Sales refer to the actions and activities of selling of goods and services, and a sales plan outlines the actions, tools, and resources required to reach your sales targets.
Marketing is the process of putting your product or service in front of the people most likely to purchase it.
A marketing plan outlines products, the price, what customers to target and the channels a chosen to best communicate with this target audience.
There is some overlap, but they are two vastly different processes with different goals.
How can we make sure that sales and marketing work together?
This blog explores the differences and similarities between sales and marketing, and how businesses can ensure these two processes do not contradict each other’s goals.
“Marketing and sales are very often separate departments in organizational reality.” (Homburg & Jensen, 2007)
Isn’t marketing and sales the same thing?
Many people seem to assume that sales and marketing are one and the same. And if you are good at one, then you are probably going to be good at the other. In my experience, this could not be further from the truth.
It is a completely different mindset and set of skills. The best salespeople I met whilst working in real estate (I am talking top 5 in the country) did not understand how marketing works. But they were always on the phone and were great at establishing and maintaining relationships.
There were certain scripts they followed on phone calls. The best marketers would prefer to be sitting around, brainstorming ideas for content or talk about the positioning strategy of a random potato chips brand — they have no desire to get on the phone and cold call a sales prospect.
The biggest carryover besides trying to establish relationships — although both departments often do this in vastly diverse ways.
“Marketing has been characterized as more long-term oriented and sales as more short-term oriented, marketing as oriented toward products and sales as oriented toward customer relationships.” (Homburg & Jensen, 2007).
An analogy I like to use to explain the difference between sales and marketing is fishing.
The goal of marketing is to throw a net out wide, to catch as many fish as possible.
The goal of sales is to convert each of these leads, so I like to think of it as a fisherperson killing the fish when it is in their grasp, instead of letting it wriggle away and escape.
The best salespeople can be ruthless!
The conflict between sales and marketing
One of the biggest contrasts between sales and marketing is that marketing has traditionally focused on products, while sales focus on customers. Product focused marketing is based on planning and performance evaluations, where a customer focus is instead on forming and maintaining relationships.
An example of a time when the two approaches clash is when marketing want to remove and replace an unprofitable product, but sales want to keep the product as it is a good anchor product to start conversations and then try and upsell customers to another option.
“Intrafunctional conflict within marketing was a more important topic than we had expected. The most frequently discussed issue was the conflict between sales and marketing.” (Montgomery & Webster, 1997)
Many large businesses overestimate the influence their sales team has on revenue and can employ 10 or even 20 sales reps for every one marketer. It is even a common strategy for businesses to outsource marketing instead of doing it inhouse.
In contrast, it is highly uncommon to outsource a sales team.
Business often sees Marketing as an expense, where it should sit alongside a sales team and considered an investment. Like sales, marketing brings in revenue and performance can be measured to ensure an ROI.
This lack of balance can bring resentment from marketers, contributing to the ongoing conflict. Some of the major contrasts between sales and marketing are:
- Marketing is trying to reach as many people as possible.
- Marketing focuses on the big picture of the brand reputation.
- Marketing has a long-term focus which requires extensive planning to make decisions
- Marketing analyses big data to review the average results and customer expectations
- Sales focus on one-to-one conversations.
- Sales focus on building and nurturing relationships.
- Sales are short-term focused with targets, often requires immediate action, initiative and negotiation.
- Sales deals with the unique characteristics of each customer and their desires. It cannot be averaged.
“Salespeople accuse marketers of being out of touch with what customers really want… Marketers insist that salespeople focus… on individual customers and short-term sales at the expensive of longer-term profits. Poor coordination between the two teams… increases the cost of sales.” (Kotler, Rackham & Krishnaswamy, 2006)
The sales process begins once a business has generated a customer lead. Then the sales team or process help that prospect move through their purchase decision. For example, if an advertisement got someone to visit a store, sales take over from there.
Salespeople are responsible for managing customer relationships and solving their unique problem, resulting in a sale. Sales generate revenue. It is the bottom line.
In some cases, the sales team could uncover that lead through their prospecting, cold calling for example.
Sales are very target focused and the process is driven to maximise the chance of converting a lead into a sale. A sales team will have a quota and volume goals, usually a target measured over a brief period such as a month or a quarter. Often, business give bonuses as rewards for reaching and surpassing targets.
These incentivise the team to work hard and help the company reach its primary goals.
In sales, you’re often face-to-face with a customer (But it could be over the phone, or via email), trying to convince them to buy your product or upsell them to a more profitable product or service… “would you like fries with that?”
Great salespeople are key to the success of a business. They are good with creating rapport with people and thinking on their feet to provide a solution to any uncertainty.
It is their job to reassure purchasers and give them peace of mind in their product or services with satisfying their requirements. Thus, resulting in a sale and ideally, repeat business.
Sales strategies include:
- One-on-one meetings
- Cold calls
- Promotional events or trade fair
- Sales presentations
- Direct sales
- Abandoned cart emails
- Price negotiation
Marketing promotes a brand as much as it does an individual product. Marketing encompasses the strategy and all activities that create interest and increase awareness of your brand and what you offer.
Traditionally this meant using advertising to get your product in front of your target demographics. Now there are far more ways a business can reach and attract potential customers.
In 2020, the goal as marketers is to provide content that drives people to your website, and once they are, educating them about your offerings.
Marketing strategy involves the collection of decisions to reach as many people as possible and to make your offering attractive against alternatives from competitors.
Marketers use market research and analysis to gather knowledge better understand the interests of potential customers, to offer them the best solution.
This market understanding gives businesses direction on products to make, who to sell to, what these customers want, and the competition. Marketing distinguishes the product from competition by choosing strategies such as where to sell the product, price, and packaging.
This refers to a positioning strategy. It helps a business communicate effectively with their target customer segments.
Marketing strategies include:
- Digital marketing such as social media and blogging
- Print marketing
- Public relations
- Relationship marketing
- Email marketing
- Market research
Sales and Marketing working together
Although their functions differ and cause some conflict, sales and marketing share a common goal to attract prospects or leads and then convert them into customers.
Marketing changed over the years to align more with sales as businesses have realised, they need a cohesive system to convert as many leads into customers as possible and then retain them. A loyal customer is the best customer.
Trust is slow to develop. Usually, it takes several touchpoints between a buyer and a brand before they are ready to make a purchase. These touchpoints can be marketing, or sales focused.
The traditional view is that marketing takes responsibility for the top of the marketing funnel, and sales take care of the bottom.
The reality is, there is a lot of overlap in the middle, and even at the bottom. Everything should have a long-term goal of retaining a customer and continue marketing to them to keep your brand relevant.
Marketing has taken a leaf from sales and a customer orientated marketing focus now very key in 2020. Sales and marketing need to become a cohesive partnership with overarching goals and initiatives.
In 2006, Kotler, Rackham & Krishnaswamy discuss in the marketing literature a need for businesses to have an integrated approach (see table below). They recommend businesses align and integrate sales and marketing to work together and reduce the conflict to achieve the best result.
Sales and marketing teams should align their efforts by taking steps such as:
- Regular meetings between sales and marketing to discuss problems and opportunities.
- Defining who is involved in what decisions and if consultation is required.
- Creating opportunities to integrate teams and for sales and marketing to collaborate on joint projects — for example, hosting industry events.
- Having marketers help develop sales tools to qualify leads and take feedback from sales to target new market segments and refine offerings.
- Having defined and shared key metrics to analyse and reward the performance of both teams such as sales goals both teams commit to.
Email marketing is an example of where sales and marketing goals overlap.
Marketing such as a Facebook advertisement generates a buyer lead and sends the prospect to a website for a free eBook for example, which requires an email address.
Here, emails can have a different tone depending on whether the buyer is ready to go, or in the information search phase. Put buyers on different email lists based on their behaviour, to be sending them the right communication.
You do not want to be bombarding someone with information if they are just putting their feelers out. And vice versa, if they are ready to go, you do not want to miss the opportunity to persuade them your brand is the best option.
How the internet has changed the ways buyers behave
With the rise of technologies such as smartphones, the internet and social media, this has drastically changed buyer behaviour.
We do not have to go into a store to talk to a salesperson anymore. Consumers have the power with so much information out there and alternatives available to them, the internet has changed how we buy. It happened so rapidly. What businesses were doing twenty years ago is now no longer relevant.
According to figures published by Forbes, approximately 70% of a buying decision is made before the sales process starts. Marketing is taking responsibility for educating customer prospects. Customers often do not need a salesperson to educate them and teach them the benefits of the alternatives, or how a product can be customised.
A new car for example. They can learn this themselves from the convenience of a smartphone or laptop.
In many cases, e-commerce business has no sales department. Marketing helps automate the sales process. On AliExpress or Amazon, for example, purchasers rely on product descriptions and reviews instead of a salesperson to make their decision.
Many online businesses do still have a sales team, but it works more like customer service than traditional sales. The website takes care of a lot of the sales activity as some trust has formed, as these prospects have usually done some research previously to getting to that point.
For example, instead of the salesperson asking questions about what size or colour, or price range; the website asks all these questions to give the buyer the best option to fulfil their requirements until they decide. This helps smoothen and shorten the buyer cycle process, reducing costs as there are fewer touchpoints required.
Simplify this process by using marketing and sales funnel to map out the buyer journey, ensuring you convert as many leads as possible into customers. I talked about this in week 11, see below for an illustration of this process.
Sales and marketing tools
There are several tools and software available to businesses to help them stay organised and efficient with keeping track of customers and potential customers. Often, businesses use a customer relationship management system or CRM.
Traditionally used by the sales team, now across organisations to store details about people who have interacted with the company. This database helps the business manage their relationship with people depending on who they are (lead, prospect, customer or past client) and what stage of the customer lifecycle they are in.
Social media is another great tool for business to use to nurture relationships with customers and potential customers, and businesses can use social media from a marketing and sales perspective.
Thanks for reading.
As you can see, Sales and Marketing are two very separate processes and mindsets but can work together for the common goal of attracting leads and turning them into paying customers.
I hope you enjoyed the content on sales and marketing.