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The Difference Between "Sales" and "Marketing"

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sales Marketing Sales And Marketing

Many people use the terms “sales” and “marketing” interchangeably, but these two types of business practices are actually quite different, though (in the best of all worlds) complementary.

Sample Case 1: Sales and Marketing at "Company A"

To get a better understand of the difference between sales and marketing, consider this scenario:

Company A sends out a mass email to 10,000 people advertising its newest product, the Widget X. The email invites recipients to head to a special webpage for further details. In response, 1,000 visitors come to Company A’s website and view the information on Widget X. From there, 100 prospects become Company A’s customers when they purchase Widget X from Company A’s online “check out”.

Sample Case 1: Evaluation

So – what was marketing and what was selling in the above scenario?

Because marketing is essentially making consumers aware of goods or services (or a message, as in the case of political or fundraising campaigns), when Company A sent out their mass email, that email was marketing Widget X. And when visitors clicked through to Company A’s specially designed webpage, the Widget X description they read was also marketing.

Unlike marketing, sales is the process of getting the consumer to do something, such as make a purchase, become an affiliate or download a video. Thus, when 100 visitors to Company A’s site bought Widget X using Company A’s online check-out, they were engaging in a sales process.

What confuses numerous individuals is that “sales” can be handled, as in the case of Company A, without an actual “sales force.” However, for the sales marketing manager, chances are good that he or she will be working with sales personnel who will be actively trying to convert prospects to clientele.

Sample Case 2: Sales and Marketing at "Company B"

To examine sales and marketing in another way, let’s take a look at a second scenario:

Company B sells the expensive new Widget Y. An informational packet is sent to 100 local businesses telling them about Widget Y and assuring them that Widget Y is available now but only for a limited time. One week after the packet is mailed, representatives of Company B call all 100 businesses to a) ensure they received the packet and b) attempt to set up face-to-face interviews with those businesses. Company B’s representatives are able to snag 20 face-to-face meetings; as a result of those meetings, 5 Widget Ys are sold.

Sample Case 2: Evaluation

So… what was selling and what was marketing?

First, Company B’s informational packet would be considered marketing. Chances are good that it included some kind of promotional brochure and schematics to position Widget Y against the competition’s leading widget. That is essentially advertising, which falls under the domain of marketing in the majority of companies.

Everything after the mailing of the marketing piece, however, was sales – the phone calls, the meetings and the purchases. And any follow-up to correct problems with or answer further questions about Widget Y would be in the sales and customer service realm.

Sales and Marketing: Concluding Points

Put simply, marketing is education and sales is persuasion. When handled together, they can be a dynamic duo; yet if they are operating as separate entities, they can be problematic. That’s one of the main reasons for a company to hire a sales marketing manager who can easily ensure that all steps are working as a team.

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