Marketing vs. Sales: Everything You Need to Know in 2022

Do you actually know the difference between the two?

If you want to get people to buy your product so that you can earn revenue and grow your company, they need to know about that product first. That’s where marketing and sales teams come in. Their job is to get the word out and to bring the customers and prospects in. But while their ultimate goal – to help grow your company – is the same, the ways they go about reaching this goal is quite different. Understanding how marketing vs sales operates will help you create strategies to leverage their strengths, find the best ways to take advantage of overlaps and to structure your sales and marketing departments in the best way for your business and your unique needs. So how do they differ? 

Marketing vs sales: The function 

Marketing departments have one main function: to attract your target audience. They do this by creating awareness of your product and brand identity, emphasizing what the product can do and how it can make the potential customer’s life easier. So, they create leads. You can look at it this way: marketing creates the bait that will draw the target audience closer. Marketing is a longer game.

Sales departments seal the deal. In other words, they use the bait to hook the customer. They follow up on the leads marketing has created, identify potential customers and turn those potential customers into new customers. 

Marketing vs sales: The approach

In order to create awareness of the brand and the product, marketing takes quite a broad approach. They’re essentially casting the net to generate leads, so they shouldn’t be too niche or specific. Building a brand is key when it comes to an ability to attract a share of a target or particular market — and the knowledge and awareness of a brand is ultimately driven by good marketing. They also tend to have more pull-focused marketing strategies, although elements of push are present too. A strong marketing strategy will use a range of techniques to create awareness: digital marketing such as search-engine optimization or SEO, PPC or pay-per-click, email marketing and content marketing including blogs and podcasts; influencer marketing; programmatic advertising through ad exchanges; advertising in electronic and print media; other forms of print marketing, such as flyers; public relations; events and activations and the like. The ratio in which to use these depends on factors like the target audience you want to reach and the marketing environment — you need to continuously revise and adapt your strategy.

Sales takes a more targeted approach that focuses more on push than on pull. They already have their eyes on potential customers, so they need to find ways to hone in on those target audiences and convince them to subscribe, renew their subscription and upgrade. Their sales strategy includes techniques like direct messaging through email or LinkedIn, cold calling and in-person networking. Once they’ve established a relationship with a potential or existing customer, they need to continuously nurture that relationship to build the customer’s trust and loyalty. Like marketing, they need to be able to adapt their strategy when needed.

You may also like: Busting the most common myths about affiliate marketing.

Hands grabbing at pieces of a pie graph with 'marketing' spelled out around it

Marketing vs sales: The focus 

Marketing teams tend to look at the bigger picture. They want customers to become loyal to the brand, so that when those customers are looking to buy a new product, they’ll look at the range of products the specific brand has to offer rather than going elsewhere. This is especially important to remember in the B2B SaaS arena, where the goal is to get customers to renew and upgrade their subscriptions. So, marketing will not simply focus on what the customer needs right now but will look at what the customer might want in future. They will communicate the customer’s desires to the development team, who can then create new products. 

Sales is less concerned with the big, long-term picture and more with the here and now. After all, a customer doesn’t sign on based on what might fulfill their needs a few months from now; they sign on based on what will meet their needs right now.  

Marketing vs sales: The goals

Because marketing is more focused on creating awareness, marketing goals tend to be more abstract. For example, they may include researching what customers need and want, improving brand recognition, launching new products, generating new leads and nurturing existing ones, establishing and maintaining customer relationships and building customer loyalty. These goals are harder to measure because they don’t generally have an immediately visible impact on revenue. 

Sales’ goals tend to be more tangible, which makes them more easily measurable too. They tend to focus on targets: the number of sales, the amount of revenue generated, the number of subscriptions renewed, profit margins, and the like. These targets are usually set for shorter periods too, making it easier to see the immediate impact of a specific sales strategy. 

Marketing process vs sales process

In short, marketing’s process is to identify their brand or product’s competitive advantage, identify their target market and find ways to communicate with that target market. So, they start with research: of what’s available in the market, what potential customers are looking for and how they can give those potential customers what they want. They divide their customers into different categories according to their similarities and differences and then look for the best ways to reach each of these categories. Using this information as well as the features that make their product or brand stand out from the rest, they develop marketing campaigns. When measuring the success of these campaigns, they look at sales figures – for instance, the number of new subscriptions and package upgrades – but they also look at a variety of other metrics: for instance, traffic to their website and brick-and-mortar business; time sent on the website or in the brick-and-mortar business; engagement on social media in the form of likes, comments and shares; and how these change over time. 

For sales, the process starts with getting to know the product itself: its features and how it will benefit the potential customer. Once they have this information, they identify potential customers; connect with them, for example through cold calling or emails; evaluate the responses they get to qualify which potential customers to focus on; approach those potential customers to meet with them and demonstrate the product; address any concerns the potential customer may have; negotiate the service level agreement; deliver the product and follow up with after-sales service to retain the customer.   

See also: The Path to SaaS Channel Readiness: Reseller partners.

Hand pointing at a graph figure rising with the word 'sales' spelled out around it

Marketing and sales: How do they work together?

Just because they have different roles doesn’t mean that sales and marketing should work as separate entities. In fact, in smaller businesses, the sales and marketing functions are often performed by the same team rather than two departments. Without sales and marketing alignment, your business won’t generate sales like you want it to and you can forget about increasing revenue.

Marketing isn’t better than sales and you don’t make more money through marketing. Neither is it better to focus on sales or think that you will make more money in sales. The two functions are equally important and one cannot exist without the other. If marketing doesn’t create the right message to bait the potential buyer, sales won’t be able to hook that buyer and turn them into a customer. But without feedback from sales, marketing won’t know what the right message is in the first place. 

In the B2B SaaS space, both sales and marketing teams face an extra challenge: instead of landing that customer for a one-off sale, they need to get them to buy a subscription, stay loyal to the product, renew their subscription and upgrade to a better package. So, they need to work together to find ways to continuously bait and hook, bait and hook for your company to grow. And growing the company is ultimately both teams’ main goal. 

Where do partnerships fall into this equation?

If marketing's role is to build awareness and drive leads for the direct sales team to generate pipeline and close more deals, then the role of partnerships is to do a bit of everything, or so it seems.

Partnerships can often times feel like a start-up within the business, as they’re supporting the needs of partners (playing the role of Customer Success and Onboarding), promoting and developing enablement materials to drive leads (the role of marketing) and lastly, working with partners to co-sell a deal (the role of a sales). 

Indirect sales (through partnerships) will always be a point of friction and confusion with the traditional direct sales engines you’ve built. But when it’s working, your revenue metrics will speak for themselves. 

Related: How partner networks accelerate your program’s success.

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