Many companies that I come across, particularly those that sell to other businesses rather than directly to consumers, have a tendency to group sales and marketing together as if they are both the same.
They aren’t. They compliment each other and go together but the approach and skill set required for each area is very different. Which, of course, isn’t to say that one is better than the other. Both are necessary and rely on each other but they aren’t the same. Lumping them together as one is a disservice to both.
What is The Difference?
At the base level, sales is about building a direct relationship with an individual customer whereas marketing takes more of a strategic, one step back approach and looks at positioning products in the marketplace to appeal to groups of customers.
The other key difference is that when it comes to B2B, ideally marketing is about generating leads that the sales team then meets with and converts into a customer. Marketing sets up the opportunity on a broader level and sales make it happen.
An example is a fashion. The person selling clothing into retail outlets isn’t the same person that decides what is in the catalogue, what the catalogue looks like, what style of shops the brand sells into or the advertising material, social media activities or media articles that build profile and presence initially.
Why is it confusing?
I think one of the reasons for the confusion is because there is a lack of understanding around what’s possible with marketing, whereas every business needs a way to sell what they do. This misunderstanding of marketing means that many companies see it as a luxury, a ‘nice to have’ once they increase sales to the point where they can afford it. And they think that if they’ve got salespeople then marketing is also covered.
The reality is that the skills for each function are very different.
Skills Needed for Different Roles
Top sales people are good at interacting with people. They:
Top marketers need to have empathy in order to put themselves in the mindset of their customers but don’t need to be as personable as those in sales. They:
Impact on the Bottom Line
However, not only is the skillset different, what they can do to impact the bottom line is also very different and this is probably why marketing is often overlooked in a B2B selling environment.
The impact that each salesperson has on new sales is usually clear and easy to measure. The impact of marketing can be more difficult to determine and usually isn’t evident immediately, depending on the typical sales cycle. Collateral needs to be developed, a plan formulated, campaigns run and if the usual sales cycle is 6 months then it can be 9-12 months before the impact is apparent.
As well as attracting attention from new prospects, marketing can shape the message that the salesperson takes to customers as well as the collateral they take with them. While a good salesperson can work around poor messaging and limited collateral, the business that sends them out with sub-standard material isn’t maximising their potential.
3 steps to review your marketing and sales setup:
Marketing is about anticipating, focusing on customer needs but communicating collectively to your target market. Sales is more about closing the deal today and picking up the phone tomorrow to uncover the next sale.
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