The difference between sales and marketing is a question that concerns many entrepreneurs. There is often a perception among business owners that “marketing” doesn’t work, and is too expensive, and that they should rather focus on “selling”. The result is that marketing activities are neglected in favour of a direct selling approach. But are business owners shooting themselves in the foot by doing so?

A layered approach to making the sale

In reality, there is no such thing as sales vs marketing. There is just one thing: getting your product out the door, and into the hands of the customer. Call it whatever you like – the point is, you need to bridge this gap between your business, and the customer. No one process can do this successfully on its own over the long term and ensure sustainable growth. For this to happen, you need a layered approach that involves both functions.

As with many things, it helps to start broad and get progressively more focused. The beginning “wide” part is where marketing plays an important role to ensure the highest number of people are aware of your business. This is done through marketing communications that can talk to many potential customers at the same time. Later, as prospects start to show interest, sales become more important as you negotiate deals on a one on one basis. It goes from “talk to many” to “talk to one”.

When you view marketing and sales in this manner, you realise the tension between the two is nonsensical. A solid attack plan always benefits from an air force and an army. Wide, and narrow.

Use both sales and marketing to grow your business

Despite the logic of adopting a sales and marketing approach, many entrepreneurs neglect marketing in favour of the former. The reasons for this is understandable: ultimately there is nothing a new business needs more than revenue and entrepreneurs try to take the shortest, cheapest route to get it. Investing in sales-related activities feels like it addresses the problem more head-on than fluffy marketing communications. But there is a catch: taking this one-sided approach is fundamentally inefficient.

Interestingly, marketing communications compliments a sales-based approach almost perfectly. Where sales visits are time-intensive, marketing communications is money intensive. Where the one is personal, the other talks to many at the same time. Marketing can be done even when you are in bed sleeping – you don’t have to “be in the room” with the customer.

For your revenue engine to run at full steam, you need both approaches. You can’t merely rely on one or the other. You need marketing (wide) and sales (narrow). This powerful interconnection is what many small and medium-sized companies miss, and it hurts their growth.

The trick is to let sales and marketing play off each other – or learn from each other – to form a two-stroke revenue engine in your business. The customer team is often the closest to the customer and need to use this position to gather insights that can be ploughed back into marketing campaigns that in turn, deliver new leads for the sales team. This is the motion of an engine that should provide forward growth-momentum for a business.

The question then isn’t whether you believe in marketing or sales. Instead, you need to use the most efficient process to get your products moving out the door. This involves both ​marketing ​communications ​and direct selling: salt and pepper.

The question isn’t should you do marketing or sales.; or whether you believe in one, or the other. There’s no “choice” here. You need both to efficiently move the growth needle for your business.