The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Glenn Gabe


The Difference Between Salespeople and MarketersThis past weekend I attended an annual Fall Festival that’s held in my town. It’s a fun time of year in the Northeast, with great weather and Halloween just around the corner. Anyway, there were a lot of people at the festival and a lot of activities, including a section dedicated to local businesses. You know, where businesses can set up booths and interface with prospective customers. I decided to take a walk through this section, and I can tell you, at least half of the people manning their booths shouldn’t have been there in the first place. As I walked by each booth, I began to question whether these were the marketing people who thought it would be a good idea to set up at the festival or if these were actually the salespeople. And, I couldn’t help but think of the stark difference between sales and marketing. A few people were on their cell phones, others were talking with their coworkers and not engaging the crowd, and other booths were flat-out empty. Keep in mind, there were a lot of people at this festival… Luckily there were a few salespeople that I spoke with that were engaging, knowledgeable, and charismatic, which was a breath of fresh air, so to speak. ;-) Although the words tend to be thrown around together, sales and marketing are two very different areas of focus, requiring extremely different skill-sets to succeed.

A closer look at the difference between a marketer and a salesperson:
In a nutshell, a marketer is the person responsible for researching a product or service, exploring target markets, mapping out price points based on several business factors, branding products and services, developing and analyzing campaigns, and yes, helping salespeople understand the unique selling proposition for each product. There are some ultra-talented people in marketing that couldn’t sell their way out of a paper bag.

On the other hand, a salesperson is the connection between marketing and prospective customers. Salespeople live to sell, love to present, look for sales opportunities all of the time, and are highly driven people who risk a good part of their income on their own sales ability. They close deals, period. That said, there are some outstanding salespeople who couldn’t market a product if their lives depended on it. Remember, not “sell”, but “market”.

I’m a big World War II buff, so here’s one of my war analogies. If a marketer and a salesperson were on a battlefield, the marketer would be mapping out the best possible strategy for success and then handing it to the highly skilled salesperson responsible for charging the hill. In war, if you mix the two up, people die. In business, products and services fail, and people get fired.

Some quick differences between a salesperson and a marketer:

The Marketer:
* Performs market research
* Explores target markets
* Runs focus groups and launches surveys
* Analyzes data constantly
* Develops pricing strategies based on a number of business variables
* Brands products and services
* Develops and analyzes marketing campaigns
* Refines and adjusts marketing strategies based on data and feedback
* Can answer questions with hard data, which in my opinion, is always hard to argue with. :-)

The Salesperson:
* SELLS (seriously, salespeople need to spend most of their time selling)
* Chomps at the bit to interface with customers and prospective customers
* Has serious sales chops and has worked hard to build his or her skill-set
* Lives to present and always looks for opportunities to show off their product or service
* KNOWS HOW TO CLOSE A SALE (don’t laugh…most people have no idea how to close a sale)
* Is driven by achieving and exceeding goals (quotas, sales competitions, financials, etc.)
* Has a successful track record of selling. Great salespeople don’t magically show up one day…they’ve been selling their entire lives, even as kids
* Exudes confidence, knows his or her products inside and out, has a passion for sales, and can overcome obstacles while juggling fine china

Why they should work together, but remain separate:
In general, you don’t want your marketer selling and you don’t want your salesperson developing the marketing plan for your product or service. Note, I said “in general”, since there are some people that are both salespeople and marketers… It’s rare, but there are a select few. You definitely want your marketer involved in helping your salespeople craft their presentations, explain the core selling points, provide data for overcoming barriers, etc. and you want your salespeople working with your marketers to learn what’s going on in the field. But overall, the marketer should market and the salesperson should sell.

The Bottom Line
Most marketers would have no idea what to do in a sales presentation and most salespeople would have no idea how to market a product. Marketing involves tedious research and analysis, and a heavy focus on data. Sales involves extraordinary social interaction, presentations, inordinate amounts of motivation, the ability to travel where needed and when needed, and a serious sense of urgency to hit numbers. Some marketers sweat just thinking about presenting to a group of executives, where great salespeople jump at the chance.

Internet Marketers Meet Your Top Salesperson:
For many of you, your website is your top (and only) salesperson. Now, if you know great salespeople and know what they bring to the table, then you understand the enormous challenge you face in trying to make code, graphics, and web functionality achieve what they can. However, in an increasingly competitive online marketplace, that’s exactly what you need to do. You’re the marketer, mapping out your online marketing strategies based on extensive research, planning, and analysis. You work with your developers and designers to craft a persuasive selling system (your website) that helps prospective customers find answers to their questions, all while getting them more excited about your product. And, if you’ve done your job well, your chief salesperson, I mean your website, will help you land new customers. So the more you, as the marketer, understand the sales process, the better your website is going to be at meeting visitor expectations and increasing conversions. Because, you are creating a website that answers questions in a way that a top salesperson would. You need the right scent trails, the right calls to action, know when to provide more information, and know when to ask for the sale, which is not easy, considering your website doesn’t have the ability to crack a joke when needed or shake someone’s hand. Or can it? So, although sales and marketing are very different areas of focus, both should work together in web marketing to optimize your efforts. Marketers, learn from your salespeople, and salespeople, learn from your marketers. Just know the boundary between the two.

So, are you a salesperson or a marketer? Did someone add both words to your job title? Let me know what you think.