Sales vs. Marketing

| Blog Posts
Sales and Marketing
July 18, 2017

We’re asked the difference between the two all the time. Ask a salesperson and they’ll say, “it’s everything that goes into convincing a customer to buy. Great product, competitive pricing, compelling story, support materials, online portal, customer service - everything. Ask a marketer and they’ll likely say the same thing.

So, what’s the difference?  

To me, marketing is about converting mindsets while sales converts wallets. Effective marketing deploys programs to convince a prospect that there “just might be something to this product worth a second look.” Once that altered mindset enters the store, it’s up to sales to close the deal. How the tasks get divvied up doesn’t really matter - just that they’re deployed in a unified, compelling manner.

To answer that question more thoroughly, marketing leverages research to create a brand story, conceives programs to create awareness and induce trial, and then executes supporting materials. Sales leverages relationships, deploys support materials, and actively presents product benefits and pricing programs to the prospect to secure the deal. This process is very effective within growing, robust markets like technology, wine and spirits, commercial construction, etc. where customers are willing to pay full price. Unfortunately for categories suffering decline or major transformation - like Office Products - this process is not working any more. 

Why? Because product benefits within mature categories are often similar, which makes price a key differentiator. When price wars erupt, someone else is always cheaper and the consumer has become trained to shop for a better deal. This kills margins, encourages consolidation, and eliminates innovation.  The only way out of this dysfunctional whirlpool is to change how you sell, not what you sell.

To us, a successful program can never be about price. Ever. It’s about value. At

Highlands

, we apply a rigorous process we call IPEO.
  • Insight
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Optimize
While I won’t give away our proprietary steps within each process, the output provides a clearer picture of the audience, how to best reach them, aligns with objectives, invests in the right programs, and measures results so we can optimize for even more success.  

In time, all programs eventually lose efficacy as competitors are not lazy. They’ll adjust to our efforts to stem our successes. That’s when we must start anew - develop a better product, consider new distribution channels, discover new audiences, deploy better programs, leverage technology more effectively.  

The truth is that sales and marketing are best viewed as tactics that emerge from a strong, insightful, strategic plan. Without a plan, and highly coordinated sales and marketing tasks that emerge from it, it doesn’t really matter if you define either one. Because in immature categories, those standing apart or unwilling to adjust will have far more to worry about than titles or job descriptions.


Gordon-Christiansen-1
Gordon Christiansen
Partner. SVP Marketing


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