A Guide to Sales and Marketing Careers
Design, Plan — and then Sell
Traditionally, the marketing departments of businesses were responsible for product design, identifying demographics, designing promotions, advertising and enabling the sales force with tools for their "go to market" strategy. Once marketing was finished, the sales professionals took over. If sales were strong, the marketing team felt as if they did a good job on their end. If sales were weak, the marketing team would be charged with creating a different marketing plan and to redesign the "go to market" strategy.
While many large businesses still operate in the traditional "marketing then sales" model, most small to mid-sized businesses have merged these two departments into one. Doing so not only reduces overhead but also can provide a few distinct advantages.
This merging has created several career opportunities for creative thinking sales professionals who can benefit from the advantages of a dual-role position.
A common challenge with the traditional marketing departments is the lack of experienced sales professionals on the team. Sales cannot be made in a boardroom or on a dry erase board. Sales are done face to face, belly to belly, sales professional to customer. An experienced sales professional knows what works and what falls short. Career marketing professionals often rely on polls, industry analysis and charts when designing a strategy. What this approach lacks is the real-life experience that only sales experience can offer.
When experienced sales professionals are employed as sales marketing specialists, they bring the crucial missing piece that can make or break a marketing plan. This eliminates the delay in getting feedback from the sales force and can greatly assist in creating the original marketing plan as well as reducing the need for revisions.
Multiple Career Paths
One common challenge faced by many employers is retaining and attracting quality employees. By offering career advancement opportunities, employers are better positioned to both attract and retain quality employees. While the typical career path for sales professionals follows the rep-manager-director path, blending marketing in with sales creates multiple advancement paths. Not only will blending sales and marketing provide a "value-add" to employees, but the employer also benefits through the cross-training of mid- and senior-level executives.
Prevent Skill Loss
Sales and marketing skills are like muscles: If not used, they will shrink, become weaker and, eventually atrophy to the point of being useless. Despite what some believe, sales is not like riding a bike. Just because you were effective in a sales position 10 years ago does not mean that you will be effective after an extended period of time out of the sales field.
The same holds true for those in marketing. Skills need to be used consistently and constantly improved. Things change drastically in the business world and your skills need to change right along with these changes. If you stay out of sales or marketing for any length of time, you will be passed by your competition.
Having multiple career paths does create the potential for sales or marketing skills to wane unless your position is one that places consistent demands of both your marketing and sales skills. Employers should be aware of this potential, and design job positions that reflect the college system of "major-minor." This means that no employee should be 100% focused on sales or marketing, but should have a 75/25% split favoring either marketing or sales.
What Employers Look For
A typical college degree in business management includes elements of sales and marketing that employers want in candidates interested in a combo position. But getting experience in both fields can be challenging. In typical situations, people focus on either a career in sales or a career in marketing but seldom do both. For the job seeker, the answer may not be easily found.
There are options, however. The first being asking your employer for training with their marketing department employees for those in sales and asking for sales training for those in marketing. Very few employers would deny an employee's request for additional training and they will likely offer free and readily available access to on the job training.
Another option for cross-training is to reach out to local colleges and universities for continuing education courses. While this option may take longer, take more of your personal time, and cost you more capital, the resume-improvements and the visible signs of self-drive can more than compensate for the costs.