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Important tips for putting sales ahead of marketing strategy

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My sister and I are running our small media company Sekka, and ever since we launched it we have barely done any advertising for our brand. We chose to invest in relationships instead.

Personally I have been working on both sides of the equation. My previous job involved me working on advertising strategies and dealing with many agencies, and now my sister and I are in a situation where we need to drive sales.

When entrepreneurs are building their businesses, they often start thinking about their marketing strategy, and this is something I’ve seen over and over again. They discuss where and how and when will they advertise their products, and basically how soon can they get going.

Before their business has even launched or they have worked out all their inner work details, they are already talking to PR and marketing companies. They would have drafted their press releases, set up their social media pages, and started advertising on Facebook before their products have gone into production.

Then when an inquiry comes in from an interested customer, they take their sweet time to answer. They may come back a while later, or sometimes they do not at all.

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Unfortunately, this is the truth. Many start-ups spend way too much money on marketing without even having a proper sales team or strategy in hand. A customer might complain about a faulty product or post a negative comment on Instagram and then you will find everyone running around, not knowing how to deal with the situation.

In short, they don’t have a sales team. Now the thing with sales is that many people assume that it involves cold calls, and knocking on doors, and that is why they may think that they do not need it, or that their product is completely digital and they do not need a sales policy or whatever excuse they may give.

But sales is more than that. It’s a process that encompasses marketing and building lasting relationships. It involves identifying a potential customer and thinking of the best way to convert that potential client into a paying customer, and then a loyal customer. This is what business is all about. This is how a business grows and sustains.

Instead of spending all that money on marketing, startups should develop a sales strategy. For instance, what happens when an interested customer walks into the door? Whose responsibility is it to deal with him/her? What if that customer files a complaint? Who is assigned to reply to that, and what process is followed to ensure that the issue is resolved and not escalated?

When we founded our media company, our mentors advised us to manage the sales initially. Who is in a better position to share our vision but us? My sister and I had to perfect the process, by documenting it and checking it, before passing it on. We needed to polish the process as much as we could, and then as our business grew, we would assign the responsibility of managing sales to team members.

If you are thinking about marketing only, while overlooking sales, then you will be wasting your money. With a good sales team, your potential leads turn to customers.

At an initial stage, the sales team could also be dealing with customer services, and that is normal and something we gave done, such as dealing with a customer’s concern about a product before making a purchase.

Think of it this way: Imagine going into a department store, where you see flyers, and marked prices of products, but there is no one there to answer your question, or assist you in bringing you the right size, not to mention giving you the digital device you asked for. Chances are, you may leave the store. That is how important a sales policy is, especially at an early stage. You need that someone who will connect with people, build a rapport, lead them to the finish line, and then ensure from then on through planned tactics that they will be coming back for more.

A great sales team doesn’t focus on hard-selling a product, but on building a relationship. When that trust and relationship are present, selling a product will be a piece of cake.

I would strongly urge you to invest in a sales policy from an early stage, to draft a plan of how you can foster relationships with your customers and turn that relationship into a long-term one.

Once that’s arranged for, you can then focus on marketing, and when the marketing efforts come through you will have the sales team ready to take on whatever comes their way.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi

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