Strategic Marketing Blog

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing


Marketing Leads the Horse to Water, Sales Makes Him Drink

More and more I am finding the lines between marketing and sales being blurred within business organizations.  While both marketing and sales are essential to the success of every company, they have become so intertwined that most organizations leverage the same people to perform both responsibilities. 

As a marketer, who is now spending more of his time performing sales-related tasks, I can tell you from first-hand experience that there is indeed a difference between marketing and sales and as a company continues to grow, the roles and responsibilities for both become more and more specialized.

Marketing Snapshot

The goal of marketing is to generate and match interest in a company’s products and/or services with people who need and want them.   Marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a long-term relationship with them.  It’s typically a one-to-many conversation. 

Marketing activities include:

  • Market research, used to identify the customer’s needs
  • Product development, developing new product and service offerings to meet existing and anticipated customer needs
  • Strategic planning, developing a short-, mid- and long-term strategic approach to capturing the market
  • Advertising to raise awareness and build brands
  • Direct marketing to produce qualified leads and create opportunities that will generate sales

Sales Snapshot

Sales, on the other hand, are activities that are dedicated to taking the opportunities generated by marketing and converting them into paying customers.  Selling requires direct interaction with a prospective customer and then the closing of the deal by persuading them to make the purchase.  It’s typically a one-to-one conversation.

Sales activities include:

  • Networking and leveraging business contacts for leads
  • Qualifying leads and prioritizing them for follow-up
  • Making initial contact and securing the first meeting
  • Preparing for the sales meeting
  • The sales meeting
  • Overcoming buyer resistance
  • Closing the sale

Evaluating the ROI of Marketing

Since sales and marketing directly impact the bottom line in different ways (i.e., marketing as an expense and sales as a revenue generator), companies will often heavily scrutinize the ROI of their marketing efforts, especially when they do not meet their sales goals. However, it is important for business owners looking to evaluate the ROI of their marketing spend to examine the number of qualified leads and opportunities generated from their marketing initiatives and evaluate it from that perspective, rather than just the number of sales converted.  This is because all too often the proper systems and procedures required to funnel leads generated by marketing to sales are flawed or simply do not exist. 

To this point, years ago I began working with a client who the year prior had spent tens of thousands of dollars on their trade show marketing efforts.  They purchased a 40’ x 60’, two-story exhibit booth and developed an elaborate theme with stunningly designed graphics to highlight it.  Prior to the show they sent out a series of clever pre-show mailings inviting people to come to their booth.  They even brought in a highly respected and sought after industry expert to speak on their behalf!  After hearing all that they did, I was surprised to learn that very few sales resulted from all their marketing efforts.  That is until we unpacked the booth the next year and out of a drawer popped hundreds of leads from prospective customers, leads that were simply never funneled to the sales team or entered into their sales database. 

Lesson to be Learned

At the end of the day, a lack in sales volume may not be the fault of a poor marketing strategy or execution thereof, but rather the failure to properly connect marketing to sales.  It’s an invaluable and essential component to revenue generation for every company, and one that is sometimes learned at great expense.

Looking to improve your company’s connection between marketing and sales?  Our Strategic Marketing Services professionals are happy to answer your questions. For more information, contact us at 440-449-6800 or leave a comment below.

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