I have a client with an interesting employee – he can take a product, and figure out who the best customers of this product are. He knows how to reach those people, as well as the people who would ultimately pay for the product. He can get these people to seriously consider using his product over the competion. Many times, this results in sales, and until recently, the line between sales and marketing was blurred.
With recent developments, the nature of the products was changing, and it was realized that this person is actually a fantastic marketer, but not a salesman, much to many people’s surprise.
The difference between the two, however, is quite important, and in growing businesses, these two roles will eventually diverge from one another.
The marketer is concerned with getting people to look at the product, to consider its merits, sometimes in light of competing products. He listens to what potential customers are saying about the product, and requests changes to be made to the product. He does not, however, work with real products, but rather with demo versions, wish lists, and spec sheets.
The salesman deals with a completed product, getting people to actually pay for it. He will follow up on leads created by the marketers to get people to pull out their credit cards and pay. He will work on pricing models, support contracts, and return policies. He will focus, in short, on getting the working product into the end user’s hands.
The skills needed for both these roles are similar, but not the same. If you see your product struggling to be adopted by your target market, think about whether the problem is one of knowledge in the market at large, or in closing deals. Do your potential customers know about your product, and how it fits into their view of the world? If not, the problem is likely one of marketing. If, on the other hand, people know about the product but are not buying, then your problem may be in sales.
Knowing your problem is one of sales at least gives you a place to start your research into why people are not buying. It might be because you don’t have appropriate staff to follow up on leads, or it might be because your product fails to fulfill the needs you think it does.
However, at least you have been able to narrow down the problem into a set of solvable questions.