When sales start to dry up or the business doesn’t seem to be getting traction with customers, many small to medium (SME) sized businesses will usually turn to marketing in the first, and often only instance, as their preferred solution to fixing poor sales results.
Why? Because many people have been taught to think they have a marketing problem when they actually have a sales problem.
As a result, many startups and SMEs have failed to get traction and then fallen over because they didn’t address their sales problem with the right sales solution, instead relying on marketing.
Unless you are an online business or retail business that is predominantly marketing led, this “marketing led sales recovery” is often a fatal mistake for most other types of businesses, especially those in the business-to-business (B2B) space.
So why is it still socially more acceptable to say “I have a marketing problem”, and not a sales problem?
Why do so many businesses still reach for the ‘Marketing Silver Bullet’ rather than look at the issues around selling?
Marketing is more appealing
- Marketing has done better PR job than sales over the last 50 years, and is perceived as more attractive. It also keeps people away from the more personal, and often trickier task of selling.
- Marketing seems like an easier fix than sales, because if you admit to having a sales problem you then either have to learn how to sell or manage salespeople, which is often far more confronting for many people.
- There’s a plethora of marketing apps and offers that promise great results (surprise, surprise: they do not address sales issues)
- Many people do not like to be associated with the concept or act of selling because of the prevailing negative stereotypes about selling, so they divert to marketing activities that, on the surface, appear more appealing, attractive and less stressful
There’s a lot of confusion and lack of understanding about the inner workings of both sales and marketing
a) Many people don’t know the difference between sales and marketing, often calling the strategies and tasks of sales ‘marketing’ thus creating confusion over what is what, and when to apply the right sales and marketing activities and tasks at the right time.
b) The majority of people starting businesses have never been taught how to sell (the skills and processes of selling), or how to build and implement sales strategy and sales market segmentation plans, or how to recruit, induct, coach and lead salespeople, or how to sell without compromising their personal integrity. At the same time, marketing is a common and ratified* subject in many tertiary courses, and marketing books are a common staple on business people’s shelves. Marketing just seems more legitimate.
Sadly, when people address a sales problem with a marketing solution, it hurts both the disciplines and reputations of sales and marketing because it doesn’t solve the problem and only makes matters worse.
What’s the moral of the story?
Know the difference between sales and marketing and treat the right issues with the right approach.
*Selling is not some black art or something to be feared. Selling is something to be studied, learned and applied just like Marketing. Since 1995 Barrett has been working hard to ratify Sales and Sales Management as professional qualifications and we are making good progress. In 2012 Barrett was the first in Australia to have a VET accredited sales training program endorsed by a university providing a Diploma in Business at Swinburne University of Technology.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform www.salesessentials.com. Get to know her further on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.