Sales ≠ Marketing
Today’s title is reminiscent of my college days when I was studying Discrete Logic. In my degree program, this course was one of the first to “weed out” students who might want to consider an alternate path. I’ll admit that it was definitely a challenge for me. It was the first time that my coursework challenged me to think like a computer, as opposed to a computer user. The phrase ‘neq’ was used to convey that two values were not equal (≠. Generally speaking, “Discrete” (as we referred to it) changed my way of thinking. I was introduced to a new train of thought that helped to sharpen my analytical skills and provide a deeper understanding of computing.
Recently, during a conversation with a prospective partner, I was reminded of my “Discrete” class. We’ll call the prospective partner “Jonah”. The conversation was like many others that I have during my initial encounters with prospects. We discussed current practices, the associated challenges, and the outlook for his business. While listening, I noticed that Jonah was placing heavy emphasis on his marketing practices. However, what he was describing was actually sales.
Sales and marketing are two vital functions of any business. The two practices complement each other greatly, but they are not the same. Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. Fancy, right? A more simple way of thinking about marketing is the concept of the five P’s: Product, Place, Promotion, Price, and Profit. Marketing is truly an art form. All of the aforementioned components work together to draw potential customers in, inform them of the product, and entice them to buy. Sales, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. By definition, it is the exchange of money for a commodity or service. Sales converts prospect to an actual customer, by way of an agreement or transaction. It's important that we don’t confuse the two and that we have distinct, yet complementary strategies for each. The danger of mistaking one function for the other leads to potential neglect. In the case of Jonah, his misinterpretation resulted in a complete void of true marketing effort. Jonah’s company had a great service offering but he wasn’t generating any leads. Unfortunately, no one knew his company existed. There wasn't much of a brand presence or intrigue, which made for very difficult sales pitches.
I’ll use fishing to illustrate the contrast between sales and marketing. Marketing would be the prepping of the hook and line, the occasional shaking of the rod, ensuring that the cooler has sufficient ice, the selection and placement of the bait, tracking of the tide, and the scouting of the fishing location. I liken Sales to the point in time when the 50 lb grouper is on the hook and you are using every fiber of your being to pull that baby in. Your rod is bending. You’re constantly reeling to make sure that you’re the one that’s taking the winner's photo on the boat deck at the end of the day. Both sets of activities are critical to the desired outcome; however, they are truly distinct in execution.