One of the common questions I get when explaining my job to my sibling, friends or relatives is: What’s the difference between sales and marketing?
They’re curious how marketing (my day job) is different from sales. I do try to answer them as best as I can but I don’t think it’s something that can be easily explained in a few sentences.
Thus, I’ve decided to write a blog post about this to better describe the differences as well as similarities. On top of the definitions of sales and marketing, I’ll also elaborate more on the conflicts and solutions between these 2 teams.
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Why Do People Get Confused About Sales & Marketing In The First Place?
People often use the terms “selling” and “marketing” interchangeably. In fact, they might think that they mean the same thing (when it’s not!).
This is understandable, especially when both functions are typically handled by a single person or department for small businesses. However, sales and marketing inevitably diverge into distinct functions handled by separate teams when companies grow.
Although many people lump them together, sales and marketing are largely independent of each other. They’re essentially two business functions within an organization. But both of them impact lead generation and revenue.
Similarities & Differences
Let’s get down into the nitty-gritty of how they’re similar and different:
Firstly, let’s clearly understand the definitions of the two different functions.
Marketing is building awareness of your brand to potential customers. Sales, on the contrary, is converting these potential customers into actual ones.
- activities that lead to the selling of products & services
- covers everything you do to close a deal
- often involves engaging customers directly via one-on-one meetings, cold calls, sales proposals etc.
- process of getting people interested in the products & services being sold
- includes all activities that help spark interest in your business & reach target customers
- eg. branding, messaging, advertising, customer research, social media, email newsletters
Due to the nature of sales and marketing, the two teams usually attract different types of people. Here are some traits of salespeople and marketers:
- excellent relationship builders who relish being in the front line & communicating with external parties
- methodical, analytical & focused on achieving strategic outcomes
This doesn’t mean that an introvert can’t work in sales. In fact, my sales managers (in my day job) are confident introverts who can thoughtfully answer prospects’ questions, carefully listen to their problems and offer suitable solutions.
3. Roles & Responsibilities
Bear in mind that sales focus its efforts on a small group of people while marketing targets the general public or large groups of people.
- responsible for managing relationships with potential clients
- provide a solution for prospects that eventually leads to a sale
- understand the interests of potential customers by using market research & analysis
- responsible for running campaigns to attract people to the brand, products or services
Although both departments have the same primary focus of generating revenue for the company, their goals are slightly different.
For sales, they’re interested in converting prospects into actual customers. Therefore, they interact with potential customers and answer their questions about the brand, products or services. The management of a company usually defines and calculates how many deals the department, teams and individual salespeople need to close to meet the overarching goal. Sales teams may also create a sales plan that outlines an organization’s actions, tools, resources and overall sales goals.
Marketing departments think of new ways to market themselves to potential customers. They need to clearly explain what the product or service is. They’re also responsible for communicating how the products and services meet the customers’ needs and wants and solve their problems. From there, marketing teams can determine who is most likely to be interested in the products and services and where they can find them and thus, develop a marketing strategy.
- focused on converting prospects into actual customers
- hit quotas & sales volume targets
- short-term: where goals are measured month over month
- focused on familiarizing your brand with new customers or refamiliarizing it with existing or former ones
- look at the big picture & promote the brand, products & services to the widest audience possible
- long-term: campaigns can span many months
A tool that is used by sales, marketing and the entire company is a customer relationship management (CRM) software and database. This helps all departments manage relationships with contacts, no matter which stage of the customer lifecycle they’re in. Likewise, social media can be used by both sales (for social selling) and marketing (for promoting content).
Do note that there are new tools created by technological advances that can be used by both sales and marketing such as, AI and live chat. This personalized communication (that isn’t possible until recently) can help develop relationships with contacts. Hence, you’ll need to keep an eye out for new tools that can simplify sales and marketing processes.
But there are also tools that are specific for each department.
- Meetings app: eg. Google Workspace
- Invoicing software: eg. FreshBooks, Fiverr Workspace
- Email management tools: eg. MailerLite
- Documents tool: eg. Google Workspace, Microsoft Word/Office
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tools: eg. OptinMonster
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools: eg. KWFinder
- Data Reporting software: eg. Supermetrics, Google Data Studio
- Content Creation tools: eg. Grammarly, ProWritingAid
6. Methodologies & Strategies
Sales teams employ different methodologies depending on industry, market and target customers. Here are some sales methodologies:
- Solution Selling
- Inbound Selling
- Customer Centric Selling
- SPIN Selling
Marketing teams employ different strategies depending on the type of campaign and customers they’re targeting. Here are some marketing strategies:
- Print Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Note that in addition to the leads that marketing pass to sales, sales can also generate leads themselves via cold calling, networking events, online outreach (LinkedIn, email).
Due to the many differences between sales and marketing, there are bound to be conflicts between them. Here are some potential conflicts between the two teams:
Overlapping Or Unclear Goals
Although both teams share the same goal of corporate growth, they reach their goal via different means. Marketing builds an ever-increasing pipeline while sales focus on closing deals. As mentioned earlier, marketers have long-term goals while sales have short-term goals. This becomes a possible conflict because each team pursues different goals with different timelines.
Misconceptions can lead to conflicts. Just like how people ask me the differences between sales and marketing. This becomes a huge problem if you don’t know what your colleague in another department does. Differences in personality and priorities can also lead to misunderstandings.
Ineffective Or Lack Of Communication
When sales and marketing operate as separate units, it is a challenge to achieve interdepartmental coordination. Ineffective or lack of communication may lead to a drop in productivity and erode trust.
The misalignment of sales and marketing costs $1 trillion a year. This also leads to redundant efforts, pipeline gaps, process inefficiencies, lost opportunities and other negative outcomes.
Solutions: How To Align Sales & Marketing
Cultivate a culture of open and constant communication between teams. This will help employees understand each other better and build trust.
Roles & Fuctions Clarification
Set the expectations and scope for each role or function then identify success metrics and performance indicators. Hold a meeting if you need to. This will allow everyone to ask questions. You can also consider job rotation, moving employees from sales to marketing and vice versa, so they will understand and appreciate each other.
Integrate Assets, Resources & Tools
Sync the assets, resources and tools used by both teams. You can also consider using a CRM. This way, both teams will have access to a centralized toolkit and database.
Service-Level Agreements (SLAs)
To unify sales and marketing, you can consider creating a service-level agreement (SLA). SLA is a contract that establishes a set of deliverables that one party has agreed to provide another. This agreement can exist between a business and its customers, or one department that delivers a recurring service to another department within that business. With SLA, you can make both teams work towards complementary goals and shared revenue targets.
Now It’s Your Turn
Do you have a better understanding of sales and marketing now? Have you encountered any conflicts due to the misalignment between sales and marketing? How do you solve them?