Over the past few years, you may have heard someone say "sales is dead" - or something along those lines. The theory is quite simple and it's backed with substance. The idea is that with today's researching buyer and automated marketing techniques, there is no longer a need to 'sell' good products. And as automation prevails, this theory goes for marketing too. Unfortunately, this will never be true. As long as we live and work in markets that allow for quality, differentiated products, 'sales' will always be important as will the marketing materials to support the sales function.
The types of products that don't need to be sold are commodities. This means that they exist with little difference from their competitors and can be distributed on industry information relevant to all the suppliers, rather than the nuanced differentiators of one supplier. At best, commodities rely on 'service' to differentiate and improve margins, but ultimately, their demand - and understanding in the market - is driven by the market, not the firm. These products can only be sold profitably by firms with big barriers to entry - usually lots of capital.
As you move upmarket, out of the commodity space, you find nimbler companies trying to differentiate with more innovative products. These products could be the result of big investment, or simply an ingenious company seeking to find a niche for a unique product. Because of their differentiators, the costs associated with their construction and the perceived value in use, these products are sold at a 'premium' - that is to say that if one is shopping on price alone, they are not buying this product. However, oftentimes, this product offers superior solutions and the buyers won't know it until they are sold.
This is where sales and marketing comes in. The sales process is driven by content. The challenge with differentiated products is that there is not nearly perfect information to support them. Their go-to-market strategy is almost always content starved. Furthermore, with some companies testing automated selling and marketing, the active sales process for differentiated, premium products is waning as well. This is creating an environment where consumers are acting on the only information they have, which is often price.
So how can differentiated products commanding a premium in the market win? Re-ignite your content engines and re-engage your salesforce. Great products are meant to be sold. There is a reason that cars and houses will always require sales-people. It's that they are highly differentiated and there is no way buyers can appreciate all the nuances without help.
In this process, great content and great selling combine to help the customer uncover appealing differentiators within the features and benefits of the product. With more material to browse, the customer will be informed and intrigued and the sales resource can close the sale profitably to a customer who appreciates the product.
Brands who under-deploy sales and marketing will face excessive price pressure and compressed margins. But those who believe in old-fashioned selling and the content to match, will hold a competitive advantage during this confused time in a market which is neglecting its sales channels.