The difference between Sales and Marketing


The terms “Sales” and “Marketing” are often wrapped into the same bundle in conversations, and even departments of large businesses.  After all,  you can rarely have one without the other in a successful business model, right?  Sometimes, though, there are blurred lines between which term does what in terms of taking a customer from bare interest to conversion. 

Here we’ll take a look at which team does what in the overall process of encouraging a customer to purchase your goods or services, as well as how the teams truly can’t survive without the help of the other.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is strategy.  Marketing is a process that lays the groundwork for sales.  A successful marketing campaign will make the sales process much easier.

In marketing, we seek to understand who our customers are, and what they want.  What problems do they have?  Marketing is all about helping customers to perceive your business, your products, and your services, in the same manner that you do.  It’s a widespread form of communication that informs, educates, and entertains.

The umbrella term of “marketing” covers all of the things you do to attract leads.  Marketing is all of the things you do to get the attention of potential customers, and to slowly but surely pull them in to learn more.  There are many, many moving pieces in marketing, including:

  • Content marketing:  blogs, ebooks, podcasts, white papers; in essence, providing information in a way that draws attention to your business.
  • Search Engine Optimization:  continually keeping your finger on the pulse of internet trends and adjusting web content to ensure more people can find your business. Read more about SEO.
  • Pay-per-click Marketing:  making sure your ad is where people need to find it, and paying only when people click to learn more.
  • Social Media:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn… even SnapChat is becoming a marketing platform these days!
  • Email marketing:  newsletters, ads, coupons or sales codes.  All of these can quickly and quietly arrive in a prospect’s inbox, encouraging them to check out your business. Read more about email marketing.
  • Print marketing:  sponsorships and advertising are still very real in this digital age!  Billboards can still be seen by roadsides, and it seems any surface that can be printed on or any event that can be sponsored will have a business name attached to it.

These methods, and more, are just a few of the cogs in the marketing machine.  Marketing is a never-ending process that requires savvy business owners to be aware of their niche, their place in that niche, and how their product can fit the needs of others better than any other company in their niche.

Read also: The four Ps of Marketing.

Then What Is Considered the “Sales” Part of a Transaction?

Where marketing pulls a person in, sales is the push that causes them to make the purchase and become a customer.

Sales involves the more short-term process of engaging an individual or group, developing a relationship with them, and encouraging them to buy the product, sign the agreement, and otherwise invest in your products or services.  If marketing is the sign outside that says “We have stuff for sale”, then sales would be the cashier printing out the receipt.  

Just as in marketing, there are many moving pieces in sales that combine to create a personalized strategy.  These can include:

  • One-on-one meetings:  either via services such as Skype, or even meeting directly. 
  • Cold and warm calls: in which a salesperson reaches out via telephone to assist someone who has expressed a possible interest.
  • Networking:  in which salespeople and business owners actually meet with others in their industry, or in industries adjacent to the product or services they are selling.  This can include attending trade sales, promotional events, conferences, webinars, and more.
  • Abandoned cart contact:  when a stocked cart of a website isn’t immediately purchased, reaching out via email might be a great way to involve a sales professional to help the customer make that purchase.

While the sales process is frequently shorter in length, it is no less intense than the marketing process.  Sales strategies are typically anchored in the purpose of creating a legitimate relationship with a potential customer. 

There may be emails, phone calls, even meeting in person.  Sales is a very individualized process.  Beyond understanding what customers want, sales dives into what THIS customer wants.  Sales techniques are personalized, direct, and address a particular customer’s questions and concerns.

While marketing includes general education, sales would be the tutor who comes to your house to make sure you’ve done your homework.

Why Have Both Sales and Marketing?

Depending on your business, it is rare that a customer simply views your ad, clicks on your website, immediately finds the product they need, enters their credit card information, and walks away with zero contact.  Not impossible, of course, but rare.

Besides, most of us want repeat customers, and in order to gain the trust and respect of customers to the point they will want to return, we must establish a relationship with them.  

One hand feeds the other in the sales/marketing relationship.  Marketing opens the door, allowing the sales team to step in and create that personalized bond.  In return, the sales team is able to learn what customers think, how they feel about the product, and what concerns they might have, which can be communicated to marketing to improve the door-opening experience.

As the sales team learns more about customer interaction, the marketing team can fine tune and tailor the elements of marketing to fit customers even better, gaining a higher reputation and enhancing their relationship with long term customers.

Implementing Sales and Marketing as complementary strategies

While it may seem that the functions of sales and marketing relationship overlap in may ways, they are actually two related, yet separate processes that turn the wheel of a business’s success.

By working hand-in-hand, marketing creates an environment in which customers want to buy, while sales give customers the assurance that buying is the best option.

Having both a strong marketing and equally strong sales presence will help open many doors for business owners, as each team will have a slightly different – yet highly coordinated – outlook on all of the elements it takes to capture the interest of a potential customer and guide them to the final point of sale.


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