Microsoft vs. Apple. Montagues vs. Capulets. Star Wars vs. Star Trek
Of all the world’s great rivalries, few can match the war that often unfurls between the sales and marketing departments.
Yet although both teams fight over access to customers and credit for conversion rates, they essentially have the same aim: to grow the business and the bottom line by winning new customers.
Indeed, the best marketers and salespeople have highly similar skills and traits: they know how to hold attention, how to make a product desirable, and how to reach the right people at the right time.
Aspiring executives in both departments, therefore, should put down their metaphorical weapons, and learn the tricks of the other side’s trade:
What Marketers Should Learn from Salespeople:
1. It’s All About That Personal Connection
Personalized marketing may seem like the latest talking-shop trend, but 7 in 10 marketers still don’t so much as customize their emails. Ask any decent salesperson if s/he would do the same, and they’d be aghast.
Salespeople know that business is built on rapport and relationships, and these are developed through creating a personalized connection with potential purchasers.
Smart salespeople always address their clients by name, remember and regurgitate any information they glean from them, and take the time to source and research relevant targets to improve their conversion rate.
Marketers may not have one-on-one conversations with customers, but they can emulate the appearance of one. Adding a customer’s name into an email or other communication is easy with modern software, and results in a 29% higher open rate and a 41% higher click through rate.
Implementing a campaign which sends customers an offer on their birthday generates a 250% higher revenue rate than generic deals.
Good salespeople use the knowledge they have of a client to tailor their offerings to them. Marketers should be doing the same, because getting it wrong loses customers.
In one survey, half of consumers said they would exit a website which showed them the wrong gender’s clothing. Investing in good algorithms would avoid such customer-losing mistakes.
2. The Importance of Identifying Customer Drivers
If your impression of a salesperson is an ice-seller to the Eskimos who never hangs up the phone until their client ‘buys or dies’, you’re been watching too much Wolf of Wall Street.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter how smooth your sales patter is; clients will still only buy products or services they believe are valuable to them.
Good salespeople, therefore, spend their time identifying what the client wants in order to present their merchandise as the means to achieve those desires.
It’s easy for Marketers to get so caught up in how awesome their product is that they focus exclusively on convincing the world of said awesomeness without seriously considering the customer needs it must fulfill.
Persuading an individual that you sell the best dog biscuits in the business is a wasted effort if they don’t own a dog.
Most marketers collect data from different campaigns and therefore know that certain strategies work better than others. But many don’t bother to find out why these specific angles are more effective, meaning they miss out on taking advantage of related or better opportunities.
The best way to rectify this disparity?Do as your salespeople do - ask your clients.
Send out feedback forms, engage directly on social media, disguise surveys as competitions; but find out why your customers buy and what your merchandise is being used for.
3. Success is Money on the Board
The stereotype that salespeople are driven solely by money often comes with a negative tinge. This is ludicrous: making money is the main aim of business, so maximising revenue should be everybody’s end goal.
Marketers focused on witty slogans, viral campaigns, and beautifully designed paraphernalia often lose sight of the fact that these things are only useful if they translate into higher revenue (or achieves a mid-point goal, like increasing brand exposure, that will ultimately lead to higher revenue).
The traditional argument is that measuring the ROI of marketing campaigns can be tricky. But in an age where reams of data are available cheaply and easily, this is becoming less and less true.
Any increases or decreases in revenue thus illustrated gives a proxy ROI. When marketing teams are forced to justify their investments in this way, they are likely to make savvier and better-researched decisions.
Salespeople have long known the frustration of having a huge pipeline that ends up with a dismal conversion rate. They also know that their performance will be judged on the latter, regardless of the former.
Marketing campaigns should be held to the same high standards – if they cannot be linked to a jump in revenue, conversions or another pre-stated goal, they should be unceremoniously canned.
What Salespeople Should Learn from Marketers:
1. Technology & Social Media Are Really Important
Marketers have embraced the technological revolution – they spend an average 60% of their time on digital activities. Many felt they had no choice; digital marketing is cheaper and generates more revenue.
In particular, marketers have flocked to social media, and made such ‘social branding’ a key part of their marketing strategy.
Salespeople who still see CRMs as boring admin and social selling as a fad would do well to emulate their marketer peers. The evidence is clear – technology pays. When the most successful salespeople are surveyed, they disproportionally cite technology as “critical” to their success. 9 in 10 of them use ‘social selling’ tools like LinkedIn.
Telephone conversations may carry a personal touch but as a first approach they’re incredibly unsuccessful – 90% of CEOs never answer cold calls, and 97% of cold calling is ineffective.
It’s hardly surprising – the way we communicate in the modern world is so digitally-driven that unsolicited phone calls seem ever-more intrusive and old-fashioned.
Social selling, on the other hand, works. Over three-quarters of sales people who use social media in their job outsell their peers.
The internet isn’t just a fantastic way to discover new prospects, it also provides salespeople with reams of data about their target companies, which is invaluable in creating a convincing sales pitch.
CRMs also allow the storage of vast quantities of useful notes and information which can be retrieved quickly and easily – essential when a call-back catches you unawares!
2. Data-Driven Decisions Work
Marketing used to be seen as a creative role. These days, it has become much more analytical, as the availability of big data has revolutionized the way companies make business decisions. Marketers who rate their firm as ‘exceptional’ at customer engagement are significantly more likely to utilize big data and analytics in their strategies.
Marketers’ unilateral embracing of data-driven decisions shows they work, but 4/5 of their sales brethren complain that processing vast quantities of information is too challenging.
They should take the time to learn how to interpret it – data and analytics can remove the mystery from customer buying habits, allowing salespeople to target and convert leads ever more effectively.
Marketers view customers not as individuals but as groups that tend to conform to similar habits (16-25 year old may be more receptive to Snapchat ads, for example).
Salespeople should do the same to help them make judgments about everything from the best time to contact a client, which product or service to offer them, and even which type of sales pitch is most likely to be effective.
The more strategies that are experimented with and recorded, the more detailed and accurate these sales ‘cues’ will become.
Every salesperson knows how thin the line can be between a closed deal and a dropout. Anything that helps them push clients over that line should be welcomed.
3. Prioritize Quality Contact over Quantity
Most Marketers live in fear of the dreaded Unsubscribe button. In a world where every internet user has a global platform and both gripes and recommendations can cause a ripple effect among many others, keeping clients’ sweet is crucial.
Yet sales lore still venerates the assumption that a never-give-up attitude will eventually pay dividends. And sometimes it will. But when a company or executive has no interest in talking to you, pestering is much more likely to irritate them and tarnish your business’ reputation.
You’re also risking the possibility that they’ll mention their bad experience to colleagues or other business contacts, or even publish an annoyed blog post about your incompetence.
All of which could make it difficult for your company to ever work with them again – not ideal if they happen to be a big player in a small field!
If you’re going to send multiple messages to someone, space them apart so the prospect doesn’t feel inundated. Take the time to craft tailored, well-researched pitches for specific clients rather than mass-mailing the phone-book and hoping something sticks.
Most importantly of all, accept that you cannot force someone to buy. Even when what you’re peddling would genuinely revolutionize their life, if you’ve given it your best sell and they simply won’t engage, it’s time to give up and move on.
The world of business changes quickly, fundamentally and unexpectedly. Successful workers will be those who are constantly developing themselves by learning new tricks and adapting to new situations.
The opportunities afforded by improvements in communications, technology, and data are remarkable, but they also mean that great salespeople must learn to be good marketers, and great marketers must learn to be good salespeople.
So, it’s time for Sales and Marketing to call a truce. When they learn from each other and work together, they make a business unstoppable.
Beth Leslie writes careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs London listings for roles.