Within a small- or medium-sized business, it may seem easier to combine the sales department and a marketing department into one facet of the company, or to focus on one over the other a majority of the year. However, the challenge with combining marketing and sales lies in the fact that rarely is one group of people good at both simultaneously. Marketing and sales positions require different mindsets to pursue them successfully — different conversations with customers, different views on the public market, different timelines for the business, and different objectives. If marketing reports to sales, marketing becomes a very internally focused sales support function. If marketing is part of the leadership team, then marketing becomes an outward-focused growth leader that also supports sales.

Instead of combining marketing and sales until your small business grows, marketing and sales should remain separate, yet they should support each other in order to make the business grow. In fact a recent research study by the University of Texas McComb School of Business showed that mid-size companies who had separate leaders for sales and marketing reported growth rates higher than their industry peers, and they were happy with their opportunities for future growth.

Different Timeframes

A key difference between sales and marketing lies in the timeframe. The job of a sales department is to sell what’s currently in stock; it works largely within the present. Sales reps look at the products and services the company has to offer now, and they work to sell it to customers.

Marketing, on the other hand, should focus more on the future. It should examine the marketplace and decide where to go next. Examining the current marketplace, where it is moving, the different types of customers, and which functions they are looking for in their purchases allows marketing to determine new products that are needed or find ways to spin tactics to talk about the products differently.

These different timeframes create a company dynamic where sales reps are more internally focused, spending their time and attention on what the company has today and where to sell it. Marketing is outwardly focused, looking at the marketplace, customers, and competitors, and then bringing that information back to the company to support sales.

Customer Conversations

Conversations with the customer can be crucial to closing deals and making sales. This allows the business to grow through strong customer relationships and a focus on the customers’ needs and wants. The sales team’s focus on the present and marketing’s focus on the future yield different conversations with customers as well.

The sales force talks to the customer on a regular basis, but it often is a transaction-based conversation. Customers may guard what they say because of this, holding back information about important aspects such as what they like and need in a product or what they find valuable.

Bringing market-based perspectives into a company can help it grow because it proves the company values the customers’ opinions, but this transaction-based conversation can hinder important customer conversations. Marketing can obtain very different feedback about what the customer cares about and how the company’s products fit into that framework.

A transaction-based conversation with the customer is extremely important, but it is equally important to obtain new and different insight from conversations not reliant on sales.

Working Together

Though sales and marketing work best separately, they still must work together at times. As part of their marketing job, CMOs should support the sales department by giving directions and leads: where they should be going, customers to pursue, etc. The sales should be focused on the metrics for this week, this month, this quarter, or even this year. Marketing can support that while also looking at next year, setting the system up so it will be ready for sales when the time comes.

When separated and left to focus on each of their respective strengths, sales and marketing can work to improve both the current and future status of a business, allowing it to continuously build relationships with customers and grow

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