The differences between business, sales and marketing strategies

This week we thought we would touch on the differences between business, sales, and marketing strategies.

This is because there’s usually confusion between sales and marketing strategies. To avoid confusion, it’s always good to look at definitions.

Michael Porter defines strategy as the set of choices that define a company’s distinctive approach to competing, and the competitive advantages on which it will be based.

There are two different levels: corporate strategy, which is the strategy for the business overall (the portfolio of businesses); and business strategy, which determines how each business will compete. Business strategy is a high level plan to achieve business objectives.

Beneath business strategy, sits, traditionally at least, marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy is how a marketing team organises its efforts. It defines target markets, general value proposition, positioning strategy, offering mix, collaterals and how to reach clients so they know about the company and the offering. Marketing speaks to groups, and works with averages.

There is also digital marketing strategy which can sit within the general marketing strategy, or next to it, aligning to sales and social selling efforts. Digital marketing can be the bridge between marketing and sales strategies.

However, this is not enough for a sales operations to function at an optimal level. To achieve this, next to marketing strategy, and overlapping and working collaboratively, needs to sit sales strategy.

Often confused with marketing strategy, a company’s sales strategy is the mechanism by which it determines its unique value proposition and how this makes the company’s offer relevant to each particular customer. It also includes how it will deliver that proposition to attractive sales segments where the business has some form of competitive advantage.

These sales strategies are then deployed by the sales force in both business-to-business (B2B) and complex business-to-consumer (B2C) situations.

Sales strategy is how the company organises sales efforts to go to market, who it’s going to sell to and how to create real value within the given market place with your customers.

Sales is about one-to-one where the business becomes real for the client. Sales develops relationships and looks after individuals. Sales deals with the ambiguities and analyses the behaviour of the prospects and customers with whom they deal with on an individual basis.

Sales strategy is what happens when the rubber hits the road. This type of planning is strategy and execution in one. A good sales strategy minimises execution risks and sets up a path to follow to achieve the planned results.

The goal of business strategy is profitable growth. Whatever ends up being the chosen road to get there, one thing is for sure: the business needs to sell.

There is no business without selling. A sales strategy is what business do to sell well and achieve business goals. As strategy expert and Harvard Business School academic Frank Cespedes puts it: “you can’t do strategy without input from sales”.  

Here’s something else to ponder: in terms of business, we’ve all been brought up in the philosophy of competition. However, what if you could create uncontested grounds where you wouldn’t have to compete, at least for the foreseeable future?

Next week we’ll explore the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy which is all about innovation and finding uncontested markets where you can generate great opportunities and continue to sell better.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

NOW READ: What are the biggest sales issues and opportunities for chief executives and sales leaders today?


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