In Market Discovery, Recruitment, Sales, Startup Management

Finding the right target markets and segments quicky is vital for commercial success.

How do you find the right people to sell you product?  There are lots of different roles and  job titles including sales, marketing and business development, but what do they actually mean?


Marketing people are responsible for figuring out who to sell to and communicating the product or services key benefits.

Marketing is a broad discipline covering many different tasks including:

  • Carrying out Market Research to understand the market, and identify market segments
  • Selecting markets and segments to target
  • Defining the Product or Service so it is attractive to the targets
  • Producing materials to tell the target market segment about the product or service (sometimes called MarComms, short for Marketing Communications)
    • Flyers
    • Advertising
    • Presentations

Marketing may result in potential customers coming to the enterprise (e.g. by responding to an advert), at which point they will be passed over to sales.


Sales people are all about transactions – getting potential customers to hand over cash in exchange for a product or service.  They are guided in both who they talk to and the messages they put across by input from marketing.

Sales people are often described as either hunters or farmers.  Hunters will go out to find new customers and close deals with them, but tend to have a fairly short attention span.  Farmers will look after existing customers, forming long term relationships and ensuring that the maximum possible follow on sales are made.   In some organisations farmers will be known as account managers while the hunters are the sales team.  Relatively few sales people enjoy (or are very good at) both.

When looking to bring a sales person in, it is important to decide whether you need a hunter or a farmer, and make sure the person you are hiring matches that need.  The best farmer in the world may not make a good hunter, and vice versa.

Sales & Marketing

Often in small enterprises a single person will be responsible for both sales and marketing but it is important to recognise that these are separate functions being carried out by the same person and are not just different words for the same thing.   Some sales people will have no marketing skills, and few marketing people will be experienced in sales.

This means it is important to ensure that anyone recruited to such a role has expertise and experience in both!

Business Development

Companies such as Nokia, IBM and Coca-Cola have huge numbers of people in marketing and sales (both hunter and farmer roles), but the majority of their time will be spent trying to make the enterprise more effective at marketing and selling existing (or incrementally different) products and services.

Business Development is a role that combines sales and marketing for NEW products or services.  If sales people are hunters or farmers, business development people are the explorers that tell the hunters where to find their targets, and the farmers where to find fertile land.  They operate in the dynamic environment where the everything is unknown – the definition of the product is incomplete, there are no previous sales as a point of reference, and there may be many different potential markets and segments which need to be explored.

Providing support for business development, or even acting as an interim Business Development Director, is one of the things I do through my business Salient Point . I passionately believe that good business development early in the life of an enterprise is key to commercial success.

Who do you need?

I work mostly with startups who sell business to business (B2B), and the progression I usually expect to see is as follows.

The founding team frequently make the very first sales themselves, based mostly on the strength of their passion for the product or service.  These are sometimes known as evangelical sales.

  • The first sales related person to work with the team is in Business Development – this is the skill set that can identify and sell to the first customers, while also building a foundation for futuresales.
  • Once business development has established a repeatable process and has no more capacity , the next hire is a “hunter”
  • Hire farmers when the task of maintaining existing relationships is lucrative enough to pay for them and big enough to be distracting the others

Marketing hires are a little more complex.  Often this function can be covered by the business development person for quite some time – especially as other team members may be able to  contribute, and some aspects are easily outsourced (market research, design etc).  However in B2C enterprises or those trading with a very high volume of relatively small transactions, marketing may be a vital function to have in-house from day one.

 Finding the Right People

 If you are looking to add people to your team at the moment, you might like to revisit some earlier posts on this blog:

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