Sales and marketing departments play a crucial role in any business, affecting the company’s image, revenue, and bottom line. These departments often work in tandem to pursue a shared set of goals, yet valuable distinctions exist between them. For those considering a career in the business world, understanding how sales and marketing differ, how they are complementary, and which skills are necessary for each is fundamental.
So what are some of the key points of distinction you should consider when looking at sales vs. marketing?
Sales vs. marketing: Considering the customer journey
One way to understand the difference between sales and marketing is to think about how each fits into the overall customer journey. Ultimately, both disciplines are focused on convincing potential customers to make a purchase, thus generating sales revenue. However, sales and marketing teams interact with prospective customers at different points of interest and intention.
Marketing: Building interest and attracting leads
Marketing can be defined as the practices and strategies a company employs to increase brand awareness, generate new interest in the business, and garner new leads. In other words, marketing is about gaining the attention of those who may have never heard of the business before, or who have little or no previous interest in its products and services.
Often, these potential customers are in the early stage of the consumer journey, sometimes known as the research phase. For example, consider a company that provides commercial cleaning services. Its marketing activity may focus on business owners or office managers who are fielding employee complaints about office cleanliness or who are looking for a dependable janitorial team that doesn’t require micromanagement.
Marketing professionals seek the most cost-effective ways to increase interest in their business and to generate new sales leads. Some of these avenues might include:
● Print, television, or radio ads
● Public relations campaigns, such as press releases
● Online advertising, including ads on Google and Facebook
● Viral marketing, including YouTube videos and online memes
● Direct mailers and brochures
Sales: Convincing consumers to make a purchase
As the marketing department builds brand awareness and generates leads (consumers who have some level of interest in making a purchase), those leads are passed to the sales team. Sales representatives then work to convince the leads to actually make a purchase. The sales team interacts with prospective customers who are much further along on their customer journey, and much closer to making a final purchase, than the marketing team does.
Sales can involve convincing consumers to make a purchase by earning their trust, establishing credibility, or demonstrating a product’s effectiveness. Some specific sales strategies might include:
● Scheduling one-on-one client meetings
● Making cold calls (or warm calls)
● Attending promotional events or trade fairs, with the intention of networking
● Selling directly (e.g., talking with customers on the sales floor)
● Emailing those with abandoned carts
Understanding different kinds of leads
Another way to understand the distinctions when it comes to sales vs. marketing is to consider different kinds of leads.
A lead is essentially a potential customer: someone who might be persuaded to make a purchase, but hasn’t yet. Typically, leads need several points of contact before they make their final purchasing decision. For example, a lead may hear about a business on the radio, then receive a personal word-of-mouth recommendation, then browse the company website, before ultimately deciding to call the sales team.
Cold, warm, and hot leads
As customers progress through a company’s touchpoints, they may be categorized as cold, warm, or hot leads. These classifications can affect whether a lead is addressed by the marketing department or by the sales team.
● Cold leads have no awareness or no opinion of the business. It’s up to the marketing team to build their interest.
● Warm leads have been exposed to the marketing team’s messaging, and may have some interest in making a purchase. They may need to be nurtured through additional marketing, or through direct contact from the sales team.
● Hot (or qualified) leads have learned enough about the business that they are ready to speak with a sales representative and possibly complete their purchase.
Sales vs. marketing: Essential skills
Sales and marketing professionals depend on slightly different skill sets. Look at a few examples.
Key marketing skills
Generally, marketing professionals are a step removed from customers, working to generate interest using these essential skills:
● Communication. Marketing professionals must communicate to potential customers why they should care about a brand, product, or service.
● Analytical thinking. One of the most important functions of the marketing team is identifying the target audience for a marketing campaign, which requires careful analysis.
● Creativity. Marketing professionals must be able to convey their message in a way that makes it stand out from all the other marketing messages consumers are inundated with. This calls for storytelling skills, strong verbal communication, and attention to aesthetics.
● Technical skills. Those who work in marketing may also require mastery of certain technological tools, such as programs designed to manage email marketing campaigns or to bid on keywords for online ads.
Key sales skills
Meanwhile, those who work in sales usually interact more directly with customers, relying on skills such as these:
● Communication. Sales professionals must be adept at listening to customer pain points, and communicating how their product or service can address consumers’ needs.
● Customer service. Sales work requires quick and gracious attention to customer complaints, expressing concern about their frustrations, and conveying a sense of helpfulness throughout the sales process.
● Problem solving. When a customer’s needs change or an approach falls flat, sales professionals must be able to quickly suggest new solutions or reposition their pitch.
● Reporting. Sales professionals often must document and report their sales benchmarks to managers or executives.
Taking an integrative approach
Ultimately, sales and marketing work best when they function in tandem, pursuing the same goals but addressing customers in different ways and at different times. Achieving this harmony requires a clear understanding of the unique value that sales and marketing each bring.
Whether you want to pursue a career in sales and marketing or you’re looking to advance in your current role, education is the key. Use our recommendation engine to find online degrees, certificates, and courses that match your sales and marketing career goals.