Sales and marketing or marketing and sales?

By Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR and Enterprise Nation Champion for Nottingham.

Let’s take a little trip out of the office into the farmyard. Which comes first? Sales or marketing?

It’s a bit of a trick question as they should be working together, not as separate parts of a business, although I see this far too often, with one department blaming the other for lack of bottom-line impact.

However, I was building a customer avatar this week (think of your ideal customer) and I noticed that I jotted down “Sales and Marketing Director” as a classic target job title. That got me thinking…we’re looking at this the wrong way around.

Sure, we need sales departments to convert leads and opportunities and bring in the money BUT without leads and opportunities they won’t have sales – unless they are very lucky. Marketing should thus come first. Without it, you won’t know what products are wanted, what price is right, who will buy it, where to sell it and when and where to promote it… let alone how to promote it.

I’ve sat on a wide variety of expert panels with business audiences and in countless meetings and I am constantly asked how sales teams could get more sales. The question I will usually ask is how can their marketing team generate more leads? Better leads? Hot leads? That would mean your sales team would have a far easier time converting them.

The response I hear with alarming regularity is “what marketing team?” – delivered with a bit of an embarrassed shrug.

Why is this OK? Why would a business invest in hiring a sales ninja, equipped with a fantastic track record and expect said ninja to work wonders if they haven’t invested in their marketing? It doesn’t HAVE to be a Marketing Director in person, it could be systems, processes, campaigns or consultants but there has to be something for sales to work with.

Imagine marketing like a funnel. Leads come in at the top and slowly get qualified and warmed up as they reach the bottom, clarifying their needs and matching with your offering. Your sales department should come in here, not at the top. Some might call this semantics, but it isn’t when I see it in such a wide variety of businesses.

Maybe it is a measurement or return on investment issue – sales commissions and salaries tend to be easier to analyse and quantify.

However, marketing is just maths. It may sound like a lot of clever words and pictures but at the end of the day it is a game of probability, helping you to close a profitable sale.

If more businesses put marketing first, they’d soon start winning that game and see sales perform much better.

Right, I’m off for a cuppa. Water in first or milk?