The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Why the Difference Between Sales and Marketing Matters

Reading Time – 8 minutes

Table of Contents

  1. What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?
  2. Why Has Sales & Marketing Changed?
  3. Death of the Salesman
  4. The Modern Buyers Journey
  5. How Sales People Can Retain Relevance
  6. The Benefits of Great Marketing
  7. Marketing Leaders You Should Follow
  8. Why Salespeople Don’t Follow Up Marketing Leads
  9. The Future of Sales and Marketing
  10. Recommended Reading

1. What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

The Difference between sales & marketing is that marketing is mostly a broad-based approach to generating brand awareness and creating sales leads.

In B2B, sales is predominantly a one to one activity where salespeople convert sales leads to orders.

In web-based B2C organisations marketing still generates brand awareness and generates leads however the salesperson has been replaced by the automated shopping cart which converts the sales leads to orders.

The Modern Sales Funnel predominantly splits to a Shopping Cart for B2C and the generation of a Sales Lead going into the Sales pipeline in CRM for B2B companies.

The stage names differ between companies and software solutions however the principles remain the same.

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Modern technology solutions such as Marketing Automation tools allow companies to track, measure and score user activity on a website and then pass this information onto salespeople. This helps deliver part-qualified leads and also gives sales vital intelligence in terms of what the “burning issue” is of the user and then raise this first. As an example if a Buyer/web visitor has immediately inquired after reading a post on IT Security then the Salesperson should open the sales conversation on this and not any of the other features of their IT solution.

In B2C after tracking user behaviour Marketing Automation may email further information or special offers based on the most recent activity of the user. Amazon & Ebay are both good examples of this.

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2. Why Has Sales and Marketing Changed?

The difference between Sales & Marketing has long been debated and whilst many years ago the differences were clear, in the modern sales environment the lines have become very blurred because:

  1. The internet has changed the way that people and companies make buying decisions and in turn, salespeople have had to change the way they sell.

As an example in many cases, buyers would have to meet with a salesperson to acquire a product catalogue whereas now most product catalogues are available online which removes the need for the salesperson at that step in the sales process.

  1. Companies are now leaner and more cost-aware than at any time previously which means every sales channel or path to the potential customer must not only work but also must have the financial power to reduce the Cost of customer acquisition.

As an example, a Salesperson may be able to sell a software solution standing in retail premises, however, the overhead of running the premises and the limited footfall make the internet a much more efficient route to market.  

In the modern world, the most successful marketers can sell and the most successful salespeople are marketers. Historically marketers may have spent more desk-based time using their creative skills to come up with compelling content, now they meet with customers, attend events and speak at conferences.  

The most successful salespeople have learned to use content and social media to raise their own brand awareness and generate new sales leads to convert. 

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3. The Death of the Salesman

For many years marketers have been proclaiming the “Death of the Salesman” at Marketing conferences, and Forrester research proclaimed as far back as 2015 that the end is in sight for Salespeople. 

Do they really believe this or is this just clickbait and clever marketing on their part, in creating a shocking headline, and then waiting to see who bites? 

I don’t want to bite and I would love to ignore this. However, unfortunately some people actually believe this and even more worrying, not only do they believe this some business owners are making decisions based on this. Is it any wonder sales and marketing don’t get along when one is not only forecasting, they are advocating the “death” of the other?

Before I try to explain my position you should know I have been a Salesman for 34 years, so yes I am open to accusations of bias. I have however been, and continue to be, a huge advocate for Marketing as an essential component in every business. Indeed we continually recommend our clients to experts, for help in these areas where appropriate. Furthermore, as a company we have been advocates of Content Marketing for many years and although far from perfect, we do our best at Content Marketing for our own business.

So is Content Marketing really going to wipe out millions of Salespeople. Are we really facing Sales Armageddon, or is this just marketing hype? Well in our opinion it’s a combination of hype and naivety and let me try and explain why. There is no doubt content marketing has dramatically changed the way people buy, or rather content marketing has responded to a change in the buyers’ journey, but what hasn’t changed however is the buyers’ aversion to perceived risk. Yes, the modern buyer is better educated than ever before. Yes, the modern buyer is delaying contact with the salesperson until much nearer to the end of the buying process. This does not mean however in most cases the buyer will go all the way through the sales process without a salesperson and here’s why.

1. Price – a typical B2B buyer is unlikely to spend more than £5,000 without talking to a salesperson. There will be exceptions where with a strong brand presence, strong social proof and proven reference points, the buyer will buy over the internet. Big brand names like BMWXerox and Microsoft will be able to push the £5,000 ceiling higher and higher. But once above £5,000, most buyers want to see the whites of a salesman’s eyes. They want to know what sort of character they will be dealing with.

2. Complex sales that require any form of additional, non-generic information, will continue to need salespeople to provide accurate needs analysis, help with solution forming and implementation of the product or service. What constitutes a complex sale? The easy definition is anything with more than one decision-maker and influencers. Multiple buyers have different priorities that only a sales professional can uncover, understand and prioritise.

3. If your product or service has become commoditised, you may well be able to sell via your website. If however you are a Strategic supplier and your products and services enable your clients to achieve their strategic objectives, then the executives in the C-Suite will want to see a salesperson. They will each want to do their own due diligence on the salesperson, their company and their products and services before signing off.

4. People buy from people. This may sound old fashioned but I truly believe this is as true now as it was in the 80’s when I first started selling. Great salespeople develop relationships and guide the buyer along the buyers’ journey, defining and shaping the end solution as they go. Great Sales People aren’t sitting waiting on a lead from the company website.

5. Content Overload – two main drivers led to the inception of Content Marketing, namely the Search Engines algorithm and Buyer needs. What I mean by this is that Google wants to penalise marketers who used Black and White Hat strategies such as keyword stuffing and link building. Google wanted to reward sites that produced great content and hence changed their algorithm. At the same time, Google understood Buyers wanted more information, they wanted and needed different types of information dependant on where they were in the buying process. This makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, however there is now so much content being produced quality is being overtaken by quantity. 2014 saw the number of websites exceed 1 Billion, add on research from Qmee who claim 571 new websites are created every 60 seconds. We are either naïve or arrogant than to think our site, our content will get to page one of the search engines amid this content overload? Yes, I guarantee some will, but most content will never see the light of day let alone page 1 of Google because the majority of marketers don’t know how to do this. If you aren’t doing Content Marketing I would urge you to at the very least investigate it further. Yes, I believe we are already in Content Overload, however, at the moment I still believe that the continuing changes with the Google algorithym make it easier for companies with a highly targeted approach to earn a place on page 1 and reap the benefits thereof.

Content Marketing has changed, some say revolutionised marketing and Yes the role of the Salesperson has changed but that does not mean the Death of the Salesman. Traditional salespeople who cannot, or will not adapt to the new buyers’ journey will struggle, however, great salespeople will always be required.

For those who remain unconvinced it’s worth investigating the number of Salespeople that the content marketing companies such as Hubspot employ themselves.

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4. The Modern Buyers Journey

As the Modern Buyer no longer contacts Sales at the start of the buying journey it has become more difficult for Salespeople to influence the Buyers journey.

For most companies the biggest problem this represents is the wasted time spent by Salespeople chasing deals where the buyer is so far through the sales process, they have mentally chosen their preferred supplier and only contact the Salespeople to get a competitive quote as part of their due diligence.

As the data show 6 out of 10 buyers have already chosen their preferred supplier which means that unless the Salespeople can change the buyers preference then 60% of deals are already lost, it’s just that the Salespeople don’t know they’ve lost them yet.

Modern Buyers Journey
Modern Buyers Journey

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5. How Salespeople Can Retain Relevance

When Buyers contact Salespeople after they are 2/3 of the way through their sales process and in effect are only using them for a quote sales becomes hugely inefficient. The bigger damage can be to the morale of the salespeople as they spend most of their time chasing deals that will never happen.

The way Salespeople are retaining relevance and meeting their sales targets is to engage with Buyers BEFORE they have started the sales process.

In effect they kickstart the sales process by moving the buyer onto the first awareness stage and then walk them through the whole process, all the time, shaping the customers requirements to their advantage, and positioning themselves and their organisation as they move towards the purchasing decision.

Now this is much easier than most people think, for example when a sales person attends a networking event, an exhibition, conferences, trade fairs and expos and they talk to a good prospect they will give out a business card with their web address. 

If they say the right things to the prospect in the right way and connect with them by building rapport, the first thing the buyer will do when they get back to their office is check out the Salesperson on LinkedIn and the company on the internet – and that’s the start of the sales process. 

What’s important here is that the Salesperson knows how to “walk” the prospect through this process and position themselves as one of the 57% already chosen and not one of the also-rans that is only their to make up the buyers tender numbers.

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing
The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Is this solution practical and scaleable? In some cases having Salespeople move buyers onto the first stage of the sales process might increase the cost of customer acquisition too much however in high value B2B deals with complex sales cycles, this is definitely worth the investment in

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6. The Benefits of Great Marketing

Disharmony between Sales & Marketing has been around for many years despite the fact there is little doubt that aligning B2B Sales with B2B Marketing efforts, drives increases in sales results. Surely, working together and collaborating is more productive than working in isolation? Understanding the Value that marketing actually delivers in the complete B2B sales process is the first step for most of us salespeople. I came up with an example at a recent talk I was giving, which seemed to make sense not only for the salespeople in the room but the marketing people also liked the explanation, which went as follows:

Imagine you are a buyer and you decide that you need some soft drinks for your staff. When the salesperson from Coca Cola arrives to meet with you, will it be easier for him to make the sale than the salesperson from ABC Drinks Company? Most definitely and here’s why:

1) Great Marketing creates awareness of your company’s Brand that ‘part’ sells the prospect before the salesperson enters the meeting.

2) Great Marketing makes the prospect aware of your Brand, your Message and your Values and conveys a level of trust about what the buyer will receive should they choose you.

3) Great Marketing drives lead generation, opening the door for sales people to new sales opportunities.

4) Great Marketing puts salespeople in front of part-qualified buyers and part pre-sold buyers.

5) Great Marketing simplifies and reduces sales cycles, and lowers the cost of sale.

6) Great Marketing helps salespeople close new opportunities when Buyers engage with the brand.

7) Great Marketing reinforces the relationship with existing clients.

Marketing is a must-have not a nice to have, and Sales People should do all they can to work with marketing, feeding back market intelligence, competitor intelligence, customer insights, and market direction so they are truly aligned. In the simplest terms if Sales & Marketing are not aligned and for example, do not agree in advance the exact customers they are targeting – how successful would our top Coca Cola salesperson be, if marketing constantly sent him sales leads of buyers who were looking for an orange coloured fizzy drink? Making sales is much easier with marketing than without it, and none of us should turn down help to close more business.

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7. Marketing Leaders you Should Follow

There are many great marketing experts however in our opinion these particular three people stand out and are well worth following.

  1. Al Ries – the absolute best place to start to learn and understand the power of positioning any brand in a crowded market place.
  1. Rand Fishkin – founder and principal of Moz which is the definitive resource for marketers looking to conquer page 1 of Google.
  1. Jay Baer – an internet pioneer specialising in helping brands connect with their customers digitally.

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8. Why Sales People Don’t Follow up Marketing Leads

Sales Leads have a poor conversion ratio when followed up by sales people, despite every survey showing most B2B Sales Reps are struggling to hit their sales targets.  Surely when sales people are under pressure to hit targets, then logic would dictate to follow up sales leads would be a priority.  Furthermore surveys show following up is key to sales success, for example, a survey by InsideSales reported “Sales people who follow up a lead within 5 minutes are 9 times more likely to convert them” and “50% of sales go to the first sales person to contact the prospect”.  Why then, is there such a disconnect between Sales and Following Up?

Due to the perceived quality of the leads, Sales People simply do not believe the Sales Leads provided will convert to a sale.  Content Marketing has helped drive a different type of web traffic – people searching for answers.  This is not the same as people searching for solutions they are willing to pay for.  Once the traffic is on your website, marketing then drives the list building process via the numerous lead capture methods, such as white papers, video demo’s and free ebooks.  With most sales leads coming from online, companies can only influence not control who visits their website and who fills in the web contact forms.  According to Marketing Sherpa a massive 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales and only 27% of leads passed to Sales are qualified.

There is then a mixture of Sales Leads in terms of quality and rather than simply passing these on to sales people, the Sales Leads should undergo an initial qualification by marketing or inside sales, before being passed to Sales Professionals.  If these Sales Leads not be ready to qualify, they should then enter the Lead Nurturing process until they are “ripe” and ready to buy.  According to The Annuitas Group, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured Sales Leads.

For the business to be successful it’s important to align our sales process with marketing and not increase the gap between Sales and Marketing.   Giving Sales People unqualified Sales Leads not only wastes their time, it demotivates and distracts them from what they should be focusing on – the qualified Sales Leads and their existing sales pipeline.

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8. The Future of Sales and Marketing

It’s hard to imaging Sales and Marketing not continuing to align however the pace of change is slow as this was first highlighted by Phillip Kotler in the best seller Marketing Management when he acknowledged “The sales department isn’t the whole company, but the whole company better be the sales department.”

Despite this most companies continue to have separate heads of Departments for Sales & Marketing and separate teams.

In most cases this only changes as companies go through the natural maturity process.

Unfortunately the waste and inefficiencies of failing to cooperate and work together condemns many companies to years of stagnation or at best limited growth.

Whilst sales & marketing are not the only reasons a business fails they are never far away.

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing Kotler
The Difference Between Sales and Marketing Kotler

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You can read more about and download all the FREE tools templates and guides mentioned in this article via our Sales Tools page.

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