What’s the difference between Sales and Marketing?

Many people mistakenly think that selling and marketing are the same–they aren’t.    You might already know that the marketing process is broad and includes all of the following:

  1. Discovering what product, service or idea customers want.
  2. Producing a product with the appropriate features and quality.
  3. Pricing the product correctly.
  4. Promoting the product; spreading the word about why customers should buy it.
  5. Selling and delivering the product into the hands of the customer.

Selling is one activity of the entire marketing process.

Selling is the act of persuading or influencing a customer to buy (actually exchange something of value for) a product or service.

Marketing activities support sales efforts. Actually, they are usually the most significant force in stimulating sales. Oftentimes, marketing activities (like the production of marketing materials and catchy packaging) must occur before a sale can be made; they sometimes follow the sale as well, to pave the way for future sales and referrals.

Contrasting the Sales Concept with the Marketing Concept

The concepts surrounding both selling and marketing also differ. There is a need for both selling and marketing approaches in different situations. One approach is not always right and the other always wrong–it depends upon the particular situation.

In a marketing approach, more listening to and eventual accommodation of the target market occurs. Two-way communication (sometimes between a salesperson and a customer) is emphasized in marketing so learning can take place and product offerings can be improved.

A salesperson using the sales concept, on the other hand, sometimes has the ability to individualize components of a sale, but the emphasis is ordinarily upon helping the customer determine if she wants the product, or a variation on it, that is already being offered by the company. In the sales approach, not much time is spent learning what the customer’s “ideal” product would be because the salesperson has little say in seeing that her company’s product is modified. Furthermore, she isn’t rewarded for spending time listening to the customer’s desires unless she has a product to match their desires that will result in a sale.  (Note, however, that sales people aren’t restricted to the use of the sales concept; oftentimes they use the marketing concept instead.)

At the heart of the sales concept is the desire to sell a product that the business has made as quickly as possible to fulfill sales volume objectives. When viewed through the marketing concept lens, however, businesses must first and foremost fulfill consumers’ wants and needs. The belief is that when those wants and needs are fulfilled, a profit will be made.

Do you see the difference? The selling concept, instead of focusing on meeting consumer demand, tries to make consumer demand match the products it has produced. Whereas marketing encompasses many research and promotional activities to discover what products are wanted and to make potential customers aware of them.


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