What’s the difference between marketing and sales? Is there even one to begin with? Way too often we see blurred lines between these two skill sets. Especially in small businesses where resources don’t allow for separate departments and team members. Let’s take a look at the two, individually, to get a better feel for what each entails.

There are lots of different opinions on this matter. However, this is just how I see the differences, based on personal experience working with hundreds of brands over the last 10 years at a digital marketing agency.

What is Marketing?

For us, marketing is all about prospects and customers. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s not about selling per se. It’s more about focusing on the needs and wants of the potential customer. It’s identifying what they need, want, and are looking for, helping them identify with your company and brand for those reasons.

When we think about marketing, we often explore multiple avenues. Things like:

  • Brand Recognition
  • Building an Audience
  • Educating an Audience
  • Providing Value to your Audience
  • Generating Leads

I could go on in terms of the different focus points for marketing teams, but you get the picture. Way too often we see brands focus on only one thing when it comes to their marketing. It’s all geared around that old saying, “Sell! Sell! Sell!”

That’s not how you market a business.

Let your sales team focus on selling. Conversely, your marketing team should focus on getting your brand and products out there in a way that people can relate to. One of the best ways to focus on that is to create your marketing collateral around them (your audience), not around you.

How Can You Market Without Selling?

Well, how about talking about you? Recently at Social INK, we ran an internal challenge, #30DaysOfLive where for the month of May, every day one of the senior team went live on our social media. We weren’t selling anything in these videos. We simply talked about ourselves — who we are, what we do at Social INK — and offered some value by providing some training and some ideas.

Make sure you check out the impact Facebook Live had on our stats.

Use your social media to offer people valuable content, insights into your industry and business without a focus on sales. Yes, this is a long game, but, your sales team will thank you in the long run.

By consistently getting in front of potential prospects, and by offering insight and knowledge, people will be more likely to think of you and your company when they suddenly hit the buying stage.

Why do you think advertising exists in the first place? I mean, you don’t see an advert for toilet paper on TV and instantly order toilet paper online do you? But, consistently seeing a brand, or remembering the iconic Andrex Puppy, does influence people’s buying choice when they need to buy toilet paper.

What is Sales?

Sales is about conversion. Taking a lead, no matter if it’s cold, warm or hot, and converting it into a client. Now we’re focused on the product. Marketing should help generate leads and make people aware of your business/offering, but it’s Sales that get the lead over the line and into the customer bracket.

Your sales team, or in a small business, the person that does the bulk of your sales, is ultimately responsible for generating revenue and looking after your clients. Now that the person has identified that they have a need or a want, they sometimes need that little nudge over the line.

Some of the ways that a lead becomes a sale include negotiating on:

  • Price
  • Terms
  • Offer
  • Product or Package
  • After Sales Support

Think of it like this:

Marketing = Brand Recognition and Lead generation
Sales = Converting Prospects to Paying Customers.

The relationship aspect between a salesperson and a customer is fundamental to the success of any business. That relationship and transaction can have profound long-term effects for your business.

From reviewing your business online (marketing will thank you for this), introducing new prospects with recommendations or, if you’ve done a great job, becoming raving fans of your business and talking/sharing about it at all times.

In summary, often Marketing feeds Sales and, when the relationship between both departments is good, Sales will impact Marketing (a better understanding of the client needs/demographics etc).

Difference Between Marketing and Sales in a Small Business

More often than not, in a small business, there aren’t two different departments, and there aren’t multiple team members in each. This can make the distinction difficult. Someone that is good at marketing, might be good at sales, but that’s not a rule.

The same way, someone being good at sales, doesn’t mean they understand marketing. This is really important as you start to build your team and look to bring on new staff.

If you only have one person handling both, you need to make sure you are separating the two sets of tasks you are asking them to do. Marketings stats, lead generation, understanding metrics, social media, and online advertising isn’t the same as revenue generation. Make sure that you keep these results distinct and that you’re not confusing the marketing with sales.

In big companies, sales will sometimes blame marketing for a lack of leads or lack of interest in the company. This isn’t a healthy relationship for obvious reasons. But in small businesses, it’s often misunderstood how marketing actually supports sales. Without marketing, sales becomes pure cold-calling, starting from scratch in the cycle every time.

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Chris Bruno
Chris Bruno

Chris, founder and CEO of Social INK, has devised and consulted on more digital marketing and social media marketing campaigns than you can shake a stick at. He’s also got a bit of a thing for online advertising and social media advertising.