The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Is there a difference between marketing and sales? Of course, there is… Some of you might say the difference is obvious, and some might say there is not so much of a difference. But the truth is while the two go hand in hand it is dangerous not to see the difference – and the connections.

Sometimes we get the impression there is no function in a business where there is so much misunderstanding and mixing up as between sales and marketing. Especially founders and young companies seem to be missing a lot of opportunity by simply not knowing the two and how they can be used together. Then they start with sales and do not think they need marketing – this might for a few businesses even work for a while and then the sales comes to a stand still which would not have been necessary if marketing had started early on.

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So, today we are trying to bring a little clarity to the question.

What is sales?

Now I do not want to go into an in-depth analysis of what sales is. But to figure out the difference regarding marketing, we should have a basic idea about what sales is.

“Sales” describes the whole process of getting in touch with people from your target group, turning them into leads and nurturing these leads until they eventually buy a product or service. Basically, the task and goal of the sales department is to sell whatever a company/business has to sell. Sales usually has a short term perspective of getting as many sells done as possible in a given amount of time.

What is marketing?There is not only a difference between marketing and sales, they are totally different functions within a business.

The goals of marketing can be manifold. They range from creating better brand recognition over creating a positive brand image to creating interest for products and services within a target group. The goals of marketing are rather long-term and sometimes difficult to measure in numbers as results often appear after a longer period of time.

Now, with these rather simplified definitions of sales and marketing, we already see some fundamental differences as for instance that sales is looking for short term success while marketing usually has a more long term perspective. Still one goal of marketing is to make the job of sales easier. There is no doubt about sales having a better starting point if potential customers they contact have already heard of the product or the brand and hopefully also trust in the brand. But there is more that marketing can do to help the sales team work more efficiently and convert more sales.

How can marketing help sales?

We already mentioned that a better brand recognition makes the job of sales easier. A positive brand image also helps to create trust and interest before the sales team even gets into contact with prospects.

The right marketing can even help sales make the first contact with interested prospects. So-called inbound marketing aims to make your prospects make the first move and get in touch with the sales team before they have to pick up the phone. An ideal and much easier to handle situation is to answer requests instead of more or less randomly calling people who might or might not be interested in your products and services. Inbound marketing can also help rather shy sales people by who have a problem with cold calling by establishing a less intrusive point of first contact.

But there is more marketing can do…

When sales is running out of new potential clients to contact, marketing can help identifying them and filling up the list of potential clients.

Marketing’s job is not done when sales gets on the plan. When the sales team fails to convert a sale they still have leads, which might be willing to buy at a later point. These leads need to be catered and kept interested. Marketing can help with that by providing interesting information which allows to stay in touch with potential customers without having to ask “Will you buy today?” over and over again. Any salesperson will tell you how much help it is to be able to give something of value to potential clients which is not a rebate or a promotional item. Thus, marketing can help to convince prospects which at first did not buy to turn into customers at a later point.

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What marketing is not

However, with all the good marketing can do to help sales, there is also a lot that marketing is not and will never be.

What I often see and what most of the time will not work is to misuse marketing channels as a surrogate for sales: Shouting out sales messages over and over again on our social media (marketing) channels will usually fail to get many results. Marketing is not a shortcut for your sales process and trying to force sales through marketing will usually only hurt your reputation.

To convert a person from our target group into a lead and a lead into a customer you need to build a relationship. Marketing can help build this relationship. It can help build relationships and trust long before the sales person gets into the game.

So, there is not only a difference between marketing and sales; they are entirely different functions within a business. While they should work hand in hand, they each have their right of existence.

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There is not only a difference between marketing and sales, they are totally different functions within a business.

  • Nitu Jain

    Hi Susanna Gebauer,

    I agree your ans but i’ll give you short ans.

    Marketing is different from mere selling because in selling you focus on selling whatever you have produced. but in marketing concept, before doing production, you assess the need and desire of customer and then make product accordingly, then sell and finally take customer feedback’s, in order to assess the level of customer satisfaction and to do further improvements. So, difference is in the approach towards customer.

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    • Rajeev

      Hi Neetu,
      even if the desire is not known before the product or service is being made. Marketing function helps in evoking desire for the product. A good example is smart phones these days, none of uses all the applications that are available in any smart phone yet companies market their products in a manner that it evokes desire in consumers.

  • Andrea Hewett


    Great article! Yes there is definitely a difference between Marketing and Sales but we actually combine them in our Consulting business because they do go hand in hand. Marketing helps bring in more sales leads through both promoting your business and informing the customer. Thus, it is necessary to have a Marketing Plan…as you said, too many think that it is okay to forego Marketing and just focus on Sales and that is a huge mistake.

    On the other hand, Sales can be done without Marketing…if it is done right. Consultative Sales is by far the most effective Sales process because you are essentially doing your own “Marketing” by informing the lead of what they need to know in order for them to make a decision to buy. The reason that you still need Marketing, is because the process for this type of Sale is more time consuming and you can’t get as many leads (as quickly) just doing Sales.

    In short, you can close some Sales through Marketing and you can do some Marketing through Sales; but the most effective method is to generate and nurture leads through your Marketing efforts and then have your Sales team continue to nurture and convert the leads through the Consultative Sales process.

    Thank you for sharing this useful article for those who may not know the difference or why it’s important. I’ll definitely be sharing this post!



  • Barbara McKinney

    There’s a huge difference between marketing and sales if we analyze it deeply but when it comes to business they are close and related to each other. In marketing, we make good communications and relationships to the customers over a long period of time to promote products and services. In sales, we supply the demand of the customers and persuade them to fulfill their needs through a product or services over a short period of time.

  • salthebarber

    The difference is that marketing people are happy with a pat on the back and sales people are happy with only money. 🙂

  • Peter Daniels

    Sales are just that sales.Marketing is like merchandising,it takes a creative approach that is long term.Shop keeping is like sales,it is direct,often immediate, and shows results at the end of the term.Peter Daniels.

  • There is a line or perhaps a tweet in this post “Marketing is not a shortcut to Sales”. There is no shortcut to sales. Marketing is the first step for sales to happen. Companies (especially Start-Ups) need sales to happen with the snap of fingers but they fail to make their brand presence felt which can be done only by marketing. So any revenue generation happening is because of effective marketing

  • Bill Carroll

    Keeping it simple! Marketing creates the interest and sales closes the deal…Marketing sets the stage while sales performs the show…Marketing builds the relationship while sales “pops the question”. I could go on and on…

  • Phoebe_King

    Good article. I’d like to add my own 2 cents…To my way of thinking, sales is a simple 3-step process: Manufacture the product/make the service available, sell its value and collect money for it. On the other hand, marketing is a multifaceted process that permeates every aspect of negotiating the sale. With CPG, for example, packaging and product placement–two of the four essential “Ps” of marketing strategies–have scientifically measured effects on consumer buying behavior (sales).

    Then there’s customer service and any service provided to a customer AFTER a sale is made. A company is less likely to get repeat business, for instance, if the product or service sucks or if customer service is inadequate. It’s all marketing.

    In addition to being an expert copywriter and editor, I provide social media marketing services to clients in various industries. It is incumbent upon me to market my services well by producing the agreed-upon work on time and at the price quoted. I also market my services by being responsive to my customers’ needs. If a project changes course midstream, I need to be nimble enough to go with the flow (within reason, of course) and to be available to provide customer service, when necessary. This is all marketing.

    I’m really glad I found the Social Ms. Your great content (marketing, providing value) prompted me to follow the brother and sister team on Twitter, and I am now likely to retweet your content to help increase your exposure/brand recognition while providing great content to my prospects. This process is another reason why I like social media so much as a marketing strategy. It’s not about hawking products or services, but about building relationships. I look forward to getting to know you and seeing how we can help one another.

  • Vignesh Karthik

    Liked this article but have a question. The way you’ve defined sales i.e. “the whole process of getting in touch with people from your target group, turning them into leads and nurturing these leads until they eventually buy a product or service”. Isn’t this the definition for Inbound marketing?

  • Red Sea Visuals

    This is very difficult to read.

  • eWorld Trade

    Sales & Marketing both are directly proportional to each other. In this post readers can understand the actual relation among both of them.

  • Frank Gainaford

    You may like fhem social links on the side….
    They got in the way and upset me so much I did not finish reading your article. They covered the first part of the sentences on the right hand of the screen ?????????…?…
    Distastefuland ….