The passage of time brings the two closer than ever in professional services
Some years ago, I felt compelled to write a blog post about the differences between marketing and sales, after years of hearing my clients use the terms interchangeably. I thought it would help professional service providers – including accounting firms, law firms, and engineering firms – to better understand what we, the marketing department, did in marketing and generally what their roles were in performing sales. I concluded that when the two terms were piled in the same sandbox, it seemed that the responsibility for leads and revenue generation was unjustly scooped over to the marketing department.
With the passage of time and changes in the marketing profession, primarily due to the increasing penetration of inbound and social media marketing, the marketing and sales heap is once again growing in the middle of the sandbox. But there is no longer a need to separate the piles because the line between marketing and sales has blurred, and client service professionals are responsible for doing some of both!
That’s some of the reasoning why we’ve moved into offering Fractional CGO services, which focus on the coordination of marketing and sales efforts. Let’s cover more of our reasoning.
Marketing Versus Sales: The Way They Were
Prior to inbound marketing and social media marketing, marketing and sales were like an independent couple, bound together with a common purpose but each happier doing their own thing. Here’s what it looked like back then:
The role of marketing was primarily to:
- Keep the firm’s brand up-to-date and ensure that the website and all communication materials were brand consistent
- Do frequent outreach to existing clients, prospects and the general public using advertising, direct mail and public relations
- Keep the firm’s contact database up-to-date.
The role of sales was to:
- Meet with referral sources
- Network at associations
- Speak at conferences
- Cultivate contacts into leads and prospects
- Present to and close hot prospects
- Cross-sell new services to existing clients.
Without sales playing its part, a firm’s pipeline was usually anemic and new business was not plentiful. While there may have been some brand awareness built within a particular target market through traditional marketing methods, sales spent a substantial amount of time turning a contact into a lead, prospect and then eventually, a new client.
Marketing + Sales: The Way They Are
In today’s world of modern marketing methods, marketing and sales are now codependent, with marketing playing a more dominant role by building awareness, filling the pipeline and engaging prospects almost to the point of purchase. In fact, most B2B buyers are 60% done with their purchase decision before even connecting with a sales or firm client service professional. Here are some highlights of the way things are now:
The role of marketing is to:
- Keep the firm’s brand up-to-date and ensure that the website and all communication materials are brand consistent
- Perform regular outreach to existing clients, prospects and specific audiences that are looking to solve challenges using inbound marketing that consists of:
- Creating fresh, relevant and targeted content (i.e., content marketing)
- Distributing original and curating third-party content on company social media platforms (i.e., social media marketing)
- Leverage existing, original content to pitch firm professionals as subject-matter experts, obtain article placements and land coveted speaking engagements
- Maintain the firm’s CRM system and leverage software, such as HubSpot, to power inbound marketing efforts
- Use traditional marketing methods with the intention of driving traffic back to the firm’s website
- Measure results using marketing metrics and fine tune activities as needed.
The primary role of sales is to:
- Cultivate and close leads identified through inbound marketing metrics (i.e., lead scoring)
- Distribute firm content on their social media pages such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+
- Speak at conferences
- Close hot prospects
- Cross-sell new services to existing clients
There are two ways to look at the evolution of marketing and sales. The first viewpoint is that marketing has encroached on sales by generating top-of-the-sales funnel leads and engaging them further to the middle-of-the-funnel. The second way to see this is that marketing and sales have become so intertwined that it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins.
Marketing + Sales: The Impact
So what does all this mean for marketers, sales professionals and client service professionals? Marketers today have to be much more knowledgeable about the purchase process, including the questions and challenges buyers have even before they understand they need a solution. Sales professionals need to work closely with marketing colleagues to help identify what makes a lead ready for direct contact. Some firms even have a service-level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales to be sure opportunities don’t slip through the cracks. And finally, client service professionals must be skilled at doing both modern marketing and sales to move up through the ranks and help ensure their firms’ success.
For more information about the blurring line between marketing and sales, check out our post on the new role of Chief Growth Officer, a new opportunity for small to midsized businesses.