Posted on: October 19, 2020
Millions of college graduates are currently looking for jobs during an economic recession. While it is far from the best time to be searching for employment, most will ultimately succeed. And many will end up in either sales or marketing.
But what is the difference between sales and marketing? The two words are often used interchangeably, even though they fulfill two extremely different needs.
Marketing is the culmination of all activities that set the stage for sales (e.g., the transaction itself) to take place. It is the marketer who establishes a brand and maintains its reputation in the eyes of others. Marketers engage customers and clients (prospective and current), raising the profile of a brand so that it attracts the “right” people — those most likely to make a purchase.
Marketing is all about the Four Ps: product, price, place and promotion. Marketers define the benefits of a given brand, attracting buyers by educating them about the particulars.
While marketing is tied to the customer or the client, salespeople have an even more bottom-line relationship. Sales is about making the final transaction happen, culminating all of the activities that lead to direct purchases of goods and services. Whereas marketing establishes and maintains a brand’s reputation, sales representatives ensure that the brand can endure financially by securing real revenue. A sales plan, therefore, includes the tools and resources that will be used to actually move the buyer from “interest” to “purchase.”
Let’s be clear: Both roles are vital. Marketers lob the ball to the batter, while the batter smashes it out of the park. Without the marketer, sales don’t get off the ground. Without the sales representative, the ball is dropped. The marketing people set the stage for the salespeople to walk out on stage and get a standing ovation from the audience. It’s an audience that has already been warmed up through brand recognition, relevant content and targeted messaging.
As a lifelong advocate of marketing and public relations, I am most comfortable with keeping that ball in the air. I love to set the stage for salespeople to close a deal — and fast. People in my profession set sales representatives up for success when prospects already know, like and trust the brand at the first meeting.
What’s most important is building an audience that can act on their interest in a brand. Think of it like a cult or a tribe. The larger your audience, the larger your network of potential buyers, and the more people who will (hopefully) have a positive image of your brand. Ultimately, it means the farther a sales representative can hit the ball.
Cultivating a large audience of raving fans allows you to speed up the sales process because those fans can serve as brand ambassadors, making referrals to others like them. Think about it: People are more likely to trust their family or friends who believe in a brand than they are the actual salespeople. Establish that trust through brand ambassadorship, and believers become buyers.
As a marketer, your job is to essentially cultivate the equivalent of “Red Sox Nation” for your brand. The more you individually promote it the better, but brand ambassadors can extend your network even further.
Marketing is also responsible for creating avatars or personas, which are representative profiles of the people who are most likely to support the brand. This includes demographic and psychographic profiling of the people who tend to be attractive to a given brand.
More often than not, you can use other brands that people appreciate as part of a prospective profile. For example, you might find that those who buy John Deere tractors are more likely to buy Carhartt pants. Those who shop for Hinckley Yachts may also shop for Dom Perignon champagne. Similarly, those who enjoy Matthew McConaughey’s latest movies tend to drink whiskey and smoke cigars.
The job of the marketer is to figure out who these “best” clients and customers are for a given brand, both in terms of purchasing power and the potential to become a brand ambassador. Then, the marketer creates content that can engage the buyer with that brand.
Of course, sales remains indispensable. The buyer still needs to purchase the good or service, right?
Salespeople and marketers close the deal together. It has always been a team effort, and it will always stay that way.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in July 2020.