Sales & Marketing

Sales and marketing, battles and wars

Sales and marketing, battles and wars

The differences between the two key functions and why you need to allocate resources for both

In most organizations the functional activities of marketing and sales are misunderstood, and in small businesses they are often actually combined into a single function. In both scenarios it is important to understand the differences of each function, to ensure that adequate resources are put in place to cover every aspect of these critical operations.

There can be recurring catfights and disagreements between the marketing and the sales functions in most organizations. Some of the sources of disagreements are valid, some are dubious and others plain stupid. Some of the perceptions about sales and about marketing are correct and are often perpetuated by actions from both sides. One common perception among the sales folks is that “marketing is out of touch with reality” whilst the marketers often contend that “sales are not selling well enough, and are myopic in their approach to the market”. These sorts of perception are sometimes true, and often occur due to a lack of understanding of the importance that each role plays (and should play) for their mutual successes.

There definitely exists a cultural and knowledge gap between these two most critical functions in a company – and neither can succeed without the other.

Sell = Selling, Market = Marketing

Try asking potential candidates applying for a marketing job to describe in their own words their understanding of the differences between marketing and sales. It will generate some interesting views and many misconceptions about the functions. There is never a right or wrong answer to the question, of course, but some opinions do make more sense than others.

Every sale is a battle won for the company. Marketing is about winning the war in the marketplace, which cannot be won without the success of individual battles.”

john lincoln, author

Some that don’t show any great insight on the part of candidates are those that insist “marketing is all about PR”, “marketing does brand”, or that “marketing does ads”. In the same vein, “sales does push and marketing does pull”. An all-time favorite must be that “sales work for commission and marketing does not get a commission”. Whilst all these answers may be partially true, the differences between sales and marketing are much more significant than these uninformed quotes might infer.

As a marketer, let me first pay tribute to all the sales folks who slog day in and day out often under extreme conditions of weather, risk to income, personal humility, safety and others.

Wikipedia defines sales as the pinnacle activity involved in the selling of products or services in return for money or other compensation. It is an act of completion of a commercial activity. It certainly is the pinnacle activity in that sales have to overcome the cognitive dissonance of all buyers at the moment when cash is dished out, or when an order for goods and services are issued.

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American author, salesman, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has said that every sale has five basic obstacles:

  • no need
  • no money
  • no hurry
  • no desire
  • no trust

So to overcome these obstacles and to meet their business targets, the sales folks have to be liked, trusted and known! Sales have to succeed each and every time. With tough targets and extreme market conditions, the good folks in sales cannot afford to have an ‘off day,’ particularly because most sales jobs have a high variable component in their compensation package. It can mean the difference between a salesman having a job or not, or being able to pay the monthly rental, mortgage or car loan instalments! So we need to salute the constant capability that is displayed by sales.

As for marketing, it is all about winning in the marketplace. There have been many definitions written about what marketing is and two in particular, when reading together, make perfect sense. Drucker defines it as “Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view”. Palmer defines it as “Marketing is essentially about marshalling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the customer on whom the organization depends.”

In many ways marketing is responsible for delivering growth. Without growth, no company will sustain. So how does marketing do that?

  • Marketing has to anticipate, understand the business and to be able to deliver the customer needs. In order to do this, marketing has to be plugged into know, understand and act on the changes and trends in the industry and technology.
  • Marketing has to have deep insights on customer needs. This means that marketing will have to ensure that the physical, logical, visual (and other sensory) and emotional experience of the customer is encompassed in the totality of the proposition.
  • Marketing – as the owner of the customer value proposition – has to delight their customers with differentiated and superior products that are priced correctly (optimally), and communicated so that the marketers’ brand and services are market aware, functional and relevant for its users.
  • Marketing has to create a totality of customer experience (physical, sensory, emotional, logical etc) that augurs loyalty and emotional bonding to the brand. In addition, the marketer will have to determine optimally viable go-to-market strategies and tactics that ensure optimal channel economics, reach, coverage, access and others.
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And does marketing do it all alone? Of course not! Marketing will have to orchestrate across the various business and operational functions that deliver the different aspects of the proposition. Whilst all these functions are important, the success of the sales teams (across all channels) in getting the customer to pay for a company’s products or services will be the pinnacle of the commercial activity that will ultimately determine if a marketer’s effort is fruitful.

If you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything. You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally, without screaming or without tricks.”

Leo Burnett, advertising pioneer

So what then is the difference between marketing and sales?

One way to look at it is that every sales interaction is an individual battle. Every sale is a battle won for the company. Marketing is about winning the war in the marketplace, which cannot be won without the success of individual battles – and there is no point in winning a battle if you cannot win the war!


JohnLincoln.oneThe business growth hacker


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