When I sit down to discuss software needs with business owners I often notice a blurring of the line between marketing and sales. Don’t get me wrong, sales and marketing are very closely related. But it is important for anyone running a company to understand how they differ and how to approach both when it comes to business automation.

My favorite summary is: ‘Marketing brings people to the door, sales gets them through the door’. Marketing is responsible for bringing people to the door of you business. So making them aware of your existence. Letting them know that you may have a solution to their problem or a product they desire. Sales comes into play once they have initiated contact with your organization. Sales take someone who has come to your door over the threshold. So your sales team should use their skills to turn vaguely interested leads into paying customers.

Another way to look at it, is by the level of interaction involved. For example marketing has less interaction and tends to be more one sided. You run an ad in the paper which someone reads. At this stage there is no back and forth between you and the consumer. The sales stage tends to be more interactive. Calls, emails or even letters may be exchanged between leads and your sales team. Or they may sit down to a face to face meeting where the customer asks questions about the product and the sales representative answers those questions (in the hopes of closing a sale).

I think much of the confusion comes from situations where one of the processes is short or missing completely. For example you may send out a sales letter which contains an order form. While a portion of people will call your office for more information, quite a few recipients will just go ahead and fill out the order form. In this example there was no interaction but they still ended up coming ‘through the door’. So is it sales or marketing?

When I pose this question to business owners I often get a wide variety of answers. But I would argue that it is marketing. Sometimes your marketing will have a message sufficiently powerful to induce a sale without any sales interaction.

So why is this distinction important? If you want to have a successful business you must achieve a balance between marketing and sales. If you have a strong marketing department coupled with a poor salesmanship you will get plenty of leads but struggle to turn them into paying customers. On the flip side of the coin a strong sales team is useless if they don’t have enough new leads coming through to keep them busy. By understanding marketing and sales as separate activities you can identify where your weaknesses are and take action to bring your organization back into alignment.