions to get the client to explain the misunderstanding.
Why open-ended? Because you want the client to open up and tell you what is bothering them. A simple “Can you tell more about what you do not like?” should help you understand what you need to know to overcome the objection. Make sure you answer the client’s concern, first by restating the concern, and then by reframing your explanation of how your product or service can solve their problem.
The final step in the process is to insure you have agreement on scope of work and payment terms.
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We participated in a panel discussion for ACE on October 15, 2021. The question-and-answer period was particularly lively, so we thought we would take the opportunity to present a few of the key questions and answers here. We will add a link to the video once it is available.
Q. Do solo professionals have to sell? I have past sales experience, but as a professional I have trouble selling myself.
LaBrie: Everyone needs to sell, but it might help you think of selling as persuasion. Any time you persuade someone to do something that he hasn’t thought of before, you sell a new idea.
Morgan: Selling is fun when you believe in what you are selling and in yourself. We spend too much time talking about “the close” when selling is really a process of finding out what the client needs and catering to the need.
LaBrie: You need to believe in yourself, and to be able to explain what people get from working with you. A professional should always bring integrity and expertise to the table. You need to convey empathy and build trust.
Q. What do you do when the client’s objection is funding?
Morgan: This is something you need to address early in discovery. For most clients funding is never enough, but they still have a problem to solve. If this is the case it might make sense to move out your time line and learn more about when the client’s financial constraints might ease.
When a client passes on a proposal they are not necessarily gone forever because they still have a need. When I send a proposal, I assume that I am sending it to a client. If a client passes, do not assume they are gone forever. Stay in contact. Send meaningful articles, congratulatory notes, and other “on purpose communications.” Keep the door open.
Renehan: You should also make sure that the client understands the impact of your services on its bottom line. My trade association collects data on improved employee retention and productivity resulting from well-honed leadership skills. In that case the question isn’t whether they can afford to hire you, but whether they can afford not to.
LaBrie: Understand the difference between an objection and a condition. Funding is usually an objection and is there to be solved. A condition, on the other hand, can’t be eliminated. So, for example, an NBA player will never fit into a Toyota Yaris, and there is no point trying to sell him the car. Discovery will help you determine whether you have an objection or a condition and how to proceed from that point.
Q. It can be hard to maintain the discipline needed for a sustained sales effort. Do you have any suggestions?
Morgan: You need to set up metrics. I keep track of how many times I reach out to a contact and measure them against specific goals. These “reaches” include any contact – coffee with a referral source, a conversation at a networking meeting, or a thank you note. Then you can compare your reaches to how many actual client meetings you have, how many proposals you are asked for, and how many completed sales. These in turn let you evaluate the quality of your contacts so that you can fine-tune your approach.
LaBrie: Make every contact count.