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Sales and Marketing 101
February 29, 2012

Sales and Marketing 101

Sales and marketing is all about sticking to the ageold adage (nice how the two words "ad" and "age" come together, right?), "Keep It Simple, Stupid Salesperson!"


Every once in a while a person needs to return to the basics and in this case, I decided I needed to put out a refresher on Sales and Marketing 101 which to me is simply, postioning, ideating and messaging which are the component of your strategy inasmuch as putting your message "out there" is concerned. Promotion is all about saying something and it necessarily follows that you need a cogent message as well as an audience (not to mention channels, right?) Promotion is what actually comes to most people's minds when they think about the term marketing, when in fact, at least from my own perspective, marketing is all about business. When I say that, I might as well have said, business is all about marketing. What I mean is that they are the same thing: create something of value and then create customers. I like using the word to "create" customers because from that context, this part of your business strategy because mechanical and scientific, something that can be deconstructed and taught, as opposed to as the black or magic art is it sometimes seen as in the eyes of others. Would you say creating something of value is a business or marketing endeavor? How about creating customers? You see, the two terms, "business" and "marketing" are in fact one and the same.

At the very least, I hope you will agree that sales is a subset of marketing. I have written about how I believe there to be only one distinction between sales and marketing and that is the fact that while sales is a 1:1 endeavor, marketing is 1:many. When you think about it, you will realize that in both sales and marketing, we are given and use the same set of tools, whether they be verbal, written, physical, electronic or other. To think of sales as being "closing the deal" is wrong because today a customer can go to your website - I hope! - and click to order a product all by themselves. Therefore, we see that you don't really need a "sales" effort in order to create customers! Neither can you think of marketing as being only all about shiny brochures - the shinier the better! - while sales is all about talking to people, either on the phone or in person. What would you call an analyst conference call? Is it not marketing - or at least PR! - using the same tools that a salesperson would use? On the other hand, based on the definition that I have given you, what a salesperson in a complex enterprise sale does on a coference call intended to communicate with a large audience is the very same thing. The only thing that separates the two is the fact that one is traditionally considered to come under the domain of marketing, or promotion, while the other is seen as "sales".

Positioning is about about creating a product that serves a unique customer need. I have thrown that word in there because if your value proposition does not identify a compelling competitive differentiator, then you have lost the real game before the start by relegating your product to the status of mere "commodity" (where price and not quality or value, rules!). What you need, in other words, is to be able to do something better than anyone else in the whole world, or at least believe that you can. This is one of the key precepts in the book "Good to Great" which analyses some of the truly "great" companies in the last 150 years or so and presents comparison findings between them and would-be great companies that started out in the same - or a better! - position as the great companies but were unable to sustain greatness over time. What the research authors found is that great companies focus on doing only those things that they are passionate about and know that they can outperform anyone else in (even if they are far from the dominant player in a given market for a specific target product at the time of their decision!). Not-so-great companies, on the other hand, simply pursue profits which means anything and everything from unstrategic acquisitions to a lack of innovation because this is too risky and diverts resources away from maintaining their favourite "cash cow" products.

To ideate is a word that a customer of mine - so to speak! - brought forth when I was chatting with her about this very topic of conversation. In fact, the initial sales call I had with her was about the central themes of positioning, creating promotional ideas and finally the messaging that goes around this idea in order to communicate this with your customer. My customer said, "you mean, 'ideate'?" and I simply loved the term. Aftewards, I came up with something silly like, "to ideate is to eat ideas up and deconstruct them and then afterwards look at what you ate in order to figure out how to do more." It actually sounds pretty disgusting the way I put it just now, but I assure you that there is something to it. It is like the software term - is it "dogfooding"? I can't believe I have forgetting it! - which means to use your own software, like another customer of mine, Oracle, famously using their own software to save $1 billion dollars a year. That fact is, however, that you have to look at yourself in the soul when you undertake sales and marketing and part of doing that is putting yourself in your customers' shoes and subjecting yourself to your own promotional efforts and then see what you think! Just like when you read what you have written for the first time and find yourself cringing (and then stop either reading it or WRITING it, which is even worse!!).

Finally, messaging concerns the words you use when you speak to someone, in this case your customer. It goes without saying that your message needs to be directed to them and should be spoken in their language so that they can understand it. What about speaking directly to them? For some reason, this is something that is often left out in both sales as well as marketing! Just think about these two examples: a sales person who walks into the client office and starts rattling off about how great his company and products and services are, just like a sales brochure. Or a marketing brochure, which is my second example because you will very often find customer-facing promotional messaging, from websites to whitepapers, that is all about the company or product or service instead of being about the only thing that matters: your CUSTOMER. "We are the industry leader!", "We have the best products!", "Our company has won a great many awards?" It is like a sales mentor of mine at a previous software giant customer used to repeat, "SO WHAT? WHO CARES?" What does your question mean to your customer? Who else is affected? The seconed question relates to complex enterprise sales but can be applied to everyday sales and marketing by understanding that you are looking for many customers and they are people who share the same needs, values and characteristics.

Keep to the basics and reduce everything you do to creating value and creating customers by positioning and messaging yourself according to a single key idea that will be your unique differentatior in everything you say and do (phew!).


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