Peter Drucker, business genius, once said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” That concept essentially defines marketing as early stage selling, but since Drucker’s time, many companies have divided marketing and selling into separate disciplines, rather than realizing that they are essentially just different points on the continuum of bringing the customer to the business.
While popular wisdom often cites the statistic that 70 percent of the sales process is completed by the time a customer speaks to a sales rep, recent research from the ITSMA shows that in fact, 70 percent of prospects want to engage with a sales rep before they even decide on their short list. How can such opposite viewpoints exist in the same universe?
The answer is that with the rise in social media marketing, companies and prospects form relationships with potential vendors well in advance of the time they enter the formal sales funnel. They research a company’s website; they read product and service reviews, and they follow the companies they are considering on Facebook or other sites. Obviously, it’s important for marketing to have a cohesive and compelling strategy that helps move the customer through the sales funnel until they are ready to engage with an inside sales rep on a more formal basis.
It’s also important for inside sales reps to have a social media presence. One of the things that prospects evaluate is the sales rep’s reputation as well as the brand’s reputation. Customers know that they will be spending most of their time with their account rep and they want to be certain that the rep is as trustworthy and reliable as the brand itself.
Sales reps can no longer afford to sit back and wait for marketing to deliver qualified leads so they can simply close the deal. Instead, sales reps need to take an active part in pre-selling their brand, product or service, and their own reputation. The rep’s own social media presence may be as important as the product’s or the brand’s reputation when it comes to landing on the short list.
The story that marketing weaves about the product and the brand in its content marketing must be consistent in every tweet and every post to march the prospect through the steps in the sales funnel. In addition, the rep may need to promote his or her online reputation and support the brand story with social media engagement to ensure that prospects feel comfortable adding the product to their short lists.
This means that more than ever before, marketing and sales are intertwined. Marketing must use its best strategy and its social media presence to attract the prospect and encourage engagement with the brand. Simultaneously the inside sales rep should be building engagement and brand reputation that also supports and enhances the company brand. When done correctly, marketing and sales are truly two sides of the same coin united in the task of bringing a customer to the business.