Let’s focus on the second part of the question first:
Q: What roles do sales and marketing play at the early stage of a business?
A: All of the above. When you’re in the early stage of a business, your Sales & Marketing teams should work hand in hand. Everyone works in Sales. Everyone works in Marketing.
Everyone wears multiple hats. Your goal is to stay alive as a business, scale, gain feedback, and close as many deals as possible.
Your sales and marketing teams should work together to quickly gather customer feedback, analyze this feedback, then produce the correct strategy and tactics to close the deal. In the early stage, this requires tight coordination. When I move to question two below, my answer doesn't apply to only larger companies. You can adapt this to an early stage company as well. You might not have the specializations I list below, but you can differentiate between Sales and Marketing the same way (indirect vs. direct customer touch).
Now let’s move to the first part of the question.
Q: What is the difference between sales and marketing?
A: As you grow, your sales & marketing teams should continue to work with one another. Yet, they will begin to specialize (Inside Sales, Field Sales, Technical Sales, Sales Operations or Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, SEM, Market Research, Communications, etc.). The easiest, but not perfect, way to bifurcate between Sales and Marketing is to look at “Customer Touch.”
Customer touch – How a department interacts with a customer during the sales funnel.
1. Do they speak or interact directly with the customer? (Sales)
Examples: Phone calls, in-person meetings, events, etc. If so, this is likely your sales team. I’ll explain the “likely” below. Your sales team should manage the direct interactions with your customers - Selling and Closing deals.
2. Do they indirectly interact with customers? (Marketing)
Traditional Marketing, Digital Marketing, Promotions, Communications, Public Relations, etc. Your marketing team should manage the indirect marketing communications with your customers. Now, let’s get back to the “likely” from above. There are field marketers. They go into the field and interact directly with customer. Or, marketers will collect voice of customer, conduct studies, focus groups, etc. During some of these instances the marketing team would directly interact with customers.
You actually want some of your marketing team talking directly with customers. Customers will interact differently depending on the department they are communicating with. Sales and marketing will ask different questions and receive distinctive feedback from your customers. Your sales team might not like that the marketing team is speaking with customers. If you want the best possible customer feedback, work this out between your Sales and Marketing teams. Train your employees that directly interact with customers very well. This will help reduce any mistakes and increase the comfort levels of your sales team.
Sales and Marketing Strategy
The sales and marketing teams need to coordinate. The goal of the marketing team is to provide the sales team with the appropriate materials and resources to find customers & close deals. Examples include lead generation (find customers) through, customer insights (customer background), product / service brochures (sales resources), awesomely designed and customer centric proposals (close deals).
There should be an efficient feedback loop all with the goal of moving a customer through the Sales Funnel. Sales should provide marketing with information and marketing provides sales information.
Customer Retention & Sales Coverage
No matter how large your sales force grows, they will never be able to cover the entire population of prospects and customers. In order to supplement your sales coverage, marketing should develop ways to generate leads and retain current customers. Then, the sales uses marketing programs to retain customers and close new deals. Again, this is a coordinated effort.
Customer Retention Example: Providing valuable insights and programs to current customers to create stickiness. Rewards programs are a good example. The marketing department comes up with a program that says: Current customer, if you purchase $X from us, you receive Y points. You can use those Y points to do Z.
Finding More Customers Example: The marketing team conducts a market research study. Segments those customers. Learn all about them - their needs, desires, and nice to haves. Then supports the development of tactics and marketing materials to for the sales team to target those prospects & customers. The sales team goes into the field (or phone if inside sales) to sell, while the marketing team conducts a targeted digital marketing strategy. The coordinated effort supports driving the prospects through the sales funnel. Close more deals! Retain your customers.
Cradle to Grave Analysis
Don’t forget one of the most important and valuable places for the Sales and Marketing teams to come together. Cradle to Grave analysis. Doesn’t matter if you win or lose a deal. Get the teams together for a quick analysis. What went well, what can you improve upon, what feedback or data will help the next deal?
In summary, when you are first starting out, everyone is in sales and marketing. Try to differentiate to help with roles and responsibilities, but if you want to stay alive … nobody is too big to make coffee for the team and the good of the company. As you scale, ensure there’s an integrated feedback loops. Your sales and marketing teams will begin to have specialized personnel. Perfect! Use the specialized skills to your benefit. Align those skills to your sales funnel and coverage gaps. Don’t forget your cradle to grave analysis. It doesn’t matter if you do it virtually or in person. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small deal. Do it! You’ll learn, grow, and improve. Especially when you are first starting out.
Please share this on social media if it has helped. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd be happy to answer.