In my work as a coach and consultant, I’ve discovered that many entrepreneurs don’t know the difference between “sales” and “marketing.” These are the guiding minds of young companies, yet they use those words interchangeably. While the two concepts are related, all business owners should be aware that they are not the same; keeping this in mind, it’s almost no surprise that 80% of SME start-ups fail within five years.
Many people who go into business for themselves are plumbers, electricians, doctors, and lawyers- in other words, professionals with exceptional practical skills and a high level of experience; they’re very good at what they do. However, they’ve likely spent their whole careers working somewhere that employed sales and marketing departments or where the business owners and high level executives, better known as “rainmakers,” brought clients to them. This environment allowed them to spend their time focusing on cultivating a superior technical skill set. Eventually they became so confident in those skills they struck out on their own to become business owners – business owners that know absolutely nothing about the two skills than can make or break a new enterprise. Without sales and marketing knowledge, even your first day of business is merely a countdown until the inevitable day you must shutter your doors.
Often, new business owners believe that sales and marketing skills can just be “picked up,” along the way. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case: while I do believe that anyone can learn these skills, they must put in time and genuine effort to do so. Instead, these new business owners continue to focus on their specialty and avoid making a concerted effort to learn the basics of sales and marketing, much to their detriment. A successful business requires someone with the knowledge and skills to position, promote and convert prospects into long-term clients and advocates.
Understanding this distinction between sales and marketing isn’t merely helpful; it’s an absolute necessity for any business owner. While both concepts have a great deal of depth, the basic difference is simple: “sales” is the act of offering a good or service for money, a process that can be systemized over time. “Marketing,” on the other hand, means validating whether demand exists for that good or service you want to sell. If there’s not enough demand in a market for the given product, you won’t make the necessary revenue and ultimately your business will fail. Marketing can also provide a substantial leg up in the sales processes by differentiating you from your competitors within the market, so that when it is time to sell your product or service you will have a unique message to attract customers.
Though many new business owners have taken on a role for which they have little to no experience, skills, or support, gaining a solid knowledge of sales and marketing- especially the differences between the two- is non-negotiable. Doing so forms the solid base one needs for a business to ensure it isn’t built on shaky foundations that are bound, sooner or later, to crumble. Put in the time and effort to learn the ins and outs of sales and marketing. Now that you’ve learned the basic difference, you’re off to a great start in making sure your business is the one in five that survives and achieves its long term strategic goals.
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