Should I hire a sales person or a marketing person?

[Hypothetically] Imagine a small 4 person B2B software business doing fairly well. To get to the next level requires more exposure and sales.

Imagine you can afford to hire one more person. Would you:

  1. Hire a marketer to try and focus on content marketing, reaching out to bloggers, SEO, advertising placements, etc, etc,

  2. Hire a sales person to follow up on leads (people that have downloaded and left an email address), and perhaps drive new sales in other ways (cold calling? attend local meetings? etc?)

Which will increase sales enough that you can then hire and grow more?

In this hypothetical situation :slight_smile: the niche is huge, and the small company is almost unknown.

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If you have 4 people that means you’re generating a fairly good number of leads and closing a good number so I’d probably start with a sales person. We’re actually in this exact spot and will be adding more sales shortly. Then in theory, sales increases revs, hire a marketer to increase leads, hire sales since you have more leads, etc etc etc etc

Sales are part of marketing, I expect any marketer to understand their final objective is to sell things. I would hire a marketer who can sell. When you can afford only one person you have to be more sniper, less shotgun i.e you need a smart marketer that can come up with a good strategy to attract potential customers and who can write decent copy or talk properly to convert them .

Nobody can see into the future and tell you who or what will increase sales, I’d say it really depends on how skillful a marketer is combined with a bit of luck. Personally I’m not a fan of classic sales persons approach, when you have a bunch of people spamming everywhere. When trying to attract small business, a sales monkey (who just reads a script or uses cookie cutter techniques) will do more harm than good, SB care more about a personal natural touch than a sales pitch. When dealing with established big business, well, if they don’t know who you are, they won’t care about you. A sales person wouldn’t get very far, I mean it’s unlikely they’ll get to talk with a decision maker.

From my experience, one of the hardest thing is to understand what exactly do you want from that person. Marketing and sales are very close. Many small businesses (including us) got into the trap trying to make the same person to promote and to sale while these are two different things. Sales persons don’t like to market. Marketers often don’t like to make direct sales.

You are definitely right when you clearly distinguish these two roles.

I don’t think sales and marketing are the same and I definitely don’t think you’ll be able to find someone who can do both well. Of course, you can find a really good marketer who drives traffic and if the product is a self service sales kinda product (like most of us have to some degree) they can still add a lot to the bottom line. If you have potential customers that want product demos, to be a point person on new sales calls, etc a marketer won’t be the right person for that.

Marketing Functions: Marketing have different functions such as Sales, Advertising & Brand Management, Research, Trade Marketing & Digital Marketing (Social Media Marketing is component / function of Digital Marketing). (wikipedia)

I know for many people Sales and Marketing are different, similar to how IT and Software development are different. But the point is a generic marketer should be at least aware that selling is marketing while marketing is more than just selling. Hiring a sales representative means you’re focusing on selling only, the other parts of marketing are not implied. Hiring a marketer, means that person should be a jack of all (marketing) trades, at least until you can afford do hire specialists (sales persons, digital marketers, analysts, PR - yes, PR is part of marketing, 'cuz you need a good image if you want to sell stuff).

Marketing is a big umbrella, it’s unfortunate that most of the time it’s viewed as just advertising, publicity, when in fact it handles everything that is required to create and get value from a specific market (hence the name).

Just to confirm:

  1. How many , approx., sales has your company made? ( order of magnitude)

  2. Who played salesman for that?

  3. We’re these sales to someone who’s came to you without knowing anyone there, first?

  4. How complicated is the Close for your sales?

  5. Do you feel you know enough about buyer objections to inform marketing?


I’m guessing the kid who wrote that on Wikipedia has never actually sold anything. I’m going to go with the guy (just one sample of zillions) who’s sold tens of millions of dollars of software.

Marketing is not sales. Marketing is an area all its own. It includes many different activities, ranging from strategy to communications. None of these activities are sales. The sales guy is a customer of the marketing group. Marketing activities are usually “one-to-many”. Sales is almost always “one-to-one”. Sales is strictly about closing the deal.

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1.How many , approx., sales has your company made? ( order of magnitude)
About $800K/year

2.Who played salesman for that?
Nobody. I’ve heard it called the “vending machine” approach – i.e. a website, online ordering and online advertising.

3.Were these sales to someone who’s came to you without knowing anyone there, first?
Yes. We often never speak to customers who purchase online.

4.How complicated is the Close for your sales?
Fairly simple I guess - they close themselves currently. If they like our software more, they buy it.

5.Do you feel you know enough about buyer objections to inform marketing?
It’s usually a features thing (either we have it or don’t), or price, or popularity (we’re unknown).

The software costs a few thousand dollars, so I’m not sure a commissioned sales person makes sense.

Basically I’ve gotten the company to this point, but am unsure how to move forward beyond this point :slight_smile:

If your website sells the product effectively, maybe what you need is marketing, not sales.
Someone to drive leads to your website. Mabye SEO, Paid Search, Print advertising. So, somenone who can design an ad (especially ad copy).

Being a small company, I tend to fall into the trap of not distinguishing between them.

But I’d guess that it’s:

If you’re going to communicate 1:1 then that’s sales
If you’re communicating one to many then that’s marketing.

So Sales is conversation-based.
Marketing is broadcasting.

I use Sales to inform marketing. (Hence my questions about "do you know what customer objections are, etc.)

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OK, and I’m going with this guy or kid (his name is Kotler, maybe you’ve heard of him) saying “Selling is only the tip of the marketing iceberg” thus implying that sales are a very specialized area (part) of marketing. But in the end, it doesn’t matter does it? Everyone can be a great marketer without being named a marketer and everyone can be a great seller even if they do other marketing parts.

@dneb , a good marketer is required if you want a long term strategy to increase leads and sales. A sales person just tries to sell something now (implements a part of a marketing strategy). When your budget allows only for one hire, go with the marketer. A good jack of all trades marketer usually is a decent sales person, a good seller usually is not a marketer.

Btw, your website (the copy + ease of use) is your sales person.

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I used to work at Prentice Hall and am very familiar with Kotler’s textbooks. I never learned anything useful about running my business from textbooks :slight_smile: but that’s fine. I concede defeat.

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I guess you’ll never hire a MBA or someone with a bachelor degree in business administration or marketing, 'cause you know… they learn from books how to manage/market a business. And hiring only people with 5+ years of experience maybe won’t be available. Hypothetically, I ask a rhetorical question: “What will you do then?”

I would hire an MBA. It’s a weird hypothetical question to say imagine a world where nobody has more than 5 years experience at extremely common business tasks like marketing and sales though.

MBA’s are primarily taught theory that is applicable in large companies. As this is a forum for bootstrapped software companies and most people here have between $0-$500K in revenue I’m not really sure what your point is.

If you have money to pay an MBA from Harvard $250,000 you’ve obviously gotten marketing and sales figured out pretty well and you’re not hiring in the same way someone on this forum is going to be hiring for employees 1-10.


Also as a very interesting anecdote for anyone following along this far :slight_smile: Kotler’s textbooks are sold by an army of Pearson salespeople who go around to every college closing deals in person every day.


Too bad the OP has an online business and can afford to hire one person . An army of one…

If you’re already generating leads that you’re not pursuing (sounds like that’s the case) and/or if you could generate more lifetime value from your existing customers (that you sometimes never even talk to at the moment), then hire first a sales person. Then hire a marketer to generate more deal flow once the sales person pays for themselves + can help fund the marketer.

Could split this off as a new discussion, but where are people finding marketeers / growth hackers ? I fee like i’ve looked under every rock to no avail.

I think you should split that out – it’s a great discussion and we want as much visibility as possible on it :slight_smile: