Marketing vs. Selling

When you want sales, don’t hire a marketer

What’s the difference between marketing and selling? They are often confused because “sales person” is seen as much less prestigious than “marketing associate.” Thus everything gets lumped into marketing.

The result: we hire somebody as “marketer” hoping they will produce sales for us, then find out they are better at writing newsletters, networking, doing social media campaigns.
 When you’re looking for help, remember this: Marketing is everything you do to prepare for sales. Selling is closing sales that make you money. Thus, you could say . . .

— Marketing is money OUT the door.

— Selling is money IN the door.

For small business owners, marketing is usually time intensive. We spend at least as many hours as we do dollars on marketing.
People who are good at marketing are often not good at selling, and vice versa. These take different personalities and mindsets. Seldom will you find one person who is good at both. That goes for us entrepreneurs as well. We’re usually much better at one than the other, but we are forced into both roles, one of which we do poorly.

What’s Included in Marketing?

Remember, marketing is everything that leads up to selling. Here are some marketing activities:

  • Asking your current customers for referrals for more business
  • Networking and building relationships
  • Social media campaigns
  • Advertising and public relations
  • Direct mail and e-newsletters
  • Special promotional events
  • Handling incoming inquiries
  • Merchandising and merchandise selection
  • Holding sales, offering preferred customer bonuses
  • Getting articles published. Blogging
  • Doing cold calls to set appointments
  • Market research, customer surveys
  • Branding, creating your sales message
  • Design and creation of collateral materials
  • Building and maintaining your web site, blog, social media presence
  • Market planning and strategizing

Marketing includes doing good work so that your customers come back, and tell others about you. It includes hiring employees who are good at customer service, and giving them the training so that they can keep your customers happy.

Marketing includes pricing–finding the price level that will attract the customers you most want to do business with (and will make you a profit).

Marketing includes product design and development and packaging.

All these things lead up to selling.

Selling Includes the Activities that Get Customers to Make a Purchase

  • Doing proposals or estimates
  • Presenting, answering questions, making suggestions, addressing concerns
  • Negotiating
  • And most important, asking for the sale. Then completing the sales agreement.

Your sales people clearly do some marketing: Networking, responding to inquiries, making public presentations, doing cold calling, calling old customers. The marketing that sales people do best is just one or two steps away from selling.

Selling May Be Automated — that’s a different article. Online purchases are a different beast. Getting people to click the Buy Now button is the culmination of a carefully constructed sequence of online steps that often involves no sales person. But even online buyers often want to talk with a real person before making a decision.

Selling is Harder than Marketing. This is why good sales people get paid a lot of money. As business owner, your aim should be that your sales people get filthy rich, because in the process, they make you even richer. Don’t be stingy on commissions!

Salespeople are motivated by performance incentives, aka commissions. In my experience, sales people on an hourly rate or salary are less effective. If there’s a mix between salary and commission, it should be weighted toward commissions. Their performance is very easy to measure: signed orders, cash in the door. Not hours worked, not contacts made, but sales closed.

Since selling is hard for many people (including for sales people), those who are hired to do both selling and marketing often spend too much time on marketing activities and not enough on selling. (This goes for us business owners as well.)

When You Want a Sales Person, Don’t Hire a Marketer. Your selection process must focus on the candidate’s ability to close sales and bring in business.

Sales People Need a Sales Manager. In a small company, that’s you, the owner. You have to keep your sales people on target and productive. This is not an easy job. That’s the topic of an upcoming article.

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