The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Is there a difference between marketing and sales? Of course, there is… Some of you might say the difference is obvious, and some might say there is not so much of a difference. But the truth is while the two go hand in hand it is dangerous not to see the difference – and the connections.

Sometimes we get the impression there is no other function in a business where there is so much misunderstanding and mixing up as between sales and marketing. Especially founders and young companies seem to be missing a lot of revenue opportunity by simply not knowing the two and how they can be used together. Then they start with sales and do not think they need marketing – this might for a few businesses even work for a while and then the sales comes to a standstill because marketing did not nurture any prospects which would not have been necessary if marketing had started early on.

So, today we are trying to bring a little clarity to the question.

What is sales?

Now I do not want to go into an in-depth analysis of what sales is. But to figure out the difference regarding marketing, we should have a basic idea about what sales is.

“Sales” describes the whole process of getting in touch with people from your target group, turning them into leads and nurturing these leads until they eventually buy a product or service. Basically, the task and goal of the sales department is to sell whatever a company/business has to sell. Sales usually has a short term perspective of getting as many sells done as possible in a given amount of time and a long term goal to increase sales.

What is marketing?There is not only a difference between marketing and sales, they are totally different functions within a business.

The goals of marketing and a marketing strategy can be manifold. They range from creating better brand awareness and brand recognition over creating a positive brand image to creating interest for products and services within a target group.

The goals of marketing are rather long-term and sometimes difficult to measure in numbers. While marketing has a strong influence on revenue growth, results often appear after a longer period of time.

Now, with these rather simplified definitions of sales and marketing, we already see some fundamental differences as for instance, that sales is looking for short term success while marketing usually has a more long term perspective.

Still, one goal of marketing is to make the job of sales easier. Because customer acquisition should start a long time before the first sales calls.

There is no doubt about sales having a better starting point if potential customers they contact have already heard of the product or the brand and hopefully also trust in the brand. But there is more that marketing can do to help the sales team work more efficiently and convert more sales.

How can marketing help sales?

We already mentioned that better brand recognition makes the job of sales easier. A positive brand image also helps to create trust and interest before the sales team even gets into contact with prospects.

The right marketing can even help sales make the first contact with interested prospects. So-called inbound marketing aims to make your prospects make the first move and get in touch with the sales team before they have to pick up the phone. An ideal and much easier way to handle a situation is to answer requests instead of more or less randomly calling people who might or might not be interested in your products and services. Inbound marketing can also help rather shy salespeople by who have a problem with cold calling by establishing a less intrusive point of the first contact.

But there is more marketing can do…

Marketing can provide you with valuable insight into the questions, problems and even objections your audience is dealing with and provide better sales arguments.

When sales is running out of new potential clients to contact, marketing can help to identify them and filling up the list of potential clients. Marketing can even do part of the lead nurturing in an early stage of the customer journey.

Marketing’s job is not done when sales gets on the plan. When the sales team fails to convert a sale they still have leads, which might be willing to buy at a later point. These leads need to be nurtured and kept interested. Marketing can help with that by providing interesting information which allows staying in touch with potential customers and building the relationship without having to ask “Will you buy today?” over and over again. Any salesperson will tell you how much help it is to be able to give something of value to potential clients which is not a rebate or a promotional item.

Thus, marketing is part of the customer lifecycle can help leveraging prospects which at first did not buy and turn them into customers at a later point. Marketing can become part of the sales cycle and contribute to business growth in the long run.

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What marketing is not

However, with all the good marketing can do to help sales, there is also a lot that marketing is not and will never be.

What I often see and what most of the time will not work is to misuse marketing channels as a surrogate for sales: Shouting out sales messages over and over again on our social media (marketing) channels will usually fail to get any results. Marketing is not a shortcut for your sales process and trying to force sales through marketing will usually only hurt your reputation.

To convert a person from our target group into a lead and a lead into a customer you need to build a relationship. Marketing can help build this relationship. It can help build relationships and trust long before the salesperson gets into the game. But you still need some form of sales funnel and a clear sales strategy.

So, there is not only a difference between marketing and sales; they are entirely different functions within a business. While your marketing team should closely work with your sales people, they each have their right of existence.

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There is not only a difference between marketing and sales, they are totally different functions within a business.