The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Buyer Persona  |  Sales Strategies  |  Marketing

shutterstock_794573677As a unit, the combined sales and marketing team is charged with leading buyers along the sequence of interactions that lead to business success. But marketers and salespeople have different roles. By making certain we understand the difference, we can close the gap between marketing and sales and grow business faster.

Here’s how I like to think of the difference: Marketing communicates with the many people who make up a buyer persona. Salespeople, on the other hand, communicate with one potential customer at a time, putting the buying process into context.

Marketing: Reaching many people

The job of marketers is to understand buyer personas and communicate with these groups in a one-to-many approach. For example, web content as a marketing asset captures the attention of a group of buyers and drives those people into and through the sales process. The content marketers create—social media feeds, blogs, YouTube videos, infographics, virtual events, and the like—can influence large numbers of people. Done well, with a research-based understanding of buyer personas, this content generates attention and drives people into the buying process.

Sales: Influencing one person at a time

The role of sales is completely different. The goal of a salesperson is to influence one buyer at a time, often when the buyer is already close to making a purchase decision. While marketers need to be experts in persuading an audience of many, salespeople excel in persuading the individual buyer. They add context to the company's expertise, products, and services, often by curating the content created by marketing.

If, like me, you run a small business, you're probably playing both roles—communicating to your wider marketplace and engaging with one interested buyer at a time.

Larger organizations will need to work together to ensure that buyers experience a unified journey when they engage with marketing content as well as when they work with a salesperson.

It's important to recognize the distinctions in these two important functions because in many companies, marketing becomes a sales support function. When this happens, the company is sacrificing long term interest because marketers who only support sales aren't able to build for the future.

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