You are keen to expand your business and have the money and infrastructure in place to hire a new employee. Who should you hire: a sales specialist or a marketing specialist?
The answer may seem obvious to some businesses, but in the real world the solution is not so clear-cut. It is often not so much a case of making an either/or decision, but to think outside the box about what other solutions are available.
Before you decide whether to make an employment decision at all, think about your circumstances and the nature of your business. Why are you contemplating expanding your sales and marketing team now? Is it part of a planned phase of growth, or is it a reaction to a slowdown in business or to losing a major customer? If you need to generate sales due to a loss of business, don’t make any rushed decisions. ROI is very important and there may be more cost-effective ways to grow your business without the obligations that come with expanding your team.
Also consider the environment you will be bringing your new employee into. Do you already have a sales and/or marketing team in place? If so, give careful thought to the role the new employee will play within it and whether that function is worth the expense. A sales and marketing team works best when a number of people take on fairly specific expert roles, rather than when one or two people try to be a jack of all trades. A solitary sales or marketing person can of course be effective, but the more hats a person must wear, the less time and energy they have to devote to each task. Something has to give.
If you don’t currently have a sales and marketing team, we don’t recommend employing an individual person. Skip the next two paragraphs and hop straight to the ‘hire neither’ section. Our reason is that, in most cases, a sales or marketing person working on their own is unlikely to achieve much. They simply won’t have the resources to carry out an effective strategy. Sales and marketing are both functions within your wider business. They work very closely together with a lot of overlap – and also need the active buy in of the rest of your business in order to succeed.
Hire A Salesperson?
With these words said, why should you hire a salesperson?
A salesperson is a specialist in closing deals. They are confident, have great product knowledge and communication skills, and can successfully negotiate new contracts with customers. Without a sales function, a business will not grow. Of course, not all businesses have dedicated salespeople. In many SMEs, it is the owners/directors who carry out the sales role.
To work successfully, a salesperson needs leads to follow up. This could be a database of emails and phone calls to pursue, or a schedule of physical appointments at customer sites. In most cases these leads will be ‘warm’, i.e. the people concerned have already expressed an interest in your product or requested a demonstration/sales appointment. To get warm leads you need a marketing function. If you don’t already have a marketing strategy in place, the salesperson will have to resort to cold calling, which is far less commonly practised than it used to be, and, is harder to secure conversions.
Both cold and warm sales can be supported by network selling, such as attending local networking meetings, conferences etc.
So, if you have a marketing function in place to generate leads AND a sales support (admin) function there to support your salesperson, you could consider hiring in sales, although we recommend hiring 2 to 4 people rather than one, as it is easier for a salesperson to sustain morale in the face of rejection when part of a larger team. If you don’t have this infrastructure in place, we don’t recommend you make a hire – the time isn’t right.
Hire A Marketing Person?
What about a marketing person: is this a better way of generating value for your company? The business of a marketing specialist is to focus on brand development, i.e. creating the environment where sales are possible. In practical terms this involves content marketing, CRM management, lead scoring, advertising, SEO, social media marketing and so on. The purpose is to generate leads, stratify these leads in terms of their level of interest, and nurture them through email marketing and targeted communications until they are ready for a sales approach.
At this stage the leads are normally passed to the sales team, who will try and close the deal. This may or may not happen. In some cases the lead is not yet ready to make a purchase, in which case it is passed back to the marketing team for further nurturing. In this way a sales and marketing team work closely together. On its own, a marketing team won’t make many conversions. Some may come in organically, but this will be a trickle without the help of a dedicated salesperson.
Therefore, if you already have sales professionals in place, then a marketing function will be of great value to you. But marketing is an umbrella term for a number of specialist disciplines. It is highly unlikely that a marketer will have equal knowledge of all the fields they need to succeed. It is even less likely that they will have the time to devote to all the channels required to generate leads. Hire a marketing team if you have the resources, but we don’t recommend hiring an individual marketer. A marketer working on their own will be a stressed, isolated and frequently unproductive individual, regardless of their skills.
Hire Neither: Use Your Growth Budget In Other Ways
There is an alternative to hiring anybody: focus on growth and bring in the assistance of a business development agency such as JDR. Ultimately your goal is not to expand your team but grow your business. Employing people is expensive whichever way you look at it. You need the space, the IT equipment and physical infrastructure to support an employee, not to mention wages, holiday pay, sick pay and so on. Let an agency worry about those things. Use your budget to seek out an agency that understands the full sales and marketing funnel. By this we mean the complete process whereby a stranger becomes aware of your brand and is gradually converted into a customer and then a brand advocate.
For the same money as employing one person, working with an agency will give you access to a full team of sales and marketing specialists with all the knowledge and equipment you need to generate leads and close deals. With more people working together to secure growth for your business, you are also likely to see a quicker return on investment than you would by employing one or more people directly.
Feel free to chat with us about your options. We are happy to discuss the different strategies you can pursue to facilitate growth for your business, and whether working with an agency can help you reach those goals.