It’s fashionable to suggest that sales and marketing are merging. There is a line of thinking about how salespeople should use content to communicate with their clients and prospective clients that conflates these two functions into one, ignoring the different very different outcomes each delivers. The truth is that sales and marketing are not merging, nor should they. But they both benefit from better understanding each others’s roles.
What Marketing Does
Marketing is one-to-many. Marketing promotes the business, helps position offerings, and advertises. Marketing creates awareness and helps leverage what makes your company different, something it can achieve at scale and a distance. Marketing can also do a lot to help salespeople, like researching markets, creating personas, developing messaging, and creating content that helps to capture mindshare.
Salespeople are not responsible for these marketing outcomes. They are not accountable for the kind of results that would require the one-to-many approach that makes up the bulk of what marketing does. Marketers are not directly responsible for creating and winning new opportunities. Salespeople are responsible for the one-to-one selling between a company and a prospect.
Even though the dictionary definition states that marketing sells—and many organizations now rely on marketing alone—marketing does not engage in one-to-one selling. When marketing is at its best, it creates something more than leads. It does the work that makes it easier for salespeople to develop and win new opportunities.
What Salespeople Do
Salespeople create opportunities by directly connecting with their prospective clients. What they do cannot be easily scaled, nor is it easily done at a distance (although some of the new technological tools we use can remove distance as an obstacle). Success in sales in individual. The skills of selling to one person (or one company and their team) are incredibly complex and, at the highest levels, as rare as the skills of an incredible marketer.
People who sell are responsible for creating and winning new opportunities. They have to secure individual meetings, explore change with their dream clients, collaborate on what the right solution might look like, build consensus with the stakeholders, negotiate the right investment, and resolve the client’s concerns before asking directly for the client’s business. Marketers do none of this, and the most common call to action now is a link or a form, not ink on paper.
When salespeople are at their best, they are creating and pursuing opportunities, and ultimately, winning them.
Why People Say Sales and Marketing Are Merging
Some suggest salespeople should spend their time creating content as part of their role in sales. This is to confuse the roles and responsibilities of sales and marketing. It’s also a terrible idea. There is no serious person who believes that salespeople can create content every day, have that content vetted by marketing and legal, have art designed, and publish their work.
Selling is not content marketing.
Indeed, salespeople can now share content with their clients directly. They can share relevant and helpful content over the social channels, and they can share it using more direct forms, like mail, email, delivering it by hand, or some other medium.
There are two outcomes from using content, neither of which rise to the level to be called marketing: Building their credibility with their prospects and nurturing relationships.
You want your dream clients to know you. However, you want to be known for the value you create, for your competency and your expertise. For the last decade, many have confused the idea of being known as a personal brand-building exercise. There is some kernel of truth in that idea. However, too much of what some pass off as marketing is building a personality brand. You see evidence of this by the number of people who share their morning workout routine (something that isn’t likely to expose your deep insights in your industry or capture mindshare).
Salespeople don’t need to create content to prove their expertise. They can use the content marketing builds and comment on why it’s important, why it should cause their dream client to do something different, and how it is helping other people produce greater results. They can use content to answer the question their dream client might have in advance of them asking it. They can also use content to nurture their dream clients over time.
When marketing sends an email, it is one-to-many, and often something that the receiver perceives as spam. When a salesperson takes the time to print the content, highlight the critical parts, write a note on why it’s important, and send it by mail or scan it and send it by email, it’s nurture content. In one case, the person who sent it to you doesn’t know you and never will. In the second case, the person sharing the content has met with you or is working towards that outcome. One is impersonal; the other is personal.
You should be nurturing your dream clients. You should be building your credibility. And, unless you want to work in marketing, you should confine your role to that of a salesperson, staying in your lane and allowing marketing to remain comfortably in theirs.
If you want to be closer to marketing, share your insights with them, ask them for help shaping opportunities, and request marketing content that helps you convince your dream client that it’s time to change. If you are in marketing and want to be closer to sales, spend time with in the field, where you can directly see the areas where you can help.
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