Understanding Sales versus Marketing

in Selling  and Growing Guides

In boardrooms around the globe the term ‘sales and marketing' are often whispered in one breath, like they are synonymous, two sides of the same coin, with many businesses having teams whose responsibility is to execute on both fronts. 

It is undeniable that sales and marketing are closely linked. So much so that there are often blurred lines as to where one finishes and other starts. However, they should certainly be understood and applied as separate entities. 

This is especially true when it comes to growing your freelance business. By understanding the difference between sales and marketing, you will be able to increase effectiveness by applying them in the right way. 

What is sales?

Before we can go on to explain how the two can work together we must first clearly define what we mean by each. Although the term ‘sales' can mean a number of different things, in the context of sales and marketing...

"Selling is any transaction in which money is exchanged for a good or service. During a sales negotiation, the seller attempts to convince or ‘sell' the buyer on the benefits of their offer. […] Put simply, selling is the act of persuading." – HubSpot

So, selling is the act of making a sale. No surprise there. But more specifically selling is the point at which the buyer is close to making a buying decision. Selling is usually a direct human to human act. 

In terms of actions. Undertaking sales includes:
Making calls to the customer
Emailing a customer directly
Meeting with the customer face to face 

What is marketing?

In contrast, marketing is everything that leads up and surrounds sales activity...

"Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company's product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer's interests. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising." – HubSpot

From this definition, we can see that marketing is used to ‘prime' potential customers ready to make a sale. Marketing tends to be undertaken with a longer-term view than sales, slowly building your business reputation. This means if you have marketed yourself correctly, when you pick up the phone to make a sales call the customer will already know who you are, what you do and will have trust in you.

Marketing activities span wide and far. Some examples include:
Search engine optimisation
Content marketing
Social media
Print ads

Getting the connection right

So, we now know what we mean by marketing and how that differs from sales. But how do they work in relation to each other? One good way to explain this is through the use of the marketing funnel diagram, as depicted below. 

(Source: https://trackmaven.com/blog/marketing-funnel-2/)

Here we turn our attention away from the dedicated purpose and actions within sales and marketing. We instead focus on the customer journey from a relative unknown (gaining awareness) to becoming a customer (making a purchase). 

Marketing clearly fits into the awareness stage and sales clearly into the purchase stage. The middle stages show well the relationship between two with interest, consideration, intent and evaluation all calling upon both skills in some way. 

But what does this mean? 

Practically it shows us that sales and marketing, although separate, rely on each other in order to achieve success. 

In the freelancer space, we often see individuals focusing on using just one. For example, a copywriter may primarily use content marketing in an attempt to drive sales of their services. On the flip side, a web developer may rely solely on their personal network to drive sales. 

This is common primarily due to capacity. With freelancers often opting for the option that best suits their skills or provides the best returns. 

This approach is far from wrong. But it is unlikely to return the best results, at least from a long term point of view. Relying solely on one marketing or sales technique leaves you vulnerable to changes in the market.

When is one better than the other?

So, the best long term strategy for freelancers is to create a mix of marketing and sales activities that create a reliable stream of jobs. However, there are times when a freelancer should lean more heavily on one than the other. 

Marketing is at its most beneficial when used with the future in mind. Most marketing activities are unlikely to bring you a sale the day you execute them. For example, a perfectly written blog post (or series of blog posts) will help you build more, relevant search engine traffic to your site over time. 

Sales, on the other hand, is most likely to drive more immediate action. Although at a level, sales should always be happening. This direct approach to winning work can be leaned on more during quiet periods. This is especially true as sales can be a time-consuming activity, which can be ramped up when other paid work is ticking over at a lower level.  

Getting the job done 

We have already discussed how sales and marketing can be time-consuming. This is a bigger issue for freelancers than it is for bigger businesses as your time is a rare and precious commodity. 

Luckily, smart planning, technology and other freelancers can help you maintain the needed level of sales and marketing activity without the need to work every hour in the day. 

Planning is the single most important thing you can do when looking to grow your freelance business with sales and marketing. This will save you a vast amount of time and allow you to quickly and easily leverage the below methods to increase your activity without detracting from your personal or paid time. 

We could go deep into detail on how to create a complex and overarching marketing plan. However, for the busy freelancers, your marketing plan can follow just three simple steps: 

Set your objectives (what do you want to achieve?)
Decide how you will reach those objectives (which sales and marketing techniques will you use?)
Note down how you will measure success. 

When you are selling yourself (a freelancer) never underestimate the power of authenticity. 
With this warning in mind, we can still use automation to help increase our sales and marketing activities. However, these should never be used in a way which can make you seem in-human or as spam. 

Good automation tools you may use for marketing include social media scheduling (Hootsuite), email marketing (MailChimp) and even chatbots to help customers find the right solution for them. 

Other marketing methods and the majority of sales techniques can be outsourced to other freelancers or businesses. For example, you may consider outsourcing the following activities:
Blog writing
Website writing
Marketing campaigns
Direct sales

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