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Sales Versus Marketing: Can’t We All Get Along?

July 1, 2021
Focusing on any marketing fad is short-sighted, and a long-term strategy for brand failure.

There is a new term emerging in business jargon, “Sales Marketing.” As described by several sales organizations, Sales Marketing is clearly differentiated from the “sales prospect” focus of Business Development. Sales Marketing appears to focus mostly on supporting sales activities, to the exclusion of more traditional branding or customer attraction, and it seems to be developing as a response against more corporate-styled Marketing that can leave the Sales team out of the loop in creation of sales-support materials.

Sales Marketing includes components like social media campaigns, value propositions, key differentiators, and capabilities presentations -- all aimed at the essential task of making sales staff comfortable taking clients and prospective customers through the entire sales cycle. Sales Marketing is not about developing a long-term brand strategy; Sales Marketing is about being seen in the marketplace.

Neither Business Development nor Sales Marketing is a substitute for a robust and inclusive marketing strategy, in the opinion of this marketer. Both of these skip vital Marketing functions that build brands and ultimately make client attraction easier.  I often see Business Development leaving visual branding and even basic communication strategy out of their prospect-development efforts, while Sales Marketing seems to gloss over the need for advertising and SEO (strategic website development) to attract prospects while zeroing in on prospective customer education.

Neither of these specialties uses PR as part of its toolkit; more than just an occasional press release, PR is an entire communication strategy of brand perception development. To me, both of these sales-exclusive marketing efforts are a bit like using a shovel for a hoe. It can be done. But the right tool would’ve made the job easier -- and a team of people would have made the job faster and more efficient.

More critically, the one thing that traditional Marketing consistently does better than either Business Development or Sales Marketing is to make the client the hero of the brand story. The client is always part of the marketing team. Marketing professionals recognize the need for prospective customers to see the solution offered by the product or service as the solution they need. That connection cannot be found in a benefits list or capabilities presentation. It is found in stories: testimonials, case studies, press releases, website copy, social media -- all threads of communication that Marketing weaves together to showcase the brand.

A brand is not a look or a list of features; a brand is the unique, perceived identity of who your company serves, and how. Marketing is all aspects of how the brand presents itself and requires the stewardship of someone focused on creating consistency for the brand, not making a sale.

But marketing should not be done in a corporate information vacuum! Typically, Marketing staff would not interact with customers in the same way Sales staff or Customer Service would do. Ignoring those key viewpoints is a critical loss of brand perception information. A robust marketing plan is inclusive of the needs of Sales staff – as well as those of Operations and Customer Service.

In the simplest terms, marketing is communicating what a brand is and what it does to the correct audience. That communication can take many forms -- the IVR phone system, an advertisement, a social media post, an operator’s manual -- to support the needs of the staff, but all of it is part of the brand’s marketing.

Also, Marketing and Sales are not competing departments; they should be complementary activities. The Sales team, as they interact with prospective customers, will gather vital information about the type of positioning that is effective and what objections need to be overcome. Framing communication around the positioning and strategically preempting the objections is part of Marketing’s role in supporting Sales staff (aka, sales enablement.)

Sales is about educating buyers and closing the deal. Marketing is about creating communication that attracts prospects and engenders trust. Both Sales and Marketing are vital company functions -- but they are separate activities. What is necessary for one role, may not be a strength in another role. However, together both will always make the brand and the company stronger.

Focusing on any marketing fad is short-sighted, and a long-term strategy for brand failure. As a strategy, today’s Sales Marketing is comparable to yesterday’s Social Media Marketing, in terms of its exclusionary focus that leaves out vital parts of your company’s perspectives and value, and it overlooks potential opportunities outside that narrow perspective. Set up your company for brand success with marketing that strategically (and smartly) uses all available tools, including the perspectives of other departments, as branding resources.

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Manager at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.