Demand Side Sales
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Demand Side Sales

What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

The following is adapted from Demand-Side Sales 101.

People have become confused about the roles that sales and marketing play in a business. Some think sales is in charge of cash flow, and some believe that marketing is in charge. Some even lump sales and marketing together, thinking they’re the same thing, and have the two departments as part of the same team. So who’s right?

It’s a difficult question because both help produce sales, and they both interact with the customer. But there’s no doubt that salespeople are the ones who close the deal.

Marketing is a high-level job that reaches a larger audience than sales, which tends to deal with a one-on-one relationship with the customer. But they are a team, and they must work closely together to make sure the transition from potential buyer to buyer is seamless — and complete.

Marketing — Sales at a High Level

Marketing is like advertising in that it helps the sales team sell the product or service. Marketers tend to focus on features so they can attract the widest audience. They work at a very high level, creating personas, or imaginary customers, based on demographics such as age, ZIP code, and income level. Sometimes they may conduct interviews with real people, but they tend to turn those interviews into two or three personas that represent what they heard in the interviews — and ultimately, they represent the entire market for the product.

Then it’s execution time. They then use marketing strategies to capture customers’ attention and get them interested in the product. Marketing is not just about brochures anymore. It now encompasses many different forms of media, including websites, email campaigns, social media, and online advertising. It casts a wide net, but there’s little personalization to it.

Sales — Real People, Real Situations

Sales, on the other hand, is more complicated. It’s more detailed, and salespeople deal with real customers, sometimes face-to-face. Because of this, they have to know the actual person and their likes, dislikes, desires, and fears. They ask questions. They listen. The more information they know, the better they understand the customer and the easier it will be to help them find a product or service that meets the customer’s needs.

Salespeople are usually the highest paid people in a company. They should know marketing as well as sales, but they must know how to connect with people and show how the product or service meets their needs. They also ensure product delivery and manage the cash flow side of the business. Many times in a small company, the CEO is a salesperson because they know more about the company than anyone.

It’s Not All About Differences

Despite their differences, the two disciplines do overlap at times. While marketing tends to focus on the product, its strategies can appeal to a customer’s emotions and thinking. Salespeople do the same thing when trying to close the deal. All customers want is to solve the problems in their lives and make progress. Marketing and sales are locked in step with this idea.

Sometimes it’s the job of marketing to create interest, or brand awareness. For example, a marketing campaign might center on a new car and the features it has. It may appeal to a customer’s sense of social status, and they might look up the car on Google or even travel to a dealership to test drive a car. It’s then up to the salesperson to make the sale, talking to them about their needs and desires, and fitting them with the car that fits those needs.

People Convince Themselves to Buy

When I entered the world of sales and marketing at a countertop company, it was challenging, The focus was always on the product’s features and benefits, and the customer was a set of demographics: age, ZIP code, and income.

But no one was asking real customers why they were buying. Their age and income have nothing to do with what’s really going on in their lives. That’s how customer interviews became so important to sales: to find out the smaller picture about what was affecting consumer behavior.

I soon found out that we as salespeople and marketers don’t convince people to buy anything. They convince themselves. After I discovered that, sales became much easier. It was my job to help them come to a decision and help them with the problem they were trying to solve.

That’s really what a company does. Marketers just talk to customers at a high level, and salespeople talk to them at the ground level. It’s up to the customer what decision they make.

For more advice on the difference between sales and marketing, you can find Demand-Side Sales 101 on Amazon.

Bob Moesta is a teacher, builder, entrepreneur, and co-founder at The Re-Wired Group, a design firm in Detroit, Michigan. Bob has developed & launched over 3,500 products and sold everything from design services, software, and houses to consumer electronics, and investment services. He’s an adjunct lecturer at Kellogg School at Northwestern University, lectures on innovation at Harvard and MIT, and enjoys mentoring at incubators. Greg Engle is a co-founder at the Re-Wired Group. Since the beginning of his career, helping people make progress has been part of Greg’s DNA. He’s worked in everything from food services and retailing, to construction, software, and now consulting services. Greg’s a native Detroiter and enjoys volunteering in the community, especially in local ice hockey leagues.



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Bob Moesta

Bob Moesta

BOB MOESTA is a teacher, builder, entrepreneur, and co-founder at The Re-Wired Group, a design firm in Detroit, Michigan.