sales vs marketing

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Sales vs. Marketing

Technically oriented companies frequently use the terms “Sales” and “Marketing” interchangeably.  In fact, they are closely related because the purpose of both is to generate revenue, although through different but interrelated roles.  By understanding the purpose of each function and their differences, productivity and related revenue increases will be obtained.


Sales is where the rubber meets the road – the up close and personal process of getting the business; convincing prospective customers to sign on the dotted line.  Sales is Marketing’s direct channel of distribution for the products.  Sales is defined by Michael T. Bosworth in Solution Selling as: “Helping people buy – facilitating the buying process”.


Typical Sales Tasks Include:

  • Time & Territory Management, Forecasting, and Reporting
  • Prospect Qualification
  • Identify Key Players/Decision Maker(s)
  • Identify Pain/Needs/Goals
  • Identify Buying Cycle
  • Provide Vision of Solution
  • Handle Objections
  • Negotiate Contract
  • Close Sale/Execute Contract of License Agreement


Marketing’s goal is to define the products, who needs them, how to get the word to those who need them, and at what price.Typical Marketing Tasks Include:

  • Market Research
  • Target Market Determination
  • Product Definition
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Product Pricing
  • Product Communication – Promotion/Advertising/Website
  • Product Collateral/Presentations
  • Lead Generation
  • Product Profitability

Four P’s of Marketing Marketing is frequently defined by the “Four P’s of Marketing” as explained in E. Jerome McCarthy’s, Basic Marketing, A Managerial Approach:

  • Product – developing the ‘right’ product or service for the target consumer.
  • Place – getting the right product or service to the target customer.
  • Promotion – any method which communicates to the target consumer about the right product or service which will be sold in the right place at the right price.
  • Price – determining the ‘right’ price to move the right product or service to the right place with the right promotion to the target consumers.

Sales and Marketing Organizations are Related, but Different

Marketing’s job is to get the word out to the many target customers while Sales’ job is to work one-on-one to close business, to obtain signed contracts.  Sales accomplishes this goal by identifying each prospective customer’s pain, needs, and/or goals and then communicating the vision of how their product or service solves the prospective customer’s pain, needs, and/or goals better than other alternatives.

Both Sales and Marketing evolve their processes as technology changes.  The Internet has opened opportunities for change to both functions.  For example, through Marketing Websites, companies can deliver their story anywhere in the world to anyone with access to the Internet.  Buyers then have more resources available to them.  As a result, they are able to conduct research on their own in a more efficient manner.  Armed with additional knowledge, Buyers now can move further along in the buying process before bringing in sales people.  Therefore, it is now more important than ever for companies to have websites that meet prospective customers where ever they are in the buying process.  The goal is to not only provide critical information, but to be a compelling resource whose product is worthy of further consideration.

Social media marketing has also opened up direct access to customers as well as prospective customers.  As prospective customers hear from actual customers, the marketing process is enhanced.

New sales processes are also available via the Internet.  Think of the impact that and have had on retail sales.  Retailers now have the option of providing an online storefront as an alternate channel of distribution.  However, for the larger, consultative sales, sales people are still required for the one-on-one sales process.  Prospects still need to recognize their pain, needs, and/or goals so they will be able to visualize the best solution for them.  Although the Internet has had an impact on the buying process, the actual steps a buyer goes through remain the same.  (Link to: Sales Cycle vs. Buying Cycle)

Sales people who are savvy and recognize how the Internet influences buying cycles will be much more productive.  With awareness and the ability to spot the status of the buyer in their buying cycle, sales people will be more efficient, close business faster, and produce more revenue for your company.

It is important to understand the differences in the two functions in order to hire talented, experienced people to fill these different roles.  It is true that there are some maverick sales people who can do both jobs effectively, but most individuals are better suited for only one of the functions.  Just because someone has the ability to create a compelling marketing scenario about a product, does not mean they will be able to hold up from repeated rejection from prospective customers.  Likewise, a salesperson who handles rejection well, might not have the creative ability to produce a winning marketing program.


Where should these functions reside within an organization?  Should Sales report to Marketing or should Marketing report to Sales?  Or, should they be organized at the same level reporting to a common vice president?  Or, should they be combined into one origination?

In a new organization, both the Sales and Marketing functions may be accomplished by the same person or group of people.  Eventually, the time and effort to keep the promotional materials up to date with an evolving product will take time away from selling activities and sales activities will take time away from marketing activities.  Eventually, personnel with specialized experience will need to be added in order to meet both Sales and Marketing goals.

Organizations can be successful regardless of whether Sales reports to Marketing, or if Marketing reports to Sales, or if the Sales organization and the Marketing organization both report to a VP of Sales & Marketing.  What is important is that both functions focus on the prospective customers and keep the message up to date with their needs and with the product’s evolution.

The two organizations may not always “get along”.  As sales people make calls on prospects and observe their reaction to the marketing materials, there is a tendency for sales people to make local modifications to fit their style, and in their view, improve the message.  Marketing personnel will complain that the sales people are not accurately portraying the product by modifying the message.  What needs to happen is for both groups to listen to existing and prospective customers’ reaction and feedback and work together to make sure the message and materials are up to date and delivers the best vision of how the product meets their needs better than other alternatives.