The difference between Marketing and Sales

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A while ago I wrote about the difference between marketing and advertising, and the post received a great response from people who were uncertain about their relationship.

In this post, I want to tackle another two terms that are often used together, and sometimes interchangeably, but are very, very different…

  • Marketing, and
  • Sales

I understand the confusion, as the terms are often used together, e.g. “Sales & Marketing Manager” or “Sales & Marketing Department”, and while they are related and complementary, the way that they are approached, and are performed, are often at complete opposites.

As a digital marketing consultant, I am – understandably – approached and hired by people to help them with their marketing, with an online focus. However, over the years, I’ve learnt that this often comes with the unspoken assumption that I’m also responsible for their sales.

While one of the aims of my strategic marketing activities is usually to encourage more sales, I am not a sales person. And as an external provider, it is not something I make any guarantees about.

This might come as a surprise to some, but this is just the start of this important education between the two functions.

Don’t get me wrong though. I too have struggled with this. As “sales” are an incredibly positive result that can be attributed to successful marketing. However the two can still operate independently.

My “hallelujah” moment came when I stumbled upon this article: Why marketing can’t fix a sales problem.

…why is it still socially more acceptable to say “I have a marketing problem”, and not a sales problem?

Why do so many businesses still reach for the ‘Marketing Silver Bullet’ rather than look at the issues around selling?

Many people don’t know the difference between sales and marketing, often calling the strategies and tasks of sales ‘marketing’ thus creating confusion over what is what, and when to apply the right sales and marketing activities and tasks at the right time.

My personal experience in this area has encouraged me to clarify the difference between the two, making it crystal clear in my proposals what the tasks, functions, and expectations of marketing are.

I have collated these differences into the below table; lining them up where possible to demonstrate that while they can complement, and work together, they can also be vastly different.

The difference between Marketing and Sales

Marketing
Sales
Reaching potential buyers, making them aware of products and services
Convincing them to exchange a product or service for money
Generating leads and prospects
Converting leads and prospects
Planning, positioning and preparation
Conducting a transaction
Getting the buyer’s attention
Closing the deal
Communicating generally with larger groups
Communicating specifically and personally with small groups, or individuals
Using data and research to generate recommendations based on averages
Dealing with specific details and situations
Demographic and persona-driven
Relationship-driven
Long term
Short term
Sharing stories, educating potential buyers
Pricing, discounts, special offers
Building and managing reputation
Generating income

Another simple way to explain the difference between marketing and sales is how my Dad shared that it was once explained to him:

Marketing is sowing the seed, Sales is reaping the crop.

Are there any other differences that you see between Marketing and Sales?

Let me know in the comments…

You may also like to read: 4 sales lessons from Bali

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