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Business Prescriptions: Sales and Marketing Consulting Firms

We do not need statistics to prove that one of the many reasons why newly established businesses fail is because they, first and foremost, do not understand their market. Venturing into unfamiliar markets involves more risks and uncertainties than that of what a businessman is comfortable with. However, there is no need to fret and get into panic attacks as sales and marketing consulting firms help businesses swim, not sink, on unknown waters.

The need for sales and marketing consulting firms is greatly evident among foreign businesses, who are trying to penetrate the Asian market. With the recent global financial crisis and a declining hegemon on the west, the far east has become more appealing than ever, especially with the rise of China as a great power in the region and as a huge potential market. However, foreign businessmen, with their knowledge and experience with the markets in the western part of the world, are totally impaired when it comes to dealing with the markets in the Asian region. Sales and marketing consulting firms become their eyes and ears as these firms collect and filter information that may prove to be crucial in the decision-making of businesses in establishing themselves here in Asia.

Sales consultants, for instance, do not only have the function of selling products and services to clients and companies but also have the function of understanding and identifying their needs. They serve as a guide in terms of what goods and services are really need by their clients. Being a sales consultant therefore goes beyond merely selling products and services. They ensure that the services and the goods being received by the company are necessary for it to grow and flourish in the market. However, to further accomplish this objective a sales consultant goes hand in hand with a marketing consultant.

Venturing into an unknown market requires a company to know their consumer and their behavior. This is where a marketing consultant comes in. A marketing consultant does the research for the company and tries to identify who their target consumers are and how they behave. Marketing consultants not only gathers information but they also try to understand what motivates consumers to, for example, purchase a product; and then create a specific strategy or approach, tailored to the needs and nature of the company, on how they should sell their products.

So, why do companies go to sales and marketing consulting firms exactly? Aside from the bottom line, these consulting firms help foreign companies in the Asian market by making sure that their resources will not go to waste, but instead be focused on opportunities that would bring greater returns and growth to the company. This will then prevent the company from incurring unnecessary losses. These firms also help foreign companies realize and gain advantage against competitors in the market. Lastly, sales and marketing consulting firms help develop employees and personnel in a company to acquire important skills. In a nut shell sales and marketing consulting firms provide business prescriptions that would help foreign companies become lean and mean business machines in Asia.

The Coexistence of Sales and Marketing, With a Dash of the Lakers

The discussion about sales and marketing and how the two groups work together has been around for decades. There are companies and business professionals who normally sit in one camp or the other. I’ve noticed over my entire career that one either classifies themselves as a salesman/saleswoman, or a marketer. You hardly ever hear someone describe themselves as both. This always struck me as curious, because I always thought about what I do with a salesperson’s hat and a marketer’s hat.

I started out my career as a marketer for a direct marketing company which specialized in developing, manufacturing and marketing collectibles. No one there had a title that said “sales.” Yet, as marketers, we were responsible for producing the direct sales for the company. From our mail plans, mailings, print ads, and eventually e-commerce marketing initiatives stemmed the lifeblood of the business in the form of revenue. So early on, I suppose I conflated the two functions together at least for that type of business – B2C (business to consumer), direct marketing – and the company was successful to the extent the marketers did their jobs well.

Then, I spent 5 years at Playboy as a marketer, but a different kind of one. I wore two different hats, officially. For some of my responsibilities, I was overseeing B2C Direct Marketing via e-commerce, print catalogs, online subscriptions and the like. For the other portion, the marketing hat I wore was a service hat to the external sales team selling to other businesses (B2B). On one hand, the company was successful to the extent that the marketers did their jobs in terms of bringing in revenue directly from consumers. On the other, it was successful to the extent salespeople could bring in advertisers leveraging the materials and services marketing provided. On paper, one didn’t trump the other, they were both very much key revenue streams.

To come full circle, I joined Epic Media Group four years ago and created from scratch a marketing organization that was wholly a service business. The company is predominantly B2B, and the success of the company relies largely on the ability of salespeople to bring in advertisers (there are several other success factors that are outside the scope of this discussion too). As marketing fits in the organization, it is a service business which services the entire company, Sales included. I’ve always felt, and the other executives do too, that our marketing team exists to enable all of our teams (Sales, Distribution, Syndication) to be able to more clearly communicate our competitive position, sell our services better, reach more prospects, and take care of existing clients.

So, having decades of experience 1) running sales teams, 2) running marketing teams, 3) overseeing revenue, and 4) overseeing service businesses, I’ve seen a lot of dynamics at work independently and together. Therefore, it bugs me when professionals make an attempt to “rank” the two organizations based on where the revenue comes from. It is short-sighted in a few ways. The fact is depending on the business, marketing can drive revenue, sales can drive revenue, and marketing and sales can drive revenue together. Trying to compare the two is really apples and oranges; the right way to look at it is they’re both fruits and they belong in the same fruit bowl.

Let’s focus on marketing as a services business in particular (the latter example above), since people who disagree with my way of thinking about the two functions are quick to point to that scenario when diminishing or dismissing the importance of marketing. From the service side, here is how I look at it:

Poor Marketing teams don’t do much to assist or boost the sales teams efforts in generating revenue and gaining clients, and can actually hinder their efforts.

Strong Marketing teams can do a whole lot to assist or boost the sales teams efforts in generating revenue and gaining clients, and can actually be a critical part of those efforts.

If you have a poor sales team (luckily, I’ve never been around one, but do know of them), Marketing can actually help make up for a lack of productivity. In a sense, marketing can create an environment that pushes the sales team to a higher level of achievement than they would have attained without them. By coming up with clear marketing collateral, creative designs, one-of-a-kind events and entertainment, and using strong social media and PR, marketing has the ability to in a sense deliver a Salesperson’s pitch indirectly.

I’d say all of that is important.

Another thing people often underestimate when evaluating the importance of marketing as a service business is that it can be turned into a revenue stream, and not just a cost center or order taker. I have personally done this and seen it happen. What are some services that a good marketing team provides in-house, to sales, and to sales’ clients?

Creative Services and design. Client events and entertainment. Branding and brand development. To name a few.

Not only do good marketing teams provide these services, and plenty more, to a company and to its partners, they can provide them to the outside world and charge for them. They can provide in essence agency-like services for a fee. If you’re good at what you do why not, right? This way, not only is your marketing team providing everything they normally do, but they also can reap the rewards of turning themselves into direct revenue-producers too. Need that next great flash creative? Hire marketing! Need to run an event and sell sponsorships against it? Hire marketing!

By turning your services into revenue producers, you are also acting as a new lead generator for your sales team. You can see how this might play out. If marketing is promoting their services out of house, and gets hired by a new client and does a good job, it creates the possibility for a future relationship with your sales team from the goodwill built up. Marketing can open the door for more business for sales. I’ve done this with teams before, so yes, it does happen.

Overall, I think the comparison of sales and marketing, or even the argument that pits the two against each other, is tired and old and increasingly irrelevant. I’ve sat on all sides of the aisle and I can definitely say that in every single type of business, marketing has its clear role and importance and sales has its. Sometimes, sales relies on (good) marketing; other times, it’s flipped.

In either circumstance, I guess my takeaway is that people in Sales and Marketing have to check their egos at the door when working together. To use a basketball analogy, Kobe Bryant is the leader and best player for the Los Angeles Lakers; most of the on-court strategy flows through him and for the team to win largely the responsibility is on him, but equally important – with much less of the limelight – is Pau Gasol and the 6th Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, and the others on the team. In a big game, Kobe doesn’t always take the last shot; if he gets double-teamed, he needs to pass the ball to someone with a clearer shot. Whoever that person is needs to expect that they might have to take the last shot, and then make the shot.

Using this analogy, sometimes Sales is Kobe. Sometimes, Marketing is Kobe. Either way, if you’re one of the other “guys” out of the spotlight at any given time, you need to play just as important a role as the superstar and when called upon to step up, be able to do so. The Lakers haven’t won championships because of Kobe, though he’s been a major contributor. They’ve won them because of the Coach, and the entire supporting cast. If the supporting cast was poor, they wouldn’t have won a thing, and sometimes Kobe plays a supporting role too.

I’ll close by simply saying it is not a good idea to make broad generalizations when referring to Sales and Marketing. There are simply too many dynamics at play in most businesses, and so hopefully you’re carrying a much more balanced mindset with you the next time you are contemplating the roles of both functions at a company.

And in an act of journalistic integrity, I chose the Lakers analogy even though I’m NOT a Lakers fan.

Sales and Marketing Plan – Traditional Marketing Won’t Get Customers Contacting You

Have you tried traditional marketing to increase sales? If you have I can almost guarantee that you have nothing to show for it. Traditional marketing may work for the big companies like Coke and McDonalds because they have the dollars to continually blast you with their message, but it won’t work for you. Don’t waste your time and dollars including traditional marketing in your sales and marketing plan.

You need a sales and marketing plan that is specific to the small business owner/service professional. Traditional marketing is too vague and it’s all about you and branding. News flash, no one cares about you or your brand and they never will. Your potential customers only care about themselves and their needs. You need to let them know your message is for them, that you understand their needs, and that you have a solution for the problem they really want to go away.

Whatever you include in your sales and marketing plan must have a call to action. No call to action yields no action and that means your money is wasted. A call to action is a low risk way for the exact people you’re communicating with to reach out to you. A good call to action is almost never, call me for an appointment. People just won’t call you because they don’t know you, like you or trust you yet.

In your sales and marketing plan you want to think about how you can give first. Traditional marketing almost never gives first. There are two benefits to the give first philosophy. One is it allows your best prospects to identify themselves. Another benefit happens because when someone gives something to us first we have a tendency to want to reciprocate the kindness extended to us.

Improve your sales and marketing plan by designing a plan specific to you. Make sure your plan isn’t focused on the company you represent. Focus on you the individual because people do business with people not big businesses. Then build a plan that communicates a specific message to a specific group of people with an opportunity for them to obtain something that would really be helpful to them while moving them closer to having a relationship with you that ultimately results in business.