Secret Marketer: Marketers are the midfield geniuses, sales the centre-forwards

Sales and marketing might be on the same team, but we play a more beautiful game

I regularly get asked about the difference between ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’, and I usually come up with a footballing analogy. For example, ‘marketing’ is the midfield genius, whereas ‘sales’ is the centre forward who knocks the ball into the back of the net.

However, having being subjected to yet another PPI telephone salesman, I have to admit that I fear sales play a completely different ball game to us marketers.
The fact is that if you look at the words to do with selling – pitching, proposing, persuading, convincing, influencing – they are all from the seller’s point of view.

Sellers tend to see ‘selling’ as something that is ‘done’ to someone. But most transactions tend to be two-way. You and the customer agree to complete the purchase – whatever that happens to be – and the customer feels happy having walked away with the good or service they have bought.

And that is where I believe good marketing differs from sales. Marketers work hard to understand the benefits of an offer, not just the features of what head office wants us to sell this month. We invest time in understanding our customers, what their needs are, how our product and service can be positioned to address what we have identified our customers want.

We build credibility in our brand, we convince customers that purchasing our brand rather than one from a competitor fits better with their psyche. We hit their senses with multiple reinforcement that this is the purchase for them.

We stand in the shoes of our customers, and look for how we both can benefit. And if we do it well, we make the transaction become a joint decision.

Alas, too few sales people think about any of this – for them, it is the monthly sales target that matters. The good ones accept that this is not their bag, and are happy for their marketing colleagues to fill the void. They accept that they are part of a team, and cannot score the goals if their marketing colleagues have not dribbled around a dozen players and put 
in a killer cross.

Goals are important, but to keep scoring, you have to start with the goal and work backwards to get a fix on the strategy.



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