Asking whether marketing or sales are more important is like asking which came first — the chicken or the egg? In the beginning of my career in marketing, the original Howard Miller regularly told his employees and clients, “Marketing generates interest and Sales sells.” (Add his German finality to your reading of that statement.) Looking at the classic marketing funnel, marketing worked at the top of the funnel and sales worked at the bottom.
That said, about 5 years into my agency career, I realized that marketing has a leg in each camp and a role throughout the funnel. I would add today that if we are doing marketing well, we also have a responsibility as a kickstand to the sales force to be their warm handshake to more people and to help them network farther than their limits of time and resources demand of them. Without a strong brand and relevant, current content, sales would not have the material needed to provide the multiple touches to all decision-makers that drive a sale.
At the same time, sales is an elusive skill and talent. It is sales staff that must have excellent soft skills to form a bond with decision-makers. We often underestimate that bond in today’s digital age. But think about the last time you made either a business or personal purchase. In larger b2b purchases, because jobs and reputations ride on the outcome of those decisions, trust is a huge factor. Trust forms through personal relationships.
When the silos come down and sales shares feedback from the field with marketing, the real dance starts. Knowing what material is relevant and presenting it at the right time and in the order demanded by the customer journey comes from a solid strategy that is created by marketing and sales together. When a salesperson takes the time to tell me about their experiences with customers, the materials we create are better. We take both sales and user experience into the design of campaigns, web experiences, email, messaging and more for better results.
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