Understanding the Difference between Marketing and Sales for New and Small Businesses


Marketing provides prospects or leads that a good sales technique will work with to close a sale and get a signed contract. In other words, everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects is marketing. The remainder of the process to finalize the deal is sales. Both are necessary for the success of a business and you cannot do without either of them. Strategically combining the effort of both these departments/personnel will lead directly to measurable business growth.

I have come across many small businesses and startups that treat these two roles as interchangeable. This is a mistake. The expected goal and outcomes are quite distinct. Marketing is the message that gets the interest of the prospect and prepares them for the sale. It could consist of advertising, public relations, social media promotion, relationship marketing, brand marketing, viral marketing, direct campaigns, and email campaigns.

Whereas, the sales process consists of interpersonal interactions. It usually happens during one-to-one meetings, phone calls pursuant to lead generation, and through networking. If it allows engagement with the prospect or customer on a personal level rather than at a distance, it is related to selling. However, in most cases, the prospect or potential customer has been driven to you as a result of your marketing efforts.

In business, potential customers are generally categorized at one of three levels; cold, warm, and hot. Transitioning a prospect from one level to another requires a successful integration of both marketing and sales. The following is a simple outline of an approach that will help in this process.

Divide your prospect lists and databases into the three categories of leads: cold, warm, and hot. Then develop a strategy that will help you to connect in a meaningful way with each individual group.

For example, you could try one the following methods of contact:

  • Cold Lead Strategy— Direct mailing is one way of introducing your products or services to people who might not know about your business or offer them a special promotion.

  • Warm Lead Strategy— Follow-up with a personal phone call, send out a sales letter, or schedule a special seminar or training session to attract all of your warm leads.

Once the warm prospect has been engaged, it is time to proceed with your closing strategy. A one-on-one phone call, a presentation of products/services, or an introductory offer for an initial contract may help to close a deal. The ultimate success of both your marketing strategy and sales process is to constantly generate new business and maximize profits.

If you are just starting out and cannot afford the time or do not feel confident that you have the required skills or expertise, it is a good alternative to employ qualified/experienced staff or partner with someone that possesses the necessary expertise. For example, if you are stronger in marketing, you need someone with sales experience. If you are better at sales find someone that can help you strengthen the message, create effective marketing materials, and come up with tactics and ideas that produce results.

It is tempting to ask a marketing person to undertake sales or a sales person to do the marketing for your company; but these two areas, while being complimentary, are not the same. Assess your current strengths and weaknesses. Be clear which area of expertise you need. Both are essential to be successful. Do not expect a marketing professional to fulfill the role of sales professional. Understanding, appreciating, and differentiating these two areas is key to integrating marketing and sales for optimal growth in your business.

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