Organizations sometimes rely almost exclusively on sales or marketing, thinking of the two fields as interchangeable parts. This is understandable because the ultimate goal of sales and marketing is the same: to sell something. That’s really where the similarity ends, and that’s also why every company needs sales and marketing to achieve dynamic revenue growth.
How Sales and Marketing Operate
Marketing influences customers in big chunks — for instance with an email campaign to a subscriber list of 10,000, or through an SEO campaign targeting keywords with a combined search volume of millions.
Sales, on the other hand, influences customers one at a time. It dives deep into the particular needs and wants of a customer to arrive at a solution that fits as perfectly as the last few pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Because of this difference in approach, marketing tries to smooth out differences among customers and establish a strong sales pitch calculated to persuade as many customers as possible. Sales, in contrast, is all about exceptions and customization, focusing on the unique aspects of the customer and the application.
Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses
The biggest weakness of marketing is difficulty in closing deals. In the first place, marketing relies on the customer initiating action, either by ordering something online, or submitting a phone or webform inquiry. In addition, when the customer’s need is very expensive or very complex, not only is a generalized sales pitch insufficient, but the customer wants to talk to a human (that is, a salesperson) to be reassured and to talk through the many questions there are certain to be. All this explains why the close rate in a marketing campaign could be as low as 2% — and while that is high enough to justify the cost of many marketing campaigns, organizations may be able to sell even more stuff by bringing a strong sales effort into its business acquisition strategy. By bringing a salesperson into a highly qualified lead generated by a marketing campaign, the organization can lock down a sale that might otherwise slip through its fingers.
The biggest weakness of sales is difficulty in opening doors. Most salespeople hate prospecting (cold calling) because it is so hard to generate interest. Most people ignore email solicitations. Getting through to a new prospect on the phone — good luck! If 2% is a low-end marketing close rate, it is probably a high-end door opening rate for a salesperson. Marketing, in contrast, by virtue of reaching thousands or millions of people, can get the door opened — not only by generating phone or form inquiries, but also by familiarizing prospects with the brand through repeated exposure in email, on search engines, on social media, and on industry-related websites and blogs. The power of marketing to present a credible image of a company to large segments of the prospect base can transform an unknown company to a real market force in a relatively short span of time.
When More Is Needed
The need for both marketing and sales should be apparent by now. The real question is one of degree: How much sales and how much marketing does a particular organization need? That’s not always easy to answer, but here are some general observations.
- If a company’s product or service offering is very expensive and/or very complex, it’s going to need a very strong sales presence.
- If a company’s product or service has a very low price point, a massive sales force may be cost-prohibitive and require the organization to rely heavily on marketing.
- If closing deals is the big problem (especially if due to competition), then the solution is probably a bigger and/or better trained sales force.
- If opening doors is the big problem, then more sophisticated or broader scope marketing campaigns will help immensely.
- If a company’s revenues have plateaued and it wants to grow dynamically through geographic expansion, new products/services or soliciting new types of customers, then marketing campaigns will pave the way.