Last week, I wrote about my journey into a more holistic approach to branding, marketing and sales, one that reframes these traditionally separate disciplines as equal partners in the task of building influence.
A holistic strategy assumes that the items in question are actually connected. And of course, branding, marketing and sales naturally are connected . . . right?
You might be surprised how many entrepreneurs don't think so.
As a storyteller and strategist, I hear a lot of comments from clients about their feelings toward marketing and sales. Most of my clients at least semi-enjoy marketing their businesses. Most of that "most," however, dread sales conversations.
In fact, a few months back, I asked a group of entrepreneurs what is their greatest pain point consistently in growing their business. I thought they would say "marketing." But instead, they told me they thought they had a good handle on marketing. It was the sales part that needed work.
Can I let you in on a little back-door business secret?
Sales and marketing are never two different parts of your business.
They are actually two sides of the same coin. (If we add branding, it's actually a three-sided coin . . . but that's beside the point right now, metaphysically and otherwise!)
If you think your marketing is working, but you can't seem to sell your product, then your marketing isn't working.
In fact, marketing anything is a waste of time and resources unless it directly results in the kind of opportunities you want.
For most of us, this kind of opportunity is a traditional cash-exchange sale. But it could also be a job offer or some kind of valuable experience such as a speaking engagement. The opportunity sought may vary also by your time of life or skill level. (For example, an early-stage artistic brand may seek more shares and face-to-face engagement than sales. This is why it's sometimes helpful to expand the idea of a "sale" beyond money.)
All of these actions are "sales" in that the seller has convinced the buyer to act in the desired way based on an action taken by the seller.
That is the whole point of marketing: taking particular actions that directly lead to other particular actions. As in, sales.
If your marketing actions are not driving your desired customer action, even indirectly, then they are not working.
This kind of black-and-white statement can feel terribly uncomfortable, almost confrontational. Putting yourself out there is hard enough. Now, we also have to constantly second-guess our own effectiveness?
No, and yes.
No, in that beating yourself up every time an approach doesn't deliver the results you wanted doesn't help anyone. (Least of all you. So please don't go there.)
And yes in that this level of self- and systemic examination is always necessary to bring marketing and sales into harmony.
So how can we begin to reconcile the rift in our thinking between sales and marketing? How can we realign our thoughts, and our behavior, in order to harmonize them and unleash their true power?
The key is to recognize the two distinct elements at play in our minds whenever we think about sales and marketing. These elements bump up against each other and encourage us, often, to create a false split in our minds.
Tackle both of these elements, and you're more likely to find your way forward toward greater harmony (and profitability) through marketing and sales.
Element #1: Change
If you decide that your marketing approach is the root of your sales problem, the onus is not on the market to realize how great you are. It's on you to actually change your approach. And that's what really feels uncomfortable, isn't it?
The issue of change.
Change is hard. We resist it with everything we have inside . . . especially when the new way forward doesn't seem clear, either.
It's far easier to continue thinking of marketing as separate from sales, and blaming our sales figures on customer whim rather than on a marketing strategy (or product) that isn't working.
And what if just one major marketing or sales change doesn't do the trick? What if we have to make several shifts, in an iterative fashion, in order to find a marketing approach that feels right for us and drives the sales we want?
These are hard questions. They can feel exhausting even before we've tackled them.
But they are necessary if we want to move our business forward..
Shifting from a dislocated to unified influence strategy means committing to change not just your understanding of sales and marketing, but how you actually do them in day-to-day practice.
Change can be hard. But it is also quite liberating.
And you certainly don't have to do it alone.
Element #2: Money
Money is a touchy subject in our culture. It lies at the root of all commerce, but for many of us it is a source of anxiety—not to mention potential embarrassment. That's why between marketing and sales, we often gravitate toward marketing.
We believe that with marketing, we can somehow put ourselves out there without directly asking for what we want.
We treat marketing as a surreptitious way to solicit opportunities, and when no one catches the subliminal message, we get frustrated.
Why does this happen?
Because the point of marketing is still to get down to a conversation about money. And money is hard to talk about.
In my own life, and in the testimonies of my clients, I see a pattern emerge here again and again. On the one hand, we want money. On the other hand, we loathe ourselves for wanting it. If we had a third hand, we'd dread asking for money, too.
Yet money (or whatever your valuable "currency" is) lies at the root of both sales and marketing. It's part of what ties them together, and if you remove that currency from the equation, you've stripped your marketing and sales efforts of their power to do the very thing you want them to.
Attracting the opportunities we want is not just about committing to change our view of sales and marketing.
It's about committing to change our relationship with commerce and profit.
By confronting our relationship with money, we're much more ready to take marketing actions that actually drive sales.
Which brings us back to change, right? And to the whole issue of marketing and sales.
The truth is, they are not separate disciplines, no matter how much we might wish them to be.
Remove sales from the marketing equation, and you are wasting your time. Remove marketing from the sales equation, and your balance sheet will show it.
As we go forward into a new year of more holistic thinking about branding, marketing and sales, I challenge all of us to rethink the relationships we create between sales and marketing, and in the process, the relationships we create with change and money.
It's time to bring them all back together.
That's what holistic truly means.
Until next time, speak freely.
Do your marketing and sales processes work in tandem? How might you bring them closer together? Comment below.
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