04/11/2012 08:10 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

Sales or Marketing?

The longer I'm in the business world, the more comical the term sales and marketing seems to me. These two disciplines couldn't be more different. And since I've had to wear both hats as a business owner, what each role demands of me is mind-boggling. When I'm the marketer, I've got to get and keep the brand right and blast it as far and wide as possible. When I'm the salesperson, I've got to get in the trenches and go face-to-face with the real buyer in the flesh. It's the difference between zone defense and man-to-man. So in the real world, it's sales or marketing. At any one moment you're either one or the other, not both.

The same goes for when you are leading others; you're either a marketer or a salesperson. Why is this important?

The very nature of marketing requires some sort of medium... television, magazines, Internet, mail. This means the marketer is one (significant) step removed from the end user, the buyer. The two can only connect when the medium is present. If the medium isn't available, the marketer will check their Blackberries. And the chief weapon they wield is scale. Millions of TV watchers can see one commercial, read one ad in a publication. No surprise, then, that their techniques take on a certain carpet bombing feel with the marketer as the pilot, high above the fray of the buying moment of truth. Regrettably, a leader with this mindset has a hard time connecting with the troops and spends more time in front of groups instead of individuals. Think of those leaders in your experience who epitomize the marketing mindset. How many of them can you imagine gaining commitment from a reluctant front-line employee through a face-to-face discussion? Not many. Without the bullhorn, the marketer has no voice.

The very nature of sales requires personal contact... face to face, asking questions, listening for pain, being up front about each step in the process and bold enough to hold a prospect or customer to their mutual agreement, however small in the grand scheme of things. Salespeople hear "no" whereas marketers hear silence. Salespeople come to know the hard truth about the product or service but still work to make it work, it's the only way they make a buck. Great salespeople have guts; they go back into the line of fire every day. Think of those leaders in your experience who epitomize the sales mindset. They're never far removed from you in the trenches. They find you to make sure you're ready to take on the fight. They look you in the eye.

It's sale or marketing. Your choice. Which one will you be?

If I had my druthers, I'd take the sales guy.