Understanding the Difference between Sales and Marketing

Blog Categories:  Internet Marketing  

For small and medium-size business (SMB), sales and marketing tend to get lumped together in an indistinct mass of activities. Company leaders will say it's inevitable, because everybody wears multiplel hats. Often, sales and marketing responsibilities fall on the owner, who also wears the finance hat and the purchasing hat and the IT hat.

All well and good, unless the owner in question doesn't know what the marketing hat looks like, or thinks of marketing as perhaps the brim of the sales hat. This is no good. Marketing has to be understood as a business discipline separate and distinct from sales. Complimentary, yes. Subordinate to sales, most of the time. But separate and distinct nonetheless. So what is the difference? There are many ways to think about it.

Peter Kusterer says marketing creates opportunities, and sales brings about outcomes.

Some view marketing as the broad function of bringing products to market and sales as one element of it.

Then there's the traditional 4 P's of Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

To see a list of activities marketing is responsible for, read this excellent article by Mark Smock.

If you've checked out all these links, I'll wager you're more confused than ever about what marketing is and how to make it mesh with sales.

A simpler way to understand marketing

Since we could debate the proper definition of marketing forever, let's try to define marketing by describing what it isn't. Marketing is not the sales function in your organization. It does not include the following activities --

  • Making new calls
  • Calling on existing customers
  • Overcoming objections and closing sales
  • Building long lasting business relationships

You might add an item or two to the list in your company, but essentially this is sales. What's left is marketing. Your goal should be to let sales personnel think about these four very important activities and use marketing to fill in the blanks.

  • Marketing assists in making new calls by defining and qualifying prospects. Marketing concentrates on who to call. Sales concentrates on executing the call.
  • Marketing assists in making new and existing calls by arming sales reps with the collateral, Web presence, and promotional programs they need to make compelling presentations.
  • Marketing assists in overcoming objections by researching and reviewing customer wants and needs, along with sales successes and failures. In this way marketing can reshape product/service offering to meet customer demands.
  • Marketing assists in building long lasting business relationships by developing meaningful loyalty programs, reviewing customer experiences (see above), and crafting entirely new product and service offerings.

Have I left anything out? No doubt. But the key is to keep sales focused on selling, not become distracted by the 1001 things marketing can do to support sales. In an upcoming post I'll talk about how to keep sales and marketing on the same page.

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