We’ve tried to understand the differences, particularly in light of the new shift toward digital and inbound marketing strategy that seems to be affecting most business activities. The two have a symbiotic relationship, with marketing supporting sales and the other way around.
Marketing as a Mindset
The main goal of marketing is to develop interest in the products or services and generate leads from prospective customers. The process is generally broader than sales, which is why it’s often considered to be overarching. Marketing typically incorporates more of the communications aspects than sales does, such as:
- Production and use of marketing collateral, such as brochures, website design and stationery
- Coordination of publicity
- Organization of promotions and events
- Advertising and social media marketing
- Generation of potential sales leads
- Client relationship management
- Email marketing
Many companies need help to develop a marketing mindset, so they can move beyond sales lead conversion to develop longstanding relationships with their customers.
Sales is often seen as far more vital to a company, because without ongoing new business the organization is unable to survive. Sales usually takes place on a one-to-one basis, while marketing is more of a one-to-many process. Through implementation of its marketing strategy, the company narrows down incoming leads until they are strong enough prospects to pass on to sales, which then (hopefully!) converts them into paying customers.
Key Similarities and Differences
The key similarity between the two—and the reason why they are so often confused—is that both are outwardly focused and promotionally directed. The difference, however, is that marketing focuses on the firm’s entire target market while sales focuses on individual customers or small groups. In small companies, you frequently find a single person responsible for all aspects of the marketing strategy and the sales activities. As a business grows, however, it’s likely that the workload will be spread among more employees and that each will specialize in a particular aspect.
Companies often outsource some of their work to inbound marketing agencies, which take up the responsibility for communications and marketing strategy. However, sales usually requires strong product knowledge so dedicated people are appointed. They may be full-time employees or commission-only contractors, but either way they have the knowledge they need to close the deals.
Marketing and sales are both vibrant, exciting fields to work in, but few marketers are good sales people and vice versa. Each area requires specialized experience and training, and each comes with its own set of challenges.