Seven differences between sales and marketing

sales meeting

Sales and marketing have often enjoyed some sort of sibling rivalry, but if a business is to thrive, it’s vital that we have a clear understanding of how sales and marketing can work together effectively.

For too long, there have been unfruitful turf wars between sales and marketing teams. For too long, too many people have been fooled into believing that ‘sales’ lives under marketing’s directive. And for too long, too many people have been calling selling ‘marketing’, which it is not.

Sales and marketing are different disciplines with different mandates, with some overlapping and grey areas that don’t determine where one stops and the other one starts. 

So, what are some of the differences?


  1. Marketing is one-to-many.
  2. Marketing tells the stories (of the company, product, etc.) to many people.
  3. Marketing looks after the brand’s reputation.
  4. Marketing needs to keep the stories circulating and resonating with the target markets using the company’s plumb line as its central reference.
  5. Marketing analyses the big data. Marketing brings you the average result not the specifics.
  6. Marketing studies what experience customers expect when they buy or try a product, service or solution. That means reading their digital footprint and understanding their online chatter as much as it does focus group discussions. Marketing looks for new metrics about consumer clusters and grouping. Online groups are markets of the near future as more and more people cocoon themselves and shop less.
  7. Marketing should not promote special prices and discounts, and instead, replace these with special offers, focusing on delivering greater value. More bang for the buck is the new mantra and greater value with fair exchange is the principle of pricing today – not cost plus as it has been in the past.


  1. Sales is about one-to-one.
  2. Sales is where our business becomes real for the client. It is where the stories and brand come to life.
  3. Sales develops relationships and is relationship-driven.
  4. Sales looks after individuals.
  5. Sales deals with the ambiguities and the details of each person. It cannot be averaged.
  6. Sales analyses the behavior of the prospects and customers whom they deal with on an individual basis. Sales professionals talk to their customers about the joys of risk free offerings that help them realise their goals and objectives. They tap into their buyers’ Facebook, LinkedIn and other digital pages to gain a deeper understanding of what experiences each individual customers want.
  7. Sales moves away from discussing price and discount, instead replacing these with discussions about total cost of ownership, which includes price but extends to include deliveries, warranties, support, training and the other contributing things that are delivered as part of the purchase. Sales engages with customers to understand what risks they face when making a purchase and then learns how to position their companies as risk free alternatives.

One thing sales and marketing must share in common is the company’s ‘plumb line’ and its stories. From many people to the individual, the central plumb line (the business of the business) needs to be consistent and help each customer connect in a meaningful and specific manner that is relevant to their situation and their view of the world.

That is why is so important for businesses to have both working in concert in order to succeed. 

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

This is a rewritten version of an article first published on September 8, 2013.

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