Never Mistake Marketing for Sales

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Sales Motiviation

business professionals at a conference table going over sales numbers

On separate occasions I recently met with two small business owners. These guys don’t know each other but they have a lot in common: Despite great effort, neither is happy with their revenue. Both companies are “getting by” but not thriving.

A quick examination revealed the same reason why revenues are falling short. Both owners are mistaking promotional activity for selling activity.

Allow me to explain…

Both of these entrepreneurs tirelessly promote their companies. They belong to service clubs and chambers of commerce. They show up at networking events. They lead active social lives. They advertise. They buy social media ads and boost posts. They sponsor events. One of them even sponsors a youth sports team. Yet despite this activity, neither is getting enough new business to come through the door.

So, what’s the problem?

While they’re doing a great job with promoting, neither is focused on selling. Both entrepreneurs are getting their brands out in the marketplace. They are creating name recognition and associating their brands with positive feelings. But promotion is simply not enough. Promotional activities don’t in-and-of-themselves lead directly to signed deals. If you stop at promotion, you’re not going far enough.

To make a military analogy, think of promotional activity as analogous to an air raid and selling to be an analogy for the infantry. If one military is going to attack another, they often use their air forces to weaken the target before the infantry soldiers invade. You don’t win wars with air power alone. At some point, the infantry must win it on the ground.

I’m a little hesitant to use the military analogy because good sales people don’t “attack” prospective customers. Instead they work with them to find beneficial solutions. Nevertheless, promotional activities “soften” up the target audience while salespeople (the “ground forces”) finish the process.

No matter how tirelessly you promote, and no matter how much you spend on marketing, making a sale usually requires someone from a company to do four things in exact order:

  1. Interrupt someone’s day and turn them into a prospect;
  2. Figure out what prospects truly care about;
  3. Demonstrate how the product/service exactly meets their needs;
  4. Confidently ask them to sign up.

To be successful, companies have to repeat this process with multiple people each and every day. If you’re not focused on the four activities above, you are wasting time and money.

But it’s not just glad-handing, socializing owners/executives who are guilty of this. Some salespeople are too. Yes, people who actually work in sales will often promote instead of sell.

Some salespeople will sit and wait for the phone to ring rather than proactively pick up the phone and call prospects. You could describe these salespeople “reluctant,” “timid” or “procrastinators.”

Other salespeople will wine-and-dine clients but not steer them to the close. A good name for these salespeople would be “professional lunch eaters” or “professional coffee drinkers.”

It’s easy to do the relationship-building part of sales, but it’s hard for some people to follow through with the closing part. Asking for the order is inherently difficult, because it’s not fun to be turned down. It’s human nature to avoid rejection. Because of that, many people put themselves out there, build relationships and simply hope and pray that the clients will come to them.

That’s too passive. Waiting for people to volunteer to be your clients might work occasionally, but it won’t generate enough business to sustain you.

It’s true that successful sales pros must engage in promotional activity, but that is simply a means to an end. Your success is ultimately judged when your prospect signs their name on the dotted line. That means you must be constantly focused on the real measure of success.

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Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

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