Marketing vs. Sales: Why the Battle for Better Should Be a Battle for Balance

It’s an age-old argument in business…Which is more important?  Which one should command the most attention and effort?  Marketing or sales?  Here’s why the battle about which one matters most really needs to be about balance…

Imagine for a moment a balance scale with an empty plate hung by chains from each side, marketing on the left and sales on the right.  If you pile too much of your limited time and too many of your precious resources onto the marketing side of the scale and not enough onto the sales side, then your scale will tip significantly.  Too many leads coming in such that you have no way to sort and then convert them while they’re hot into sales will yield nothing.  On the other hand, heaping too much emphasis on the sales side of the scale could mean that when you’ve exhausted your store of leads, even if you’ve closed some deals, you’re in for an unproductive dry spell… until you drum up some more.

Given this somewhat elementary description, the solution to the problem is obvious, right?  Just strike a balance and hold on tight.  Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done for a number of reasons.

An Age-Old Rivalry

The battle over which is better or more important when it comes to marketing and sales has been raging for as long as anyone can remember.  Even though it’s these very two disciplines that make up any business’ overall marketing operation and should be working in tandem to achieve a common objective perhaps more than any other, they often don’t.  That’s because the cold, hard fact is that sales folks aren’t usually too fond of the marketing department and vice versa.  The arguments about which one matters most, which one can’t survive without the other, which one should get the most resources and set the marching orders and which one is the “favored” of the two in any given work environment are oftentimes endless.  And unfortunately, favoritism for one function over the other when it comes from the top only fuels the fire and undermines what could be an incredibly effective and efficient operation.

But can the sales department really do its job as well as it could without marketing?  And can marketing get the job done right without sales?  Smart business people know unequivocally that the answer is “no” because both of these functions have a critical role to play in the overall success of any serious enterprise.

If you’re a sole proprietor or other small operation, the battle between marketing and sales may not be among departments or even individuals in your organization, it may be raging within you.  How much of my precious and limited time should or can I spend marketing my products/services?  How much time should or can I spend working my leads through the sales process and closing them?

These aren’t easy calls to make, but you’ve got to make them in a balanced way if you want to be successful over the long-term.

Different Roles, One Goal

Although they ultimately must work in concert to achieve the same shared goal ― to generate revenue ― marketing and sales are actually two very distinct disciplines.

Marketing creates awareness about your products and services at a lower cost-per-contact than would be the case for sales.  It is a critical long-term investment that lessens customer resistance to the sales process, generates prospects and paves the way in every respect for your sales team to close deals.  If you can look at the overall marketing operation for your business as a huge funnel, everything you do that falls under the heading of marketing is designed to fill that funnel from the top with potential, qualified customers.  The tools at your disposal are many and may include print, broadcast and outdoor advertising, the Internet and various social media vehicles, networking, direct mail, telemarketing, public relations and many more.

As for the sales department, its job is to overcome objections and convince prospective customers that your products/services are something they need and/or want and to then close the sale.  When compared to marketing, the sales function by its very design produces more short-term results.

The Marketing/Sales Continuum

Okay, so marketing sets the stage for generating prospective customers in the form of leads, which is where the sales process begins.  So marketing matters, right?  Absolutely!  At the same time, the way to win in business is not to be the person with the most leads just sitting in a drawer somewhere.  The only way to win in business is to make money ― to make as many sales as you can!

If you’ve got a team of people or even a handful working with you, it’s easier to parcel out these responsibilities to ensure there is constant, positive workflow along the marketing/sales continuum from beginning to end with one function efficiently funneling into the other.  In other words, there is a greater likelihood of balance.

However, if you’re a one- or two-person operation, things get a lot more challenging.  Planning and prioritization become especially critical. You’ve got to take a hard look at where along the marketing/sales continuum you tend to get backed up.  Are you someone who enjoys the marketing aspect of things so much that you spend all your time on those activities and not as much time on sales as you should?  If so, you need to consciously create different priorities for yourself.  Set aside time each day to identify and cultivate your most likely prospects by taking the appropriate step in the sales process that will bring them to closure over a given period of time.  And remember what is perhaps one of the most important marketing rules of all ― Following up with a hot or even a warm lead when you’ve got one is always more important than anything else!

If, on the other hand, you’re all about sales and find yourself with a dried up bed of potential prospects more often than you’d like, you need a more fully developed marketing plan ― one that includes specific activities designed to enhance your company’s visibility, create awareness about your products/services and generate and identify quality leads.  The plan also needs to delineate how much time you will commit to each of these activities each day, week and/or month to achieve stated objectives.  Then you’ve got to stick to the plan as best you can.

Balancing marketing and sales is not an easy task, and it is one that’s made harder given limited manpower, money and time.  Doing it right requires careful planning and a tremendous amount of discipline.  Long-term, successful business owners have mastered the delicate balance between the two and know how to make adjustments as necessary along the way without losing sight of the bigger picture.  It’s a necessary skill that requires patience, determination and commitment ―one you can master and that is the true hallmark of the exceptional entrepreneur looking to maximize his advertising and marketing business opportunities..