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Olivia Walls
Olivia Walls on November 7, 2017

What is the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

Often confused with one another, it's important for small businesses to know the difference between sales and marketing to generate results.

Sales Strategy

We often hear the terms sales and marketing used in conjunction with one another. But do we really know what each word means or what each area is responsible for?

Put simply, marketing is everything we do to lay the groundwork for the sales process and sales involves actually closing the deal. Though both are important, they need the other to truly drive business.

When organizations understand that both functions are critical to the buyer’s journey and recognize that by working in alignment they can continually improve strategies and processes, they ensure that their sales and marketing practices will generate meaningful results.




the difference between sales and marketingThe short version: Marketing informs people about your business and informs them that you’re tapped into their needs and wants.

If we break it down marketing’s objectives are usually focused on effectively positioning the organization in the marketplace.  Marketing should be about having a big picture vision and building strategies to put that vision into play.

Marketing takes the reins in determining the organization’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – essentially what it is that makes that company stand apart from the competition. Marketing does the research and understands target audiences, what needs does the audience have and how does the company’s product or service best meet those needs? In some situations, marketing is developing products or services based on the customer’s needs.

When marketing understands the audience and what particular benefits the audience values, they can develop strategies to help them leverage those customer insights. Marketing creates the messaging that will hit home with the target audience. Based on their knowledge of the communication vehicles their audience pays attention to, they decide which tools they will use to deliver their messages.

More sophisticated marketing teams can segment their audiences to ensure that the right people are receiving the right messages. They can use advertising, public relations, digital tools like email and social media and other resources to distribute their carefully crafted message at the right time and the right place to best create opportunities for the next step of the buyer’s journey.

Although it can be a shared responsibility, marketing typically is responsible for generating leads and the sales team is responsible for converting the leads into sales.




the difference between sales and marketingThe short version: Sales is the conversation that will help people determine whether or not they will buy from you.

Sales often perform the follow-up on leads driven by marketing with the objective to convert them into sales. Armed with the information from marketing about where a customer may be in the buying process and how much nurturing is needed, a sales pro is better positioned to convert.

Salespeople tend to work and build relationships in more personal, one-on-one situations. Their strategies are about developing an understanding of the customer and overcoming objections. Through their more direct and personal approach, they can serve as excellent brand ambassadors for the company, while also becoming a trusted partner and problem-solver for the client.

Because of the relationships they build with customers, sales professionals are in an excellent position to provide useful feedback and customer insights to the marketing team so that they can continually improve products, positioning, and understanding of the buyer’s journey.


Marketing and Sales Alignment


Better understanding the difference between sales and marketing gives greater perspective on just how much the two need one another. Without marketing, customers and potential customers might never be introduced to the company. Without sales, the company might not be able to maintain the necessary revenue stream needed to stay in business.

According to HubSpot, organizations whose sales and marketing teams are in alignment, achieve 20% revenue growth on average annually. Those companies with poor alignment, however, saw revenues decline by 4%. The most successful companies are adept at unifying sales and marketing to create breakthrough success. 

In summary, I would say that a key function of marketing is to delve into the needs, challenges, and problems that ideal customers have and be able to attract and convert them into potential sales leads.

However, the marketing component does not stop there. A customer still requires nurturing, even when a sales rep reaches out to them. The two functions go hand-in-hand and must work in tandem. Communicating what is working and what is not will make certain that the marketing/sales process continues to improve. There is a lot of crossover between the marketing function and the sales function and the best organizations understand this crossover and work to make it function properly.


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Olivia Walls

Olivia is the Co-Owner and VP of Sales for InTouch. She loves getting to know and connecting with people.