Sales vs. Marketing: How They’re Different — and Why It Matters

I was talking with a good friend earlier this week who just started a new sales job. His boss gave him a marketing budget for the year and told him to create a marketing plan, so my friend wanted to pick my brain about where content marketing might fit into the plan.

We talked about blogging, ghost article writing, whitepapers and case studies — all of which are effective components of a content marketing plan. Then my friend said his boss expected him to write all of this content himself.

“They hired me to sell, not to write blogs and whitepapers,” he told me. He said he could easily spend half his time doing all this writing — which, of course, is time that he’s not spending talking to prospects and clients.

Sales and Marketing Are Different

Our conversation got me to thinking about sales vs. marketing. These two terms are often linked together — as in “the sales and marketing team” or “the sales and marketing budget.” However, they aren’t the same thing — not even close. Expecting salespeople to be marketers, or marketers to be salespeople, can be a costly mistake.

In short: The role of marketing is to generate qualified leads and prospects salespeople can try to sell to. Without marketing, it would be next to impossible for salespeople to do their jobs. And without sales, the work done by marketers would be for naught.

Here’s an analogy: An executive chef at a top-notch restaurant probably doesn’t go shopping for the food and ingredients he’ll use to prepare dishes. That wouldn’t be a very good use of his time and talents. Instead, he focuses on cooking and lets others worry about bringing him the ingredients he needs.

In the same way, skilled salespeople shouldn’t be spending their time trying to drum up qualified leads or create marketing tools like blogs and articles. Instead, they should be focusing all of their time, energy and attention on one thing: Closing leads provided by the marketing team.

How It Should Work

The publishing company I worked for in my first job out of college had a well-run and highly effective sales and marketing department. Everyone’s duties were clearly defined and there was a sharp distinction between what the salespeople and the marketing people were supposed to be doing.

The marketing folks scoured lists (this was back in the 1980s) for good prospects and compiled accurate contact information to pass on to salespeople. And they were constantly coming up with clever new marketing campaigns and direct mail pieces to send to prospects that generated a steady stream of qualified leads for salespeople to follow up on.

The salespeople, meanwhile, were closing machines. Freed from having to worry about finding their own leads, they were like bulldogs in pursuing the leads marketing gave them. I got to sit in on prospect meetings with them from time to time and was always amazed at their sales skills and abilities.

Due to this successful partnership between sales and marketing, the company’s growth exploded and they became the dominant custom publishing company in the country in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. To me, there’s no question that the clear separations between the sales and marketing functions was the biggest key to the company’s success.

Segregate Roles and Duties

What about your sales and marketing department? Is there a clear distinction between the roles and duties of your salespeople and the roles and duties of your marketers?

I think this is more important today than ever due to the ways that marketing has changed in recent years. In particular, I’m talking about the rise of content marketing as an integral part of many companies’ marketing plans. Before the Internet made content marketing the hot new marketing tool, two of the main marketing vehicles used by most companies were advertising and direct mail.

Very few companies expected their salespeople to write ads or create direct mail campaigns. They realized that these are very specialized skills so they hired expert marketers and copywriters to perform these tasks.

For some reason, though, a lot of companies today think their salespeople should be writing blogs, articles, whitepapers and case studies. “How hard can it be to crank out a few blogs and articles a month or pull together a 10-page whitepaper or case study?” is how the thinking often goes.

Well, if you’re not a professional writer, let me tell you: It can be pretty darn hard! Even if your salespeople are good writers and enjoy writing, you have to decide whether this is the best use of their time and talents. Just remember: Every hour they’re spending writing a blog or article is an hour they’re not spending talking to prospects.

Separate Sales and Marketing Functions

If you haven’t clearly separated the sales and marketing functions in your company, I urge you to make doing so a top priority. Make sure your marketing folks are concentrating on activities that help generate qualified leads for your salespeople — and that your salespeople are free to devote all of their time and energy toward selling.

One thought on “Sales vs. Marketing: How They’re Different — and Why It Matters

  1. Jay

    Agree. I usually tell people that my marketing role is to equip the salespeople with everything they need to increase sales. I would say there’s some bleed over in the area of qualifying, and sometimes generating (depending upon the type of generation), of leads.

    What’s crazy now is that not only do companies…especially small companies…expect one person so do sales and marketing, but they also expect that person to be a graphic designer. Wow.

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