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The Difference Between Sales And Marketing

The difference between Sales and Marketing

The phrase ‘sales and marketing’ is a highly recognisable and accepted part of our everyday language but there are two problems with its usage;

Firstly, it’s used most frequently to describe an activity that results in the transfer of products (or services) from seller to buyer, almost as though this activity is singular. Secondly, whilst the phrase rolls off the tongue more easily than ‘marketing and sales’ the latter is actually correct because that’s the order in which it happens; sales follow marketing activity.

Both marketing and sales are aimed at increasing revenue but, where sales is about the final result; the transaction, marketing is all about the journey; awareness, credibility, relationship-building and engagement before, during and after a sale is made.

A sale in itself rarely leads to another sale (or to an up-sell) without using marketing to add value. Equally, some sales may appear to happen by themselves, especially with a long-term established product (think; chocolate) but, without marketing activity being in place to start the process and to keep the product in the minds of potential customers, sales are scarcer and less reliable.

The big players, especially with consumer products, completely understand the value marketing provides in maintaining product visibility and is why they spend so much on brand awareness.

Below are some fundamental differences between sales and marketing:

Fundamental differences betweem Sales and Marketing

The primary purpose of marketing is to pique interest that leads to enquiries and it’s at the point of enquiry that sales takes-over to convert the enquirers into customers by completing the transaction.

Marketing can also be as much about determining the need for a product and the scale of the market opportunity before the product is even developed, as it is about creating awareness and opportunity for an existing product.

Sales, however, can’t happen until there is a product to sell (unless pre-orders are taken for a forthcoming launch) and a customer-base to buy it, and this is why marketing takes a wider view of attracting the interest of larger groups, while sales focuses mainly on only those ‘qualified’ to buy.

Price vs Value:
Ultimately, the price is the amount of money a buyer hands-over to enable them to take away the product. However, the level of satisfaction associated with the amount paid is its perceived value, not its price.

The question of perceived value is a simple enough concept to grasp as we all experience it all the time, from food shopping to home electronics to holidays and cars, yet it’s largely misunderstood and abused by both marketing and salespeople – although way, way more by salespeople!

Value is entirely personal to the individual. This is why the marketing phrase ‘value for money’ is empty and serves no purpose in moving a potential customer towards a sale because only they know what they value.

Example; buying a second-hand car;

The customer’s mindset: I have some idea of the car I want to buy but I’m not yet certain. I have a flexible budget. I want to be wowed. I’m nervous but really excited. I can’t wait to show my friends and family.

The salesman’s mindset (one who is focused only on price, not value): Here comes another prospect to buy a car. I need to establish how much they can afford and persuade them the price is right so I can close the deal and complete the sale. The conversation begins with money and qualifying them (“how much are you looking to spend today”) instead of value (“do you have a car type in mind and how much difference will it make to you?”). The salesman continues in a persuasive style that edges the buyer towards a sale instead of playing to their desires by repeating their own words and phrases about their needs which results in them making a purchase.

This is a buyer’s worst nightmare because the salesman is not interested in what the buyer actually wants, why they need it and how excited they are by the prospect of owning a new car. The salesman is interested only in meeting their quota and closing the deal so they can move on to the next prospect. The net result is the buyer feels uneasy, protective over how much they can afford (remember, this is not the same as how much they are prepared to spend because that’s based on perceived value) and will probably continue to look around or go elsewhere.

The alternative, and far-more successful approach, is based around the buyer’s perceived value and could result in the customer leaving the showroom having bought a bigger, more expensive, higher-spec car than they intended, yet is so pleased and excited that they’re about to explode! They take photos of it and can’t wait to tell their friends and family about the new car they’ll feel so proud to own. Why? Because of the value they place on what they’re getting for their money, not the cost of it. This is their perception of ‘value for money’, not yours.

In fact, we’ve all heard people say “I know it’s a lot of money but….” when they’ve spent more on a purchase than they originally intended to yet are still very happy they’ve done so. That’s because it was a value-based purchase, Conversely, when we hear people say “that’s expensive” or “I’m not paying that much”, generally speaking, this is not about the cost of the item because, what they actually mean, is “I don’t place enough value on that product to pay the asking price.

Some people don’t spend money on designer clothes, fine dining, jewellery or art yet they travel abroad on family holidays, drive a nice car (or two) and have huge flat-screen TVs in their house. This is simply a display of what they value. Spending £140 on a pair of designer jeans is no different. To the buyer it represents excellent value for money, because of how it makes them feel. The value.

For a car showroom, marketing is demonstrated by organising the advertising, setting-up the window displays & signage, cleaning the cars inside and out to within an inch of their lives, putting-out the banners and posters, making sure a variety of drinks are available, cleaning the forecourt and making sure prospects feel really welcome and at ease so they want to come in and look around – it’s all about creating the interest and drawing-in the lookers.

The sales department’s job is simply to convert the lookers into buyers and, when they drive their shiny new car home, the salesman’s job is done. It’s a win-win.

However, the welcome/information pack left in the car; the letter they receive a few days later thanking them for the purchase and wishing them many enjoyable miles; the refer-a-friend code that will pocket them £200 on a successful sale; the reminder when their car needs a service; the “any problems, we’re only a phone call away” etc., etc..? That’s all marketing and it’s that activity and long-term thinking which will create another opportunity for a second or third sale further down the line.

Working together:
Nobody understands the mood of buyers like a front-line salesperson does. They’re out there and in the moment, listening to needs and they know what’s going on and what people want/don’t want. Yet it’s so often the case that marketing never thinks to ask sales about this before they create a marketing campaign! Equally, you’d think the sales department would be keen to ensure the marketing department is focusing its campaigns around the knowledge and information gained (by sales) so as to make the sales process smoother.

The two departments need to work  t o g e t h e r  holistically. It’s not meant to be a competition or one-upmanship.

In summary, sales and marketing are very different activities that utilise diverse methods, techniques and language in order to achieve their very different goals. Without sales, there’s no point in carrying-out marketing. Without marketing, sales are much harder work and, potentially, likely to be of lower value.

It’s easier for larger companies because they can physically separate sales from marketing but smaller companies don’t have that luxury. Smaller companies/individuals need to separate their thinking and activity, remembering to focus on value, not price.


Updated July 2019.

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