The Difference Between Sales & Marketing

I know a lot of businesses that would claim they only do sales. Or only do marketing. There is a  troublesome overlap between sales & marketing because they seem to represent two fundamental different standpoints. And for many, they never mix. Sales teams look on marketers as fluffy poodles and marketers look at sales teams as working dogs doing the distasteful muddy work. At best. For some marketers, sales teams are (quite wrongly) the stupid brother of the equation. 

It's time we challenge this viewpoint wherever it exists - because it's downright unprofitable.

Either of these viewpoints  is missing the fundamental opportunity that, despite competitiveness between them, it's almost never a case of being an either/or decision. In fact, used in the right way, both sales and marketing should be each other's most staunch and supportive allies. Sales and marketing is an and/and process.

The difference between sales and marketing

Sales, in its most positive sense is seen as a practical, hands on approach to creating revenues in a business. Sales (for me) is about one to one communication, aimed at making a sale, pure and simple. It's the stuff you do in person and is tailored to each individual customer in an evolving conversation. 

Marketing, on the other hand is about a different set of concerns. Its ultimate goal is exactly the same sales and profits, but it uses a different set of tools. Marketing is more typically associated with one to many communications. Even a team of salespeople can't hope to generate the kind of reach which an advert, an email, or a search engine optimisation campaign might bring, let alone properly qualify them. So marketing has the great potential to cover the ground that sales can't.

Marketing is your one-to-many workhorse

Marketing is helpful for sales teams because it gets out there and it speaks to many customers at once. It should ideally qualify them and it should ideally prompt them to respond in some way. Where it's unfeasible to have a sales force speak to every individual, marketing materials such as websites and brochures are your one to many salesperson.

Sales is your one-to-one workhorse

Before you start writing in, these distinctions aren't totally clear cut. For example, public speaking to many people at a conference or event could be seen as both marketing and sales. But my point is not to create crystal clear definitions here.

Sales & marketing need to be twin allies

 Marketing should work to do everything it can to reach as many qualified leads at the lowest cost and prompt a response. Marketing material is your salesman too. It has to look good, write well and engage the customer through text, images and other media. And it has to work to create opportunities for sales teams to meet and talk to new people and close deals.

Marketing, however, isn't tailored or individual enough to work in the later stages of a sale. And that's where sales leads the way.

At it's simplest, sales and marketing are both essential factors in the equation and do not need to be antagonistic. In fact, they are missing tricks if they are not working very closely together. 

Use the right tool for the right job

Which is the right tool for the job? One-to-many - use marketing to reach, engage and qualify. One-to-one use sales to give personal attention and move qualified leads closer to the sale.

What marketing tools are available that can help sales teams?

In no particular order and certainly not exhaustive:

  • Lead generation websites
  • Landing pages
  • Pay per click advertising (Google Adwords & Bing)
  • Print, newspaper and magazine advertising
  • Email marketing
  • Social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook)
  • Online videos
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Leaflets and brochures
  • Direct mail (postcards, sales letters, DM materials)
  • Sales letters
  • Remarketing
  • Banner adverts
  • Pop-up banners and exhibition stands
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Promotional materials
  • Business cards

The trick ultimately is not how many tools you use, but how well you use them. It's the aim of every business to create a sales and marketing formula which can be followed step by step to consistently create success. And to do that effectively, sales and marketing need to be team members helping each other out and not passive aggressive antagonists.


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