Marketing versus Sales – The Difference

The Challenge

In many small and medium size businesses, the roles and departments are combined. There are however fundamental different roles to perform, if one suffers at the expense of the other, the business suffers.

Sales versus Marketing


Sales is a shorter term action. The role of sales is to do the deal!

Given the products or services on offer, the salesperson needs to filter the real prospects from the noise and do what’s needed to close the sale. They need of course to keep within the rules governing price, terms etc.

Self-motivation, good people and negotiating skills in addition to a competitive streak are common attributes of a successful practitioner. The best sales people combine these with good product and market knowledge, the ability to overcome objections and to demonstrate real benefits. Good sales staff often build strong relationships with customers helping to secure business over many years.


Whereas Sales is short term, Marketing needs to be both short and long term.

Short Term

In the short term, marketing is there to help sales, creating the “Pull” in the market to attract customers by generating prospects through promotion. Particularly in more technical markets, they may be called upon to provide in-depth expertise as part of the sales process. Helping to counter competitive claims is another common short term action.

In some businesses this is wrongly considered as marketings only role.

Long Term

It’s marketings longer term role that is often neglected in SMEs, quite the opposite to larger organisations. In large companies marketing is the driving force behind five or even longer plans. These cover future product needs, sales forecasts and pricing. They will also be part of the teams working on product development plans, possibly plant utilisation and training/staffing requirements etc.

Another longer term role is building and maintaining brand identity. Leading companies invest millions just in the maintenance of their brands, brands are traded in the same way as products.

Crucial to this longer term marketing role is to ensure that a company doesn’t run out of products. Many businesses fail because whilst doing well at present, they don’t have a follow up product for when sales drop off. Imagine what would happen to a car company if they failed to deliver new models whilst their competitors did.

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