Marketing Strategy vs. Sales Strategy
April 11, 2019

Marketing Strategy vs. Sales Strategy

by Brian de Haaff

Childhood lemonade stands. If you grew up in the U.S., you probably had one. Maybe you posted fliers in your neighborhood. Whether you knew it or not, this was your marketing strategy. You made basic decisions — how many cups you hoped to sell and any tactics you might use to encourage a purchase. You also had to decide what the price would be and if you would offer multi-cup discounts. This was your sales strategy.

Marketing and sales are usually the two major drivers of any business. Without a strategy for each, there is no company growth.

A marketing strategy is how you will reach your target audience, while a sales strategy is how you will convert them to customers. A marketing strategy sets the direction for how you will find and engage with prospective customers so you can promote your core message and build interest in the brand. Conversely, a sales strategy describes how you will sell to that target audience and turn prospects into buyers.

Both marketing and sales are essential parts of the customer journey — from awareness to purchase. Teams must align on these two strategies, and that means understanding both convergence and divergence points.

Now, the sales process is not something I write about frequently. (And when I have, my point of view has been different than most.)

We have never had a sales team at Aha! And no one has ever earned a penny of commission. Instead, we hire product and marketing experts who engage customers in a consultative way, freely sharing best practices and product knowledge.

Of course, I understand that our approach is unique. And I have lived both sides, working with enterprise companies that employ a traditional sales plan. So, I want to share some insight that I have learned over the years.

Keep reading for key differences between the marketing strategy and the sales strategy — or use the following links to skip ahead:

Why do you need marketing and sales strategies?

The purpose of a marketing strategy is to capture and define marketing goals. This includes marketing plans for how you will promote your product or service to reach the right customers, as well as for how you will achieve (and maintain) a competitive advantage in the market. A goal-first marketing strategy aligns the team around what you want to achieve — so you can identify the right programs and advertising campaigns to invest in.

The purpose of a sales strategy is to create the most effective path for turning interested prospects into paying customers. An effective sales plan focuses on how you will work directly with the people who are most likely to make a purchase and how you will help them choose to start paying for your products or services. A sales strategy may also address tactics for turning one-time customers into repeat buyers or referral sources.

What do marketing and sales strategies contain?

The marketing strategy usually contains the following:

  • Company vision and goals

  • Value proposition

  • SWOT analysis

  • Marketing goals

  • Initiatives

  • Brand essence

  • Positioning

  • Buyer personas

  • Competitive landscape

  • Marketing channel strategy (e.g. branding, marketing automation, search, and social media)

The sales strategy usually contains the following:

  • Forecasting

  • Prospecting

  • Lead tracking

  • Channel support

  • Customer meetings

  • Discounting strategies

  • Opportunity tracking

Who is responsible for marketing and sales strategies?

The marketing strategy is generally set by the CMO or VP of marketing, but various members of the marketing team help drive it. This is because the marketing team works directly with groups that influence customers — such as product, product marketing, support, and sales.

The sales strategy is generally set by the VP of sales or the chief revenue officer. It is then implemented by sales representatives and new business managers. Rather than interact with the entire audience that marketing targets, salespeople usually focus on a subset. So, the sales team may speak to folks individually or interact with a few qualified leads at a time.

When do you build marketing and sales strategies?

A marketing strategy is long-term and ongoing. Since it can help inform the sales plan, it should be created first. You should also periodically revisit your marketing strategy to make adjustments based on any changes to your budgets, tools, or team.

A sales strategy is typically short-term. Because it builds upon the marketing strategy, a sales strategy is typically formulated later. You may need to make occasional adjustments to your sales plan, depending on whether the sales team is hitting or missing sales goals.

How should you build marketing and sales strategies?

A successful marketing strategy requires constant communication. Everyone on the team needs to understand how the marketing strategy will help to accomplish larger company goals. There should also be a focus on promoting the brand promise to customers, as well as using tools like business models, demographic research, and competitive analysis.

A successful sales strategy builds upon the work done by the marketing team by homing in on specific prospects who are most likely to buy. This is usually true unless the sales team drives a significant percentage of its own opportunities. Direct sales organizations are busy following leads, making discovery calls, qualifying prospects, pitching the product or service, building relationships, and converting prospects to customers.

How should you document your marketing and sales strategies?

Defining your marketing and sales plans is an ongoing process. You should revisit strategic plans often to make sure your marketing efforts and sales processes align with business objectives. The best strategic plans incorporate visual timelines to show what activities will be delivered and when. Many marketing and sales teams use calendars, Gantt charts, and templates to build schedules and define plans.

Sales and marketing roadmaps are useful for capturing strategy and aligning goals to your day-to-day work. No matter how you choose to approach the work, plans should be centrally located and collaborative.

Sales and marketing strategies work in tandem to connect with customers and grow the business.

Otherwise, you risk failing to engage with people at critical points in the customer journey. This is why aligning these two strategies is so important — whether it is for a booming tech company or something as simple as a childhood lemonade stand.

How do your marketing and sales teams work together (or not)?

Finally, a tool for setting marketing and sales strategy. Start a free 30-day trial.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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