Freeing Salespeople from the Burden of Marketing

heavy_burden_smallToo often, I see companies placing the burden of Marketing on the shoulders of their salespeople, obscuring their true function and diminishing their effectiveness.

In The World’s Greatest Sales Team, I imagine a firm which gives salespeople every opportunity to succeed by relieving that burden, allowing their salespeople to do what they do best; sell.

What is the difference between Marketing and Sales? How does separating the two result in an empowered sales team? And what can you do to ensure that your Marketing efforts are effective and your Marketing budget is well-spent in supporting your sales team?

In this article we’ll examine:

  • The Role of Marketing in Your Firm
  • The Difference Between Marketing and Sales
  • Why Separating Marketing and Sales is so Important
  • How Marketing Supports Sales with Branding, Support, Tools and Leads

The Role of Marketing

There are three basic departments in any company: Production, Marketing and Administration. Marketing’s function is to get people to buy your company’s product or service. At a farmers’ market, vendors place their wares on tables for passersby to examine, consider and purchase. You know an apple when you see one and through the senses of sight, touch, smell and taste you can determine whether or not you want to buy the one in your hand.

In the global marketplace things get a little more complicated. There are hundreds of products in every category competing for your dollar. The range of features, functions and benefits are mind-numbing. Any man who has had to purchase the exact, correct brand of feminine hygiene product for his significant other can testify to this, but there are many other examples in categories ranging from breakfast cereal to antifreeze.

Establishing a brand and getting people to buy into it is the role of Marketing. In The Customer Factory Marketing Model I refer to the process of moving someone from Stranger to Client as a Marketing Production Line where specialized tools are used in sequence to transition people through these stages:

Stranger  —>  Suspect  —>  Prospect  —>  Customer  —>  Client

Through effective Marketing, companies introduce a product or service to their target market and, over time not overnight, convince them to buy it, once or repeatedly. Think of your favorite brand of deodorant. At some point you had never heard of it (Stranger), but you bought it once (Customer) and now you buy it every time you run out (Client). How did that happen? How was it introduced to you? What made you want to try it? Why do you keep buying it? You may not know the answers to those questions but I’ll bet the Marketing Department at the company that manufactures it does.

The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Let’s start with the classic definition of Marketing, the Five Ps: Product, Place, Packaging, Price and Promotion.

Marketing encompasses every aspect of a product or service (henceforth simply referred to as the product) in its relationship to its target market.

  1. Product: Exactly what is the product and what does it do? What are its ingredients, features, functions and benefits?
  2. Place: What is this product’s position in the marketplace? How does it stack up against its competition? What makes it different or better?
  3. Packaging: What does it look like, smell like and feel like? What sizes does it come in? How do I consume it? Where and how can I procure it?
  4. Price: How much does it cost? Can I buy different sizes at different unit costs? Are there any discounts, coupons, bulk or frequent buyer promotions?
  5. Promotion: How is it sold (retail, wholesale, online, network marketing, direct sales team, etc.)? How do I find out about it (advertising, promotion, PR, etc.)?

In this series of articles I am speaking to companies and managers who employ a direct sales team as the primary driver of the Promotion P in the Five Ps. As you can see, that is but one element of one-fifth of the entire marketing burden. So why do so many companies place much of the rest of the Marketing responsibilities on their sales team and then wonder why things aren’t working as well as they had expected? Two reasons: ignorance and frugality.

I often say that, for many business owners and managers, “Marketing Is a Mystery and Sales Is a Dirty Word.” So, when I refer to business owners and managers as being ignorant of Marketing fundamentals, I’m not accusing them of being stupid, just mystified. They don’t understand how successful Marketing works and so can’t use it successfully.

As for their “frugality,” here I might be cutting a little closer to the bone. Companies who don’t invest in market research or creative product development to establish and understand what the Product, Place, Packaging and Price should look like and yet expect that they will succeed are just kidding themselves. And those who don’t put money into branding, PR, advertising, lead generation and sales tools are kidding their salespeople as well.

Why Unburdening Salespeople is So Important

Saddling salespeople with Marketing tasks like prospecting, lead generation, first-rung prospect qualifying, brand introduction and the like wastes both time and money. Most of these functions can and should be performed by people with other specialized skills like copywriting, advertising production and placement, direct mail production, web development, video production, graphic design and so forth.

Salespeople’s skills lie primarily in interpersonal relationship building and persuasive communication. That’s what they should be spending all their time doing, supported by powerful branding and sales tools provided by their Marketing Department.

Prospecting and Cold Calling are extremely time-consuming and often frustrating tasks. I have done sales work for companies that required those functions from their team and for companies who instead provided a steady stream of pre-qualified leads generated by their Marketing Department. The difference in my effectiveness, production and income is staggering.

Requiring a salesperson to generate their own leads is like telling a brew master to grow is own hops. He might be able to do it, but it will take up most of his time and the results – for both the hops and the beer – will be significantly inferior, both in quality and quantity. Let the farmers farm, the brewers brew and the salespeople sell.

When I worked in the home improvement industry, I received three qualified leads in my inbox every morning, six days a week. When I met with these prospects in their homes they already were aware of my company’s name and marketplace position (highest price, best product), knew what we could do for them and had a general idea of the unique features, functions and benefits of our offering. All I had to do was introduce myself, do a detailed explanation of why our product was superior, execute some measurements, write a proposal and close the deal.

I spent all day every day meeting with people and closing deals – not prospecting, qualifying or setting appointments. In six months I generated over $600,000 in sales and earned over $80,000 in commissions. The company gave me what I needed to succeed and I gave them what they needed to grow.

How Can the Marketing Department Support the Sales Team?

There are four primary areas where every Marketing Department should support their sales team; Branding, Support, Tools and Lead Generation.


The word Branding is derived from the practice of marking livestock with a symbol that signifies ownership. A brand identifies a product, encompasses every aspect of it. Created correctly and developed sufficiently a brand communicates everything about a product or service in a single word, often followed by a tagline.

Brands such as Coke, Pepsi, Ford, Xerox, Kleenex, Pampers, etc. need no further explanation. But even without a multimillion-dollar marketing budget, it’s critical that you create and communicate your brand to your marketplace before your salesperson says word one. This is accomplished in a variety of fashions.

While advertising is generally designed and implemented to directly generate sales, it also has the side effect of establishing a brand. The hundreds of ads we’ve all seen for GEICO and Magic Jack have not only generated millions of dollars in sales, they’ve also established those brands in our minds. We know that 15 minutes on the phone with GEICO could save us 15% or more on our car insurance and that Magic Jack gives us unlimited domestic long distance for only $19.95 a year.

Those ads have established the identity of the Product, its Price, its marketplace Position, etc. in thirty seconds or less (repeated incessantly over time) without the need for a customer to speak to a salesperson. Similarly, in order to support your salespeople you need to keep Branding at the front of your mind when creating and placing ads for your offering.

If your advertising is also to function as a lead generation system, you need to make it clear what you offer, why’s it’s superior and how and why your target market should learn more about it. I often recommend Education-Based Marketing for this purpose.

I’ll explain this process in further detail in a future article but suffice it to say every time you see an ad for Video Professor, the Bowflex or Rosetta Stone which offers a free DVD or color brochure, you’re seeing Education-Based Marketing in action. When you respond you self-qualify and provide your contact information, creating a qualified lead.

Companies and organizations from across the spectrum from The Hair Club for Men to the U.S. Army use this same technique, and you can too. Tune in later for complete instructions.

Public Relations is another important, and often inexpensive, element of successful branding. In today’s era of online publicity and free press release sites you should be publicizing everything your company does, from starting up to introducing new products and hitting significant milestones to case studies and testimonials from your customers. Every press release will appear in Google searches your prospects do and some of them will even appear in newspapers or blogs which, once again, will appear on Google.

Live events such as trade shows or conferences are also an important element of branding. Particularly for business-to-business marketing, exhibiting at trade shows can be an invaluable technique for establishing the existence and credibility of your brand while forging relationships with peers, suppliers and prospective customers. Successful trade show marketing will be examined in a future article.

Support Materials and Resources

Successful salespeople should be surrounded by materials and resources that help establish their brand and its credibility, as well as answer questions and provide product information to prospects.

In terms of print collateral, in the age of the Internet, I don’t think you need much more than a full-color three-fold brochure, stationery and business cards. Just about anything else is better communicated through the web with its ability to convey messages interactively through text, graphics, audio and video. You just need something you can drop in the mail as a physical touch. Put the brochure in a #10 envelope along with a short cover letter and you’re good to go. You can also use the brochure as a leave-behind after meetings and presentations.

One type of print collateral you may not be using is digitally-printed, full-color glossy postcards and greeting cards. The ones I use are produced on-demand, customized with my own handwriting, signature and message. They make great Thank You cards and drip campaigns and are one of the most powerful follow-up tools I’ve ever seen. They are available very affordably from

Your web site is your most important marketing support resource, but you don’t have to go crazy with it. Home, About Us, Product Listing, Customer Testimonials and Contact Us are about all you need to support a sales team. Using your site as a lead-generation tool will require a sign-up form to receive your weekly email newsletter, get a free in-home demonstration or download your whitepaper (or audio or video).

Within those pages should be crisply written, customer-focused copy that answers questions and builds value. A short explanatory video that demonstrates how your product works and features happy customers is also a great idea that salespeople can post a link to in their email signatures.

The About Us page or section should include a short history of the company, quick bios on the founders and/or executive team, a list of customers and any awards or distinctions the company has earned. Any market research or statistics you can provide that demonstrate the size of the problem and the excellence of your solution goes a long way. And a Newsroom page with press releases and coverage the company has garnered is also helpful.

You should also take some steps to make sure that curious prospects can find your web site via search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated subject that I won’t cover here. But I can tell you that I am aware of a new company that offers a quick, simple solution at a reasonable cost. Contact me if you’d like more information.

Sales Tools

The number and nature of the tools your salespeople need to succeed will depend upon your industry and sales cycle. In the home improvement business I needed things like business cards, a clipboard, pitch book, visual aids and a tape measure. As with any other salesperson I also needed a company-branded email address.

Your salespeople may need a laptop, multimedia presentations, an online ordering interface, downloadable documents – God knows what. The important point is that, whatever tools your salespeople need, give them to them! And make sure you have enough of each so that everyone has a complete set. If the tools are company property and the salespeople are responsible for their maintenance, upkeep and safe return, so be it.

One last, sore point: business cards. When I was in the printing business I referred to business cards as the bane of the industry. Seven square inches of hell. But for the holder of those cards, very few things are more important in terms of establishing their identity, credibility and connection to your firm. Pay for your people’s business cards. You can get 1,000 full-color cards on extra-thick stock with glossy coating for about $35.00 per set. Loosen up with the budget muscles to make sure everyone is using the correct fonts, logo and color scheme so they make a consistent, professional impression for themselves and your firm.

Your Lead Generation System

This topic could (and may) make for a complete article of its own. Certainly I will be discussing one angle on it when I tackle Education-Based Marketing in a future posting. What I want to stress here is that your Lead Generation System must be just that: a SYSTEM that GENERATES LEADS.

The system must include gathering contact information from targeted leads and somehow eliciting their interest in your offering. You then need to contact them, ask qualifying questions, set appointments and distribute the qualified leads. Again, the methods for accomplishing this are myriad and will not be addressed here.

I have worked with a company which touted its Lead Generation System when advertising for sales reps. Unfortunately, it was not a system, but rather just a method for sending one-off emails to addresses scraped from web sites, with no further opportunity to contact, follow-up, ask questions or set appointments. Your LGS must work from beginning to end to pump out qualified leads and set appointments.

As important as generating leads, is your method of distributing them. You may choose to send the best leads to your most experienced top-producing salespeople but doing that also means that you are giving your least effective people the hardest leads to close, potentially dooming them to ineffectiveness.

My recommendation is to assume that all appointments set have an equal probability of closing and that they should be distributed randomly to all of your salespeople. If you’re sure that one of your people couldn’t close a door with both hands; fire them, instead of giving them bad leads to run

Well, there you have it: 2,702 words on how to Free Salespeople from the Burden of Marketing. You may not agree with everything – or even anything – I’ve said but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

If all of this sounds like a great idea but you have no idea when you’d find the time to implement it, give me a call.

Frank Felker

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Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Contact Management, Education-Based Marketing, Lead Distribution, Lead Generation, Market Research, Marketing, Print Collateral, Qualifying Prospects, Sales vs. Marketing, Target Marketing, The Sales Cycle, Top Producers