Marketing is the art of selling your product or services to the customer. It can be accomplished directly (door-to-door sales) and indirectly (TV and print ads). Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand, and the success of your business can hinge on your ability to create a workable marketing strategy and implement it.

Effort should be exerted in utilizing every marketing tool available at your disposal. Most advertising and promotion professionals would encourage clients to do as much research as possible before embarking on a marketing gimmick designed to boost sales or product reputation.

The following are some of the basic steps that can help you jump start your sales and marketing game plan:

1. Determine your target market

People try to figure out what their customers need before developing a product or service to meet that need. On the flip side, some people come up with a great product idea and create a prototype before looking at their target market.

If you know who your target market is, then you’ve managed to complete more than half of the marketing plan already. It can get pretty hairy if you can’t decide whether your bass-optimized headphones are for geriatrics or the younger hip crowd. You may end up alienating potential customers and totally offending another generation.

Find out who will want to buy your product and realize that this won’t necessarily be who you envisioned selling your product to. Get your target market right the first time and you’ve won half the marketing battle.

2. Determine your target market’s financial capacity

You need to determine your target market’s ability to pay. Sales for a premium product may never take off if the price is too much for the intended customer. On the other hand, if you price your item too low, you run the risk of sending the message that your product isn’t of much value. Not a good thing especially when you run in more elite circles.

Focus the bulk of your pricing strategy on capturing the customer base that is poised to offer the most returns.

3. Develop a cohesive marketing and branding strategy

In the book “The Next 500 Stories” there is a story about a salesman who convinced a store owner to order 500 units of ballpoint pens. When he took out his notepad to take note of the order, the owner immediately canceled the order, to the confusion of the salesman and others in the shop. When pressed for the reason for his sudden cancellation, he confessed that it was hard to trust a man whose profession did not match up with his practice and revealed that the salesman had used a pencil to take note of his order.

Your brand and marketing strategy should be in line with your product as well as the target market. Don’t come out with packaging, for example, that is the antithesis of your eco-friendly image. Practice what you preach and don’t contradict yourself.

If your goal is to achieve a more corporate look to your company, use a clean, modern logo that is representative of the services you provide. Maintain a cohesive look by outfitting your sales staff with customized shirts with your logo on it. Use the same logo on all your packaging and correspondence to reinforce brand identity.

4. Determine your marketing battleground

Engage your customers in their home base or a place that is familiar to them, somewhere where they are comfortable and at ease. You don’t expect to find many surfers on top of Mt. Everest, so why would you plan a marketing campaign that shows a lot of snow and mountain passes that are supposedly geared toward a bunch of free-spirited wave riders?

Is this advice just for persons who make their living offering products and services to others for a commission? Yes, of course, but it is actually for all of us. After all, everybody sells! Surprised? Everybody does sell, although many people may not realize it at the time or think of themselves as salespeople. We sell ourselves and our ideas every day.

In the job interview setting, we are selling the potential employer as to why we are the best person for the job. The boy who desires to date the girl he is enamored with must sell her as to the benefits of going out with him. The man proposing marriage to his sweetheart is selling her as to the lifelong benefits of being with him only. We all sell, in one manner or another, although possibly not in the traditional sense.

Selling, distilled down to its most basic roots, is simply the matching of benefits to needs and desires. The salesperson acts as the broker who is simply bringing the product or service to the table so that the buyer can be shown the personal benefits of ownership or use. Under ideal circumstances, the salesperson’s purpose is simply to help the buyer purchase what he needs or wants. It is a win-win scenario for both. There is no coercion.

What is missing in many sales presentations, however, is the final close… requesting for the order. I have witnessed countless sales presentations during my career where the salesperson has done a magnificent job in making her presentation. She answered all of the objections. She probed and used trial closes along the way. At the peak of the presentation, the crescendo… she says “have a nice day” or “I’ll see you next time” or “call me when you are ready” or some other lame comment and then turns to walk away. She never asked for the order!

My sales motto has always been, “Ask, or the answer is always no”, and it is. We must always perform the next natural step in the progression of our beautiful sales presentation after the objections have been answered, and that is to ask the customer to make a buying decision now. This is the reason why there are salespeople. We would not be needed otherwise.

After all, an interested potential customer can go to the internet these days and learn just about every fact imaginable concerning our products or service. He can also examine our competitors. The customer is better educated than ever before. The salesperson must be at least as well educated as her customer as to the features, advantages, and benefits of her products and services, as well as those of her competitors. Keeping these facts in mind, what then is the role of the salesperson? Reps exist to close the sale. That is all.