As a small business owner, you may wonder “which is more important – marketing or sales?”
Or “should I dump more money into marketing or hire a rockstar sales team?”
Frankly, we’ve done both to grow our own company and other businesses, so we’re no strangers to how to effectively use both methods.
That’s why we’ve written this blog – to shed some light on this topic to help you weigh the pros and cons for your unique business!
We’re going to fully break down the differences between marketing and sales so we can help you understand which approach is best for your business.
But before we jump into it, let’s talk about marketing vs. sales.
Marketing vs Sales
When we first started LYFE Marketing in 2011, we adopted a sales strategy to grow our business.
At the time, we were in a small business incubator with many other businesses.
It seemed that every advisor we spoke to and every business book we read implied that we cannot be successful without a strong sales team.
We heard everything in the world, like…
“Sales is King.”
“Sales is a Numbers Game.”
“It takes 99 no’s to get 1 yes.”
“You have to be comfortable with rejection.”
“You just need one good salesperson.”
And so on. So what did we do?
With no more than a few hundred dollars in the bank, we couldn’t afford to hire a salesperson.
So our CEOs decided to roll up their sleeves and do it themselves.
Their goal was to cold-call 60,000 businesses by the end of the year.
In addition, to go door-to-door to most businesses in the Atlanta Metro area, which is where we were based.
And they did just that.
They knocked on doors.
They got cursed out.
They got hung up on.
But, eventually, they did close some clients. Enough clients to generate more funds to reinvest back into the business.
Then came the decision – what will we invest in? Marketing or Sales?
Naturally, we thought about sales. But then one of our interns asked us a question that stuck with us.
She said – “You spend so much time trying to get people to talk to you. Why aren’t people coming to you all?”
We sat there, dumbfounded.
It was crazy because, here we were, a digital marketing agency, that is not using marketing to grow our own business.
So, we chose the marketing route.
And 5-years later, we became one of the fastest-growing companies in America, twice.
And, we received many other awards for our growth, like the Atlanta Pacesetters Award and being featured on CNBC’s The Profit Show.
So, what’s our point here?
Both marketing and sales can work to grow your business.
But you need to understand the key differences between them in order to adopt an approach that will foster growth in your business.
With that said, as you read on, we will continue to address those differences.
Let’s start by defining the fundamental difference between marketing and sales.
What’s the Difference Between These Two?
First-off, marketing and sales are NOT the same thing.
Marketing is EVERYTHING you do to bring people into your sales funnel or pipeline.
Therefore, in order to be successful at sales, you must have a sales pipeline in place.
If you don’t, your marketing can fill your sales pipeline.
Or, if you have the right talent, they can build their own pipeline through relationship-building or other outbound efforts.
To fill your sales pipeline using marketing, you need to focus on your branding, positioning, pricing, and advertising mix.
For example, you may choose to focus your marketing efforts on building a strong presence on Google and social media, or on building your email list.
The GOAL of marketing is to bring in as many QUALITY people into your pipeline at the lowest cost possible.
On the other hand, salespeople can build their funnel through outbound efforts such as cold-calling, cold emailing, door-to-door sales, networking, and much more.
Both, sales and marketing are very difficult tasks and each require different skill sets.
Nonetheless, you need to determine which approach is most appropriate for your business.
To do so, let’s look at the top 5 differences between sales and marketing.
The Top 5 Differences Between Marketing and Sales
Key Difference: #1 Time Horizon
The biggest difference between marketing and sales is the time it takes to see results.
In sales, you can see results within 3 months-time.
With marketing, it can take up to 1-year to START seeing significant results.
And even then, your results are likely just starting to pick-up steam and haven’t started compounding to its potential yet.
Now naturally, most business owners are sales-driven.
They want short-term results. And they want it NOW.
If business was a sports game, the owner would want to win in the 1st quarter.
Meanwhile, with marketing, you’d almost always lose the 1st quarter, because marketing is not a 1st quarter player.
Marketing is a 4th quarter player. Marketing could be down 30-0 in the 4th quarter and come back and win the game 60-30.
The big thing to keep in mind here is that marketing that works can compound into results, that is simply not achievable with a sales mentality.
Sales is linear. Marketing is exponential.
Sales is a numbers game. Marketing is an art.
Sales is focused on short-term quotas and results.
Marketing doesn’t care about short-term results. They are playing the long-term game.
Marketing is how we were able to grow our website traffic over 200,000 people per month. But it took several years in order to do this.
Key Difference #2: Customer Preference
How do you FEEL when someone is trying to sell you something?
Like no, really, how do you feel when someone is trying to get money from you?
Do you trust that person?
If you’re like most people, you don’t love being sold to.
You’d probably prefer to deal with someone who is more informative, than persuasive, and more interested in helping you than your pocketbooks.
Many people today don’t LOVE salespeople. Or at least, very pushy salespeople who think they can run over you to earn your business.
With the rise of the Internet, many customers have ditched sales tactics in favor of more value-based content.
As the old saying goes “You can’t teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
By delivering value to your market through marketing, you make it easier for them to discover their need for your product or service.
So the clear winner of this difference would be marketing.
While sales is still effective, it has gotten a bad reputation over the years due to aggressive, ineffective sales professionals.
Since marketing is more concerned with the goals and needs of their customers, most consumers prefer to engage with marketing.
Key Difference #3: Attracting vs. Pursuing
Salespeople must pursue opportunities.
And if they do not have opportunities, they have to develop a list of prospects and pursue them.
Compared to marketing, marketing generates opportunities. A good marketing strategy will capture eyeballs and turn heads towards your company.
If we compared this to dating, sales would be similar to a single man sending messages to women on Instagram or Tinder to score a date.
He’d likely get a few no’s, blocks, and missed opportunities, but if he persists long enough, then chances are that he will succeed.
While marketing would be more-so focused on attracting women to him. Then, he can sit-back and evaluate his options and choose the best fit.
Now, of course, he can’t expect every person he attracts to be someone he’s interested in.
In marketing, you can have the best targeting in the world, but you still won’t SOLELY attract your desired person.
Likewise, bringing it back to real life, it is unrealistic to expect your marketing to ONLY deliver good leads to your business.
Marketing has to generate attention in order to be successful.
And you can try to pull-in a specific group of people but it’s unrealistic to think that you won’t have a basket of bad leads as well.
Anyway, the pros of sales is that you can CHOOSE who you want to go after.
You cannot do this with marketing.
With marketing, your success is dependent on the leads you have. If you only have bad leads, or no leads, you will fail.
On the other hand, the pros of marketing is that you can PULL people to your business.
Instead of aggressively pursuing them and being met with a fair share of rejection.
With sales, you have to be comfortable with rejection. And we know sales is not a profession for the faint-hearted.
Key Difference #4: Storytelling vs. Asking
Good marketing tells a story. Without a good story, you will not succeed.
But what story do you need to tell?
You need to tell the story of someone with a problem that got rid of that problem with your solution.
Or the story of someone who is in pain and aggravating that feeling to the level to where they HAVE to do something about.
As mentioned earlier, marketing and storytelling is an art.
And if you cannot successfully craft your messaging to grab people’s attention, then marketing will be difficult for you.
Therefore, you need to have effective copywriting skills.
Sales, on the other hand, is less about stories and more about conversations.
Conversations usually begin with the salesperson asking questions to the prospect.
“What are your goals?”
“What have you done so far to reach them?”
“What is reaching your goals worth to you?”
“What are you willing to do about?”
Great salespeople sell by asking, not by telling.
You have to have strong listening skills to properly sell your product to each unique person.
If you don’t do this, then you’ll come off like almost every other salesperson in the world – just trying to get money from your customer.
So marketing requires effective copywriting and communication skills.
Sales requires good listening and communication skills.
Key Difference #5: Marketing sells product first; Salespeople sell people first
In sales, most people buy from people they like and trust.
And because of this, it is quite easy for someone to buy a crappy product from a good salesperson.
Now, ideally, you don’t offer a crappy product.
But regardless, this points to the benefit of having great sales talent at your disposal.
Marketing, on the other hand, does not necessarily need to have a person at the forefront in order to generate sales opportunities.
Good marketing can sell your product alone.
For example, there are people who watch our YouTube videos, call our office and tell our sales reps “I’m already sold, how can I sign-up?”
When your marketing is good, the less selling you have to do.
When your marketing is bad, the more selling you have to do.
Ok, so those are the top 5 differences between marketing and sales. Now, what should you do?
We think both approaches are very effective.
However, we lean more towards marketing because of how explosive it can be once it finally starts working – even if that means it will take 1-2 years.
On the other hand, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be the brand we are today if it wasn’t for sales.
If we did not have the grit in the beginning of our journey to do sales from nothing, you wouldn’t even know we existed.
We wouldn’t have any money for marketing!
So the decision is ultimately yours.
But, it is important for you to understand the differences between marketing and sales, so you can choose the best approach for your business, even if that means both.
Remember, Marketing is EVERYTHING you do to bring people into your sales funnel or pipeline.
Sales is what CLOSES people who enter your sales funnel or pipeline.
Sales works faster than marketing. Marketing can take several months, even years, to realize its impact.
However, many people do not respond well to salespeople. You have to be okay with a lot of rejection or hire people with the skills to do this for you.
Meanwhile, marketing focuses on value creation, which is better received than sales tactics.
With sales, you have to pursue opportunities and marketing attracts opportunities.
Marketing tells stories. While Sales asks questions and problem-solves with customers.
Marketing sells the product. While Salespeople sell themselves first.
In all, the two are different but can work together quite well if you chose to do both.
And if you want to know more about how you can truly find the right solution for your business, we can help. Contact us today!