The Differences Between Sales and Marketing

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC

It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t seem to know the differences between a marketing  job and a sales job.  Especially recent grads looking for their first career.  They frequently use the two words to describe the same functions.  Sometimes sales people tell me that they employ unique marketing techniques to get customers, but when I learn what they are doing, it is obvious that they are talking about sales tactics and strategies, not marketing.

Here are the differences:

Definition of Marketing

Marketing is the Process of Planning and Executing the Conception, Pricing, Promotion and Distribution of Ideas, Goods and Services to Create Exchanges To Create And Maintain Relationships Or That Satisfy Individual and Organizational Objectives.

…….American Marketing Association

In general, marketing activities are all those associated with identifying the particular wants and needs of a target market of customers, and then going about satisfying those customers better than the competitors. This involves doing market research on customers, analyzing their needs, and then making strategic decisions about product design, pricing, promotion and distribution.

What Comprises Marketing?

Some or all of these functions may be employed:

Marketing Research and Competitive Analysis

Strategic Marketing Plan


Direct Mail


Public Relations

Trade Shows

Special Events


Brand Building/Brand Recognition




Relationship Building through Strategic Alliances & Affinity Groups

Definition of Sales

Personal selling is a process of finding new customers, or doing business with existing customers; through conversation, understanding the customer’s business and finding out how they do what they do and why do they do it the way they do…then discovering customer needs, matching appropriate products and services to their needs, and communicating benefits on these products and services to the customer in such a way as to inform, educate, remind and persuade them to make a purchase.  Sales is regarded as positive manipulation – getting the customer to do what the sales person wants them to do (make a purchase) when it is of true benefit to the customer to do so.  It is sometimes referred to as the engineering of persuasion.

Sales involves carrying out the company’s objectives by increasing sales, revenue and profits.  It requires that a person organize their day and their territory so as to maximize the amount of time they have to be in front of customers in a face-to-face selling situation.  It also requires that the sales person does appropriate follow-up to be certain that the customer receives what has been promised and making certain that the customer is delighted with his decision to buy.

What Comprises Sales?

This list is not all-inclusive:

Becoming an expert in the company products and services

Developing a sales presentation that can be modified based on the audience it should be delivered to

Knowing the capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) of the competition

Time and territory management

Lead generation



Closing the sale


Goal setting

Review of progress against objectives (self-imposed or company objectives)

Modification of all approaches to achieve objectives

Regular sales training to improve one’s skills