A couple of weeks ago, we featured sales guru Alison Edgar on the blog. She had a lot of really interesting and useful things to say, so if you haven’t read the interview, go have a quick look now (also check out her Easy Peasy Sales online course if you want to learn to sell with confidence).

One thing she said stuck in my head, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. “I always talk about it [business] as a game of golf,” she said. “Marketing puts the tee in the ground and the ball on tee, sales hits it down the fairway and into the hole. It’s only when the ball goes in the hole that you make money - that’s the sale."

On the one hand, I completely agree. Without sales, there is no business. Or, to keep with the golf analogy, there’s no point whacking the ball up and down the fairway and never getting it in the hole. Sales is absolutely vital.

But to imagine that you can get a hole-in-one every time you step up to the tee is, I think, unrealistic - not to mention a lot of pressure! In fact, I believe that without a robust marketing strategy and regular marketing activity, the majority of sales actions would fail.

I think it’s more realistic to say that marketing puts the tee in the ground, the ball on the tee and then knocks the ball some way towards the hole - most likely getting it closer and closer in a number of stages before sales takes over.

It’s like what I was saying in a recent post on why marketing isn’t about overnight success. By the time someone makes the buy decision, they’ve probably connected with a brand across a number of different marketing channels, perhaps seeing a tweet, reading a blog post, hearing someone mention the brand favourably and so on.

A salesperson is going to have a far easier job if he or she is talking to someone who has already heard lots of great things about the product, service or brand being sold. Going in completely cold is a thankless task.

So, which is more important then, marketing or sales?

Actually, I think they’re not only equally important but inherently linked - the former should always be moving the customer towards the latter, which should build on the work done before.

If more companies brought their sales and marketing teams together to share ideas and strategy, I think they’d come up with far better results. In my books, collaboration trumps competition every time.

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