Sales Vs. Marketing
Have you ever heard one of your colleagues say something to the likes of, “I hate sales, but marketing is my favorite?” If you have, you wouldn’t be alone. The only problem with your colleague’s baffling statement, is that sales and marketing are almost entirely related. However, there is a small, tiny, maybe even miniscule grey area between the two – and that grey area is precisely where the difference lies – the approach of each, and the process of each.
Let’s take a high-level view of the buyer’s journey in our current digital world to understand just where these two different business functions intersect. Now more than ever, the decision-makers are in control, as 67% of the buyer’s journey is conducted digitally. This reality has placed an onus on us as marketers to craft “buyer enablement” material. This material consists of sets of specific information and resources that allow our sales and marketing efforts to not be derailed by potential buyer objections. Now, let’s get to the fun part!
So, What Exactly Does That Mean?
Essentially, sales and marketing are two processes that are highly complementary and also reliant on each other. When we separate each of these two processes and downplay the value of each, we begin to create an awkward tension between the two – one that most managers and executives will tell you they could do without. Let’s break it down a bit more.
Forbes says that, “selling is primarily about real time conversations between two or more people. As long as you are selling … the fundamental motivations to buy and the skills to obtain purchase commitments will remain the same.” But what are the fundamental motivations to buy and the skills needed to enable them? Fundamental motivations of buyers involve centralizing functions, speeding up processes, and improving quality, or more clearly, it is about integrating tasks into a system to remove bottlenecks. In terms of skills, there are many that can be used, but according to Koka Sexton, there are 6 must-have sales skills, which she outlines as expertise, curiosity, emotional intelligence, confidence, teamwork, and a knack for narrative.
When it comes to marketing, they say, “marketing always changes. Most marketing techniques exploit human psychology, but their delivery is a function of the available technology.” Now, this certainly helps to paint a more accurate picture into the two processes and how they differ, but also depend on each other. It is marketing’s job to take awareness of a problem and make it into an interest that needs to be resolved. Marketing does this by distributing educational messages through multiple channels such as email, social media, and advertisements. Sales then closely watches the response of prospects to understand if it is the right moment to reach out. However, as marketers and salespeople, we must be conscious of the fact that the right moment is rare.
Remember at the beginning when I mentioned that 67% of the buyer’s journey is digital or to put it more simply, self-directed? This is a key insight with an impact that we must fully comprehend. At first glance, you may say that the meaning of this statistic is that prospects are becoming more hesitant to reach out to sales, and as a result, extending the length of sales cycles. However, what this statistic actually reveals is that our approach must employ a credible reason for reaching out. Prospects want to be engaged with and desire to find a trusted advisor who can help solve business problems and collaborate to craft solutions for unique use-cases.
In one way, sales depend almost entirely upon marketing because marketing helps to ensure that we exploit the right levels of the human psyche to ensure that we achieve a sale. However, in another way, marketing also depends a bit on sales. Without sales, it’s difficult to fully understand your target market. It becomes difficult to understand just how your target market sees your product or service, or if there’s even a place for it within the market you’re looking to exploit.
And to go back to the idea that selling occurs in real-time and mostly stays the same, but marketing always changes and is a function of technology, can we ignore the question, “is this problematic?” If technology continues to increase its capabilities and advance at an alarming rate, will sales one day merge into marketing?
In fact, we are already seeing the beginning stages of this convergence as an IBM study found that 75% of B2B decision makers and 84% of C-level and VP executives use social media to inform their decisions. This shows that marketing has incorporated elements of sales, as now, prospects are driving communication by responding to our campaigns, thus 2-way communication. Whether you are a sales or marketing professional, you must know that prospects will be skeptical and at times, not believe you. And that’s fine because the purpose behind our sales and marketing efforts is not to overwhelm the prospect with logic, but rather to spark the conversations which allow prospects to recognize a need and foster the urgency to address it.
If interactive marketing becomes more widespread, it may seem like this is a plausible outcome, right? Let’s picture this: you’re on your mobile phone scrolling through a social media feed and you see an advertisement for a product being sold at a local store in your area – you click the add and are immediately redirected to a purchase page with the product already placed in your virtual cart. Sure, the sale occurred in real-time, but was there any human interaction involved at all? Now, for big online retailers like Amazon, we can expect this. But for a brick and mortar store? Is this what the future has in store for us?
It’s an interesting question to think about for sure, but only time will tell. As of now, sales and marketing are highly related, with just a small shred of differences that allow us to distinguish the two from each other.