What is the Difference Between
Sales and Marketing?

The terms ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ are often thought of as interchangeable, but there are significant and important differences between the two. Each department plays a vital role within the business, but for best results they must be aligned. If we are to understand what the difference is between sales and marketing, we must first consider the functions of the two departments.

Both departments generate leads and bring in revenue, but in simple terms, the differences are as follows: sales refers to any business activities pertaining to the sale of goods and services, and marketing refers to the activities that garner attention for the products and services in the first place. Marketing places more attention on the general public and large demographics over a longer timeframe, whereas sales will focus on smaller demographics and bringing in revenue over the short term.

This article will take a deeper look into the differences between sales and marketing, as well as why and how they must be in alignment.

What is the difference between sales and marketing?

The main goal of the marketing department is to attract and inform leads and prospects to the brand, products and services. It encourages leads to become prospects through education, and then the sales department can focus more directly on the prospects by providing the actual solutions they need. The sales department’s main goal is to convert the prospects into loyal customers.

Both departments have the same ultimate goal – revenue generation – but each has different focal points and strategies; they must therefore work synergistically to form a cogent process that consistently converts leads into customers. While marketing focuses on pricing, promotion and education, sales focuses on quotas, targets and revenue goals. A practical example of the different departmental processes might be as follows:

The marketing department will use strategies such as market research, analysis and campaigns to understand the target audience, as well as finding ways to showcase company products and services (lead generation). The sales department devises and implements methods of building and maintaining relationships with those who have registered interest (prospect nurturing); sales must provide solutions in the form of advice, products and services.

What is sales and marketing alignment?

The differences between sales and marketing are clearly significant, yet each department is integral to the other. The success of both departments requires sales and marketing alignment (or ‘Smarketing’), or in other words, a functional partnership leading to consistent revenue generation.

Smarketing is only possible with constant two-way communication between departments, but they must first agree on how best to work together. To do so, they must establish and track clear goals and deliverables as the basis of an agreement. This is called a service-level agreement (SLA) and it serves as a contract between any departments providing recurring services to one another.

The SLA document will contain information such as each department’s common goals, customer profiles, buyer personas and lead definitions. It defines the protocol for managing leads and how to measure the performance of each department. So for instance, the SLA may stipulate how quickly sales must respond to leads generated by marketing; in this way a standard is created to ensure that all parties are pulling their weight.

Once the sales and marketing departments are in alignment, the processes within each department will naturally become more successful, and the common goal of revenue generation is more easily achieved.

How can sales and marketing departments successfully align?

For optimum alignment, it is necessary for the sales and marketing departments to develop more than just a service level agreement. The success of the individual departments can be significantly enhanced by establishing a strategy document for the department, which functions as a guideline for staff. In other words, a sales strategy document and marketing strategy document that outline company and departments details, history, structure, goals, mission and vision.

Each department’s document will also include a tailored strategy for that department and reviewable action plans. For example, the marketing department’s strategy document would define what the product is and how much it costs, who will buy it and from where. Marketing channels would be outlined and budgets set before campaign creation. The sales plan document would also outline the sales process, target markets, goals, tools, and resources necessary to reach revenue targets.

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