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The Difference Between Sales And Marketing And Branding
For as long as there was trade, sales and marketing have been 2 business terms that has caused confusion among everyone. It does not help when even today, companies hire sales staff who are required to take on marketing tasks, while employees on marketing positions are required to conduct sales activities.
If that’s not enough, the last 2 decades have seen the strong appeal of the concept of branding. It’s like pouring gasoline onto fire to create a bigger mess in the academic world of sales and marketing.
Don’t get me wrong. Branding has always been around. It’s just that public interest in the subject exploded in the 1990s.
So popular have branding become to both entrepreneurs and professionals, that trainers and educational institutions have now introduced branding as a totally different subject to marketing.
But let’s not blur the waters here.
If you remove all the clutter and the ugly sides (the parts which nobody likes to do) of marketing, what you are left with is the portion that everybody loves. The portion that embeds conditioning onto the minds of consumers, creates perception, and changes behavior… That remaining portion is branding.
Branding is however, just a subset of marketing. This is not negotiable.
People who insist that marketing and branding do not belong together are probably just trying to sell you an extra course to attend.
With this in mind, many subscribers have asked me “What’s the difference between sales and marketing?“. So I have decided to take on this tough equation in this discussion.
If you are in a rush, this diagram would give you an overview of how sales, marketing and branding are interlinked.
Now if you want to go deeper into this, read on. I’m optimistic that you will learn more on this page about the subject than the 3 years you’ve spent in University.
Hardcore egoistic marketers will despise me for saying that marketing is just a segment of selling activity. That’s fine with me. I’m not here to please everyone with my opinion.
Sales vs Marketing
By definition, Sales is activity related to selling. – Wikipedia
And if you have ever been in a sales position, that is pretty much a truth that can be hard to argue against.
But what the above definition does not definitively mention is that the roles of almost every department in a company is to support the front line. That means that what the company does, what the different departments do, can play a crucial role in sales.
Let’s take an example. If the unique selling point of your product is that the customer can expect delivery within 1 working day, the logistics department will then play a crucial role in sales activity. Because how dependable their operations are, can make or break the business.
A salesperson of such a type of business will not be able to sell on the company’s core competencies unless logistics can deliver on the promises. Making the logistics department a key player in sales activity.
Are you starting to see how wide a net sales activities can cast?
There is nothing wrong with describing sales as the process that connects a finished product that is ready to be sold, to getting it paid for and taken home by consumers.
That just means that organizations operating under such structures do not add a lot of value in other areas of the supply chain.
The confusion really ignites when marketers start claiming that instead of the selling staff, they are the link between company and market.
Don’t believe me? Look at the definition of marketing.
Marketing… describe the means of communication between the company and the consumer audience. – Wikipedia
This is indeed a very broad and somewhat vague definition that does not address the underlying objectives of marketing. Marketing is supposed to support sales… and never the other way around.
The job of marketers is to make the job of salespeople easier. – Yes, you can quote me on that.
In this sense, I might as well add that when sales departments don’t bring home the numbers, the head of marketing has a bigger question to answer compared to the head of sales. Because marketing did not provide enough support for sales to succeed.
Yet in real life practice, this is not the case.
As we all know, the front line is always the first to be culled in times of under-performance.
It’s not fair to call judgment on sales staff when marketing support is not up to task.
If for example, a company’s brand image gets clobbered by bad marketing, it’s not the fault of sales to find strong resistance from consumers to buy.
And if the marketing budget gets burned on ineffective advertising, how can it be the fault of sales for not meeting the numbers?
But if despite ugly branding and bad advertising, the sales team performs, guess who would run up to claim most, if not all, of the credit?
You are right. The marketers.
I hope this makes sense to you… because I will be taking you further down this rabbit hole.
We are just starting to scratch the surface here.
As other areas in a business play important roles for the salesforce, it is only right that employees in those areas get rewarded when the business enjoys a spectacular year. This is what we see in real life.
Therefore, if a business does not perform in terms of revenue, other departments should suffer the same consequences as the salesforce… which is often not the case. Usually, staff in various departments continue to collect mega bonuses while the salesforce gets cut in half when revenue does not perform up to expectations.
And those that survive the cuts get little to no bonuses at all!
In other words, when the sales team performs, vultures arrive to snatch a share. But when company performances are below expectations, the sales team is often the one that is left for dead.
And when I did a basic search about the differences between the 2 online, the below table basically summarizes how the reputation of selling is being clobbered everywhere by… you guess it… those who champion themselves as marketers.
|Job duties||Sell product||Develop brands, markets & products|
|Audience||Individual customer||Mass audience|
|Geographic focus||Local||National, regional, global|
|Functions||Selling activities||Overall corporate strategy|
|Qualities||Selling skills||Vision, foresight, inovation|
|Role||Sell products||Planning & coordinate advertising|
|Objective||Raise company revenue||Raise company value|
|Key skill||Make customer want a product||Make a product that consumers want|
This table is as blatant as it gets. You might as well say that every marketer is actually Batman in disguise.
If you think that I’m trying to get more acclaim for salespeople… I wouldn’t say that you are wrong. They are often the most under-appreciated in an organizational setting because of a lack of glamour.
The glamour of marketing
From a big picture point of view, it is not a surprise that marketers get more recognition for their work compared to salespeople.
Memorable commercials are after all, attributed to the marketing team… even when the commercials are produced by ad agencies hired by the company.
Cross industry awards are often given out to marketers instead of salesmen because end results produced by marketers are often what consumers feel a connection to. Consumers are not going to feel understood when a salesman tell him how much he makes from each sale.
So much is this glamour being trumpeted in the corporate world, many marketers might actually freak out when you tell them that their jobs are to support selling. They don’t want to have any association at all with the ugly word “sales”.
It’s like asking an Apple fan to admit that Samsung has a better smart phone. You will never get anywhere. (I use an iPhone by the way)
But you won’t face a lot of resistance by getting a salesperson to acknowledge that her job has certain aspects of marketing in it.
It doesn’t help that when salespeople are mentioned, people generally associate it with shift work spending hours standing in retail outlets while smiling at strangers.
People generally think about branding, advertising, and catchy commercials when marketing is discussed. But when sales is discussed, boiler rooms and movies like the Wolf of Wall Street come into mind.
What happens after all these mambo jambo is that the general public starts believing that marketing is indeed a much more desirable role compared to selling. The tragedy doubles up when marketers start believing their own hype.
Yet all these are happening while everyone forget that marketing is just a subset of sales!
Marketers can go about the fascination that comes with creative commercials and glossy flyers. But all that creativity will mean nothing if the advertisements do not bring results in terms of sales.
This means that…
The measure of success in marketing is measured in terms of sales.
Now I’m sure a self-proclaimed professor of market research will come up and claim that the success of marketing campaigns are measured by whether objectives are met. Mass media campaigns specially, can be tailored just to sculpt perception and enhance branding.
That line of thinking in brand awareness is really undermining the big picture. Because the ultimate goal of branding and conditioning is STILL to sell more products, now or in the foreseeable future.
I would like to see a pure marketer argue against that.
Why sales is the big brother of marketing
All salespeople are marketers, but marketers are not necessarily salespeople.
By the same token, marketing is selling, but selling is not necessarily marketing.
Selling requires people skills. A good array of people skills is not something that you can vouch for all marketing managers. That’s a fact.
Not just that.
To be really good at selling a salesperson has to be able to feel out a prospect to identify objections, debunk them, and pinpoint the moment a window opens to go for the close.
And this is just an over-simplified summary of the soft skills a salesperson should have.
A lot of these skills can seldom be trained. You either gain them with experience, or you simply have a gift for it. That is why even with years of training, there is no guarantee that a guy in sales will become a high flyer.
That is not to say that getting sales training and attending upgrading programs will not enhance the career of a salesperson if he has no talent. With good training, you can still do well in a sales career… but you won’t become a superstar unless you are a natural or have quality experience behind you.
So what a drastic realization you will get when you can list down the characteristics of a great salesman like…
- Great speaker
- Able to think on his feet
- Able to articulate things and expressions
- Great conversational skills
And the characteristics you can tag a marketer with is usually… just…
Alright I know that I may be pushing the boundaries here of simplifying stuff. But I’m doing it to drive home the point.
This contrast in characteristics can be mind-boggling to some people. Especially when they have never looked deeper into his subject.
But you have seen nothing yet because the mother of all contrast is…
The job of sales is to bring in money but the job of marketing is to spend it.
No wonder the odds are so heavily stacked against sales people.
While sales go about tackling the challenge of bringing in enough money to feed the whole company, marketing is banging their heads against the wall contemplating how to spend all their budget… so that they can ask for a BIGGER budget next time.
When I was a jolly youngster newly integrated into the workforce, I never thought about this at all. But when I had this realization later after joining a company in a marketing capacity, I really felt sorry for the front line because I have been there before.
The front line has:
- the constant pressure to meet targets each month
- the continuous threat of being asked to resign when numbers are not satisfactory
- the hopelessness when you see your colleagues packing their workstations to make way for newcomers replacing them
- the various internal departments who have made it their commitment to make life for salespeople as hard as possible
- the ridiculous stress of navigating internal roadblocks preventing sales transactions from happening
It’s a bloodbath out there. The unbearable irony is that we were the ones bringing in the money to keep the organization afloat.
And marketing? Their main concern is:
- How to max out the budget so that they can justify appealing for a bigger one in the next financial year
When marketing campaigns turn out to be a disaster, blame it on sales for failing to execute. And when there is success, accept all the accolades, plus collect a fat bonus at the end of the year.
So what is the difference between sales and marketing?
If you still cannot grasp the difference of the two after all my blabbering, let’s do this the way I know best… in ONE sentence. No, make that TWO.
Marketing consists of activities that make consumers want a product. Sales consists of activities that convert consumers to customers whether they want the product or not.
And with this, you can see that marketing activities are part of sales activities. Never the other way around.
Here’s the knock out punch.
Let’s say a customer gets a godly impression of a brand through good marketing and decides to go to it’s retail store to buy its products. A rude sales person then serves him with the demeaning attitude usually reserved for adulterous ex-husbands. The customer will then walk away from the store with a very bad experience and will tell all his friends about how bad the retailer really is. That it’s fanciful commercials are just to hide their faults.
Now if we are to turn the tables…
This time a customer gets a bad impression of a brand because it’s advertisements and commercials kind of suck. But he still walks into a store because the salesperson invites him in with the kind servitude reserved for royalty. He gets treated with meticulous attention and pleasantly enjoyed the experience. With all likelihood, he is going to walk away from the store with a great story to tell his friends about. And that the bad marketing is grossly undermining how good the brand really is.
Now tell me.
Does sales have a bigger impact on marketing or the other way around? I know your answer.
Is it because marketing just a function of sales?
Marketers can go on all day about core values and how to differentiate a company from it’s competitors. But they always conveniently leave out the fact that everything will go sour if there is not an effective sales team to distribute the products into the market.
Have you ever seen a memorable commercial on prime time television but have no idea what it is selling? I rest my case.
Whereas, great sales people are known to have the ability to “sell ice to Eskimos” without any leverage gained from marketing at all.
While marketing is a subset of sales activities, the importance of marketing towards exceptional sales performance makes marketing a very important competence for businesses to focus on.
Thus, the creation of a department by itself so that marketers can focus solely on marketing. That does not alleviate them from their key objective which is to support selling activities.
In the modern organization, the interaction of sales and marketing is critical to market domination. They are what they are. Ideally, the 2 needs to put bragging rights aside and work together without stepping on each other’s toes.