skip to Main Content
The Difference Between Sales And Marketing

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Functionally, they need to co-exist but the people involved have a love-hate relationship

It is not uncommon for an element of tension to exist between the Sales department and the Marketing department, mainly because each has different goals and different methods of achieving them.

Whilst the activities performed by both departments are aimed at increasing revenue overall, typically, sales is all about the final result; the transaction and marketing is all about the journey/long term view; awareness, credibility, relationship-building and engagement before, during and after a sale is concluded.

Given that the activities and goals are so different, it’s odd that the term ‘sales and marketing’ is [pretty well] universally adopted as though they’re one and the same. This is undoubtedly true in smaller companies, and there will always be an element of crossover between the two, but they are fundamentally different.

And, whilst the phrase; ‘sales and marketing’ rolls more easily off the tongue than ‘marketing and sales’, the latter is factually correct because that’s the order in which it happens; sales typically follow marketing activity.

The value of marketing.
A sale, in itself, rarely leads to another sale (or to an up-sell) without using marketing to add value. Equally, some sales may appear to happen by themselves, especially with a long-term established product (think; chocolate) but, without marketing activity in place to start the process and to keep the product in the minds of potential customers, sales are scarcer and less reliable.

Loyalty towards everything from local shops to big-name brands has all but disappeared. There are a couple of reasons for this; humans are notoriously forgetful and lazy, and the impact of 21st Century consumerism where everything is available all the time, from whoever offers the best value and can deliver it to us the quickest.

The best possible solution is to keep your products or services front and centre of your potential customers’ range of vision — you need to be visible anywhere they’re likely to look for what you [and your competitors] have on offer.

The big players, especially with consumer products, thoroughly understand the value marketing provides in maintaining product visibility. It’s why they have big budgets available to lavish on brand awareness.

To help clarify the fundamental differences between Sales and Marketing, the table below separates the functions within each discipline:

 SalesMarketing
DefinitionA sale is a transaction between two parties where, in exchange for money (usually), products or services are transferred from the seller to the buyer.Marketing is the implementation of a controlled, predetermined set of actions designed to create awareness that engages potential buyers and encourages them to buy.
In layman's terms, Marketing generates enquiries.
ApproachEnsure there is sufficient demand for the available products or services.Understand the future needs of both the buyer and the seller, and create a diverse strategy to meet those needs in order to build long-term relationships that will aid future sales.
PerspectiveA narrow view in terms supply and demand: can we keep up with the demand?A wide view in terms of promotion, distribution and pricing to help meet the ongoing and changing needs of potential customers.
How it HappensPersonal interaction (typically).Research to establish the size of the market, competition, distribution opportunities, price points and budget requirements.
OpportunityOnce the individual customer's needs are established, persuade them to buy the product or service.Multi-channel exposure of products and services. Have processes in place to ensure customer needs are met, they are (or will be) satisfied, and provide ongoing support.
GoalShort term: buy it now.Long term: multi-purchase, returning customers, loyalty and referrals.
MethodOutbound: the product or service fulfils your needs = buy it now.Inbound: conversation, engagement, confidence-giving, relationship building, desire-satisfying.
LearningThe sale did not happen magically, it is the result of a determined marketing effort.Marketing demonstrates the breadth and scale of the customer base and how to build relationships. Feedback from sales experience is essential as it feeds into a continuously evolving strategy.

The primary purpose of marketing is to pique interest that leads to enquiries. It’s at the point of enquiry that Sales takes-over to convert the enquirers into customers by completing the transaction.

Marketing activity can begin before a product even exists. It can be as much about determining the need for a product and the scale of the market opportunity before the product is even developed or purchased, as it is about creating awareness and opportunity for an existing product.

Sales, however, can’t happen until there is a product to sell (unless pre-orders are taken for a forthcoming launch) and a customer-base to buy it. This is why Marketing takes a wider view of attracting the interest of larger groups, while Sales focuses mainly on only those qualified to buy.

Understanding Price vs Value.
Ultimately, the price is the amount of money a buyer hands-over to enable them to take away the product. However, the level of satisfaction associated with the amount paid is its perceived value, not its price.

The question of perceived value is a simple enough concept to grasp as we all experience it all the time. Whether we’re shopping for food, home electronics, holidays or cars, value is largely misunderstood and is abused by both Marketing and Salespeople — although way, way more by salespeople!

Value is entirely personal to the individual which is why two people rarely perceive the same value in a given product or service. This is why the marketing phrase ‘value for money’ is empty and serves no purpose in moving a potential customer towards a sale because only they know what they value. That said, it remains a stock phrase in marketing circles because humans are easily tricked. Why, for example, do we believe (and subsequently buy) that the latest washing powder will wash our whites, whiter than white, when that’s precisely what they said the previous version would do, and the one before that. How much whiter can they get?

Example: buying a second-hand car.
The gameplay that ensues when we go to buy a second-hand car is comical.

The customer’s mindset: I have some idea of the car I want to buy, but I’m not yet certain. I have a flexible budget. I want to be wowed. I’m nervous but really excited. I can’t wait to take it for a drive and show it off to my friends and family.

The salesman’s mindset (one who is focused only on price, not value): Here comes another prospect to buy a car. I need to establish the maximum they can afford and persuade them the price [of the vehicle] is right so I can close the deal and complete the sale. The conversation begins with money and qualification (“how much are you looking to spend today?”) instead of value (“do you have a car type in mind and how much difference will it make to you?”). The salesman continues in a persuasive style that edges the buyer towards a sale instead of playing to their desires by repeating their own words and phrases about their needs, which results in them making a purchase.

This is a buyer’s worst nightmare because the salesman is not interested in what the buyer actually wants, why they need it or how excited they are by the prospect of owning a new car. The salesman is interested only in meeting their quota and closing the deal so they can move on to the next prospect and do it all over again.

The net result is the buyer feels uneasy, protective over how much they can afford (remember, this is not the same as how much they are prepared to spend because that’s based on perceived value) and will probably continue to look around or go elsewhere. Most of us hate to be sold to.

The alternative, and far-more successful approach, is based around the buyer’s perceived value and could result in the customer leaving the showroom having bought a bigger, more expensive, higher-specification car than they originally intended, yet is so pleased and excited with their decision to buy. They take photos of it and can’t wait to tell their friends and family about the new car they’ll feel so proud to own. Why? Because of the value they placed on what they’re buying, not the cost of it. This is their perception of ‘value for money’. Not the salesman, and not yours.

In fact, we’ve all heard people say “I know it’s a lot of money, but…”, or “I know I can’t really afford it, but…” when they’ve spent more on a purchase than they originally intended to yet are still very happy they’ve done so. That’s because it was a value-based purchase.

Conversely, when we hear people say “that’s expensive” or “I’m not paying that much”, generally speaking, this is not about the cost of the item because, what they actually mean, is “I don’t place enough value on that product to pay the asking price.”

Some people don’t spend money on designer clothes, fine dining, jewellery or art, yet they travel abroad on family holidays, drive a nice car (or two) and have huge flat-screen TVs in their house. This is simply a display of what they value the most. Spending £140 on a pair of designer jeans is no different. To the buyer, it represents excellent value for money because of how it makes them feel.

That’s where the value is.

For a car showroom, marketing is demonstrated in a number of ways. These include organising the advertising; setting-up the window displays and signage; cleaning the cars inside and out to within an inch of their lives; putting-out the banners and posters.

It will also include making sure a variety of drinks are available; cleaning the forecourt and making sure prospects feel really welcome and at ease so they want to come in and look around. It’s all about creating the interest and drawing-in the lookers.

The sales department’s job is simply to convert the lookers into buyers and, when they drive their shiny new car home, the salesman’s job is done. It’s a win-win.

But what about the welcome/information pack left in the car; the letter they receive a few days later thanking them for the purchase and wishing them many enjoyable miles; the refer-a-friend code that will pocket them £200 on a successful sale; the reminder when their car needs a service; the “any problems, we’re only a phone call away” etc., etc..? That’s all marketing and it’s that activity and long-term thinking which will create another opportunity for a second or third sale further down the line.

Sales and Marketing teams working together.
Nobody understands the mood of buyers like a front-line salesperson does. They’re out there and in the moment, listening to the prospects’ needs. They know what’s going on and what people want and don’t want. Yet it’s so often the case that Marketing never thinks to ask Sales about this before they create a marketing campaign! Equally, you’d think the sales department would be keen to ensure the marketing department is focusing its campaigns around the knowledge and information gained (by sales) so as to make the sales process smoother.

It’s easier for larger companies because they can physically separate Sales from Marketing. Smaller companies and sole traders don’t have that luxury. Instead, they need to separate their thinking and activity, remembering to focus on value, not price.

Whether separate or combined, the two departments need to work together holistically. It’s not meant to be a competition or one-upmanship.

Sales and marketing are very different activities that utilise diverse methods, techniques and language to achieve their very different goals.

Without salespeople to sell, there’s no point in carrying-out marketing. Without marketing activity to whet the prospect’s appetite and pique their desire to buy, sales are much harder to achieve and will, potentially, be of lower value.

Back To Top
×Close search
Search