Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Sales vs. Marketing: Many Differences

March 1, 2013

As your company grows, these roles may need to be more clearly-defined. Sales and marketing should be separate—but complementary–functions.

Ask the average consumer what the difference between sales and marketing is, and he or she may not be able to make a distinction. They’re both about persuading you to buy something, they might say.

Todd Martin 022613 image 1They’re correct, of course; there is overlap between the two. But separating the two in your own mind (if you’re a very small business) or in the job descriptions of employees (if your company is large enough to staff both functions) can help you avoid:

  • Team conflict
  • Customer confusion, and
  • Duplication of efforts, which can result in
  • Bloated budgets.

The same goal, but different paths

The term “marketing” generally refers to activities that can influence potential buyers in a positive way about a product or service. These typically occur prior to the selling process. Depending on your company’s structure and reach, they can include things like print and email promotions, advertising, social media networking, public relations and brand awareness campaigns.

Salespeople, of course, try to close sales.

Todd Martin 022613 image 2

Both marketing and sales “touch” prospects –make them aware of the benefits of what their companies are offering — in various ways, though sales professionals, of course, do this in a much more personal, targeted way through cold calls, social network interaction, one-on-one meetings, etc.

Two learning paths

You could say that marketing is more predictable, polished and proactive. Marketing specialists labor over campaigns, fine-tuning them and perhaps even testing them with focus groups. What consumers see is often the result of a long, deliberate process.

Salespeople, too, learn about their prospects, refine their approaches and plan for their encounters. But they need to be more reactive than marketing professionals. They might have done social research on a prospect, and they’ve anticipated how they might handle a variety of different responses. They know their company’s products and/or services well, and they know how they can be used in many settings to solve many problems. But they can’t absolutely script their engagement with customers and prospects.

The work of a sales professional is usually more finite; it has a beginning (the first touch) and an end (a closed sale). Marketing is forever. The lion’s share occurs prior to the work of the sales team, but marketing staff is often charged with attracting repeat business (though salespeople are always prepared to upsell a customer).

Well-defined divisions

Todd Martin 022613 image 3If your company grew quickly, your marketing and sales departments may have developed in a bit of a random fashion, as people just stepped in to do what was needed. In that case, you may want to consider an official reorganization of the divisions.

Depending on your corporate culture and staff personality mix, this kind of upheaval can be threatening. So be aware of potential reactions as you move into the new structure. Call out the strengths of individual staff members and explain your rationale clearly as you reveal changes. Designing your sales and marketing departments as separate-but-complementary entities will benefit all of you – and your customers.

Stock images courtesy of

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