By David Smallman

The toughest part of running any business is finding time to do the two most important things, marketing and sales.

These two actions are not as many folks thing; one and the same. The skill sets required to do the two jobs are very different. Marketing is the art of understanding the existing and potential customer’s needs and working out how to bring into line the business to deliver these profitably. Fifty percent involves letting the customer know through both written and electronic means (lead generation) that the company can supply its customers needs and that the company is trustworthy (branding). The other fifty percent is marketing’s role in ensuring that the product is what the customer’s wants, when they want it and at the right price.

Whilst the sales role can often be seen as working against marketing it also requires two key, but different, abilities.

The first is to convert an opportunity into cash in the Bank through persuading a customer to purchase from you – and by extension the company – and second, and equally important, is acting as the customer advocate within the company to ensure that the company provides what is needed in order for the customer to meet their expectations.

It is often the second part of the statement above that companies find hardest to achieve. It has been said that “Best is the Enemy of good”. Frequently, whatever the product or service, companies want to differentiate themselves by provided “add-on’s”, “gizmos”, “twiddle bits” etc. Whilst this lifts the offer to Excellent (or best) it adds cost, through time or materials, that are beyond the requirements of the customer to meet their needs and expectations. Good enough should not be considered inferior if the customer’s expectations are met.

It is the crossing point between marketing and sales – where marketing is striving to reach an understanding of what customers want, at what price, and where sale’s is work out how to get them to actually pay for it – that is crucial and the hardest to manage.

Time and again in companies forget that the most important principle in any business is to get the order in before the competition does, ensuring that everybody keeps their job and can collect their wages. Remember “…its not how far you finish in front what is important is that you finish first……” There are many examples, what ever your interest, of the winner not always being the favorite. For favorite read – the greatest talent, best equipped, most sophisticated, on top form, unbeatable etc.

It is a Team effort, however small the Team, that gets the winner over the line first. No one part of the company, nor for that matter no one person, should be allowed to have dominance over the ultimate aim of taking an order and turning that order into the money that pays the home loan puts food on the table and provides for further capital on which to build and expand  the business.

So the next time you are in a company meeting, however small the company might be, ask yourself “Does this discussion move the company any nearer ensuring that what’s on offer is what the customer’s wants, when they want it and at the right price?” and “Does this help get the order and put the money in the Bank?

If you can’t answer yes to both the above then you should question whether your time might be better spent elsewhere.