“The Difference Between Marketing and Sales”

Two words that often get intertwined, and are often seen as interchangeable are marketing and sales.

Let’s establish something upfront, they are not the same.

By definition, marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. By definition, sales are a series of transactions between two or more parties in which the buyer receives tangible or intangible goods, services, or assets in exchange for money.

“Make a customer, not a sale.”

– Katherine Barchetti

When I first got out of school, I spent the first five years of my career in sales. We were focused solely on the numbers, and we were taught to get the sale – no matter what. Of course, we used discovery questions to find the right products, but despite how the customer answered we were taught to sell them something. When we had excess products to sell, we had to “dial for dollars” and couldn’t get off the phone until a customer bought something. Again, we were focused solely on the sale – not the customer. Sales is simply a one-to-one interaction between the company and a customer that results in some sort of monetary transaction.  But the concept of sales is no longer about selling anymore, it’s more about building trust and educating the customer.

“Make your marketing so useful people would pay you for it.”

– Jay Baer

Coming out of college, I was taught that marketing consisted of the 4 P’s – product, price, place and promotion. Then it changed to the 5 P’s with the fifth word being people. And now marketing has numerous aspects to it like content marketing, guerrilla marketing and influencer marketing. The 4 or 5 P’s is referred to as the marketing mix. But in addition to the mix, the opportunities in marketing are created through positioning, segmentation and targeting. Those opportunities come by way of buyer behavior, data intelligence and market research. 

While both marketing and sales deal with customers, their level of interaction with the customer is quite different. In trying to explain the difference between marketing and sales to people who are not marketers or sales people, I normally tell them that marketers are chefs and sales people are servers. Marketers are the coaching staff and sales people are the players on the field. Sales people are the face, and marketers are responsible for making that face as pretty as possible.

In my various speaking engagements with college students, community groups and industry conferences, oftentimes, people ask me how can they get into marketing. I tell them to make sure they do their research on the job opportunities they come across. Sometimes the jobs that have the word marketing in their title, will actually have the duties and responsibilities of a salesperson. Marketers don’t sell. Sales people don’t market. Employers can lure you into a role with misleading headlines, so do your research and know that marketing and sales are not the same thing.

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