The seven differences between selling, marketing and networking

As I have stated before I am a stickler for using correct definitions when describing concepts and their elements.

In music, science, mathematics, physics and engineering we do not usually debate the definition of these constructs. We accept that a crotchet is a crotchet, a prime number is a prime number and so on. No debate.

However, in the world of business and, especially in the world of Selling, we get all sorts of definitions floating about with meanings both dubious and factual. This causes, at best, confusion and, at worst, unnecessary angst.

In the world of selling I have met too many people who have negative perceptions of selling and because of this they often disguise and hide what they mean by Selling calling it marketing or networking. Selling is not the same as these activities.

The truth is that if we have an idea, product, service, skill, talent, or opportunity that we can offer to someone and they can benefit from, then we need to be able to market, network and sell.

Why mislead people with inaccurate definitions?

Therefore I implore us all to use accurate definitions to define concepts, activities, tasks, principles, processes, tools and so on so as to eliminate confusion and bring transparency and clarity to what we do.

So to put an end to the confusion that surrounds selling and the attempts by others to disguise selling as marketing or networking here are the seven differences between these three important functions:


  1. Talks to Individuals
  2. Is where the stories become real for the buyer
  3. Develops real relationships based on real deals and a fair exchange of value
  4. Looks after individuals
  5. Deals with ambiguities, not averages
  6. Analyses the behaviour of buyers on an individual basis
  7. Engages with buyers to understand risks they face when making a purchase and what is real value


  1. Talks to Groups
  2. Tells the stories (company, product, etc.) to many people
  3. Looks after the brand’s reputation
  4. Needs to keep the stories circulating and resonating
  5. Analyses the big data; delivers averages
  6. Studies the experiences buyers have when they buy or try what we offer
  7. Focuses on delivering greater value beyond price and specials


  1. Talks to Individuals
  2. Initiates relationships based around core propositions
  3. Establishes and develops business relationships with other people
  4. Is mutually beneficial
  5. Takes time to build the real picture
  6. Seeks to help others build connections to other relevant networks or people
  7. Creates a web of connections that makes it easier to realise opportunity

Most people, whether they are a partner in professional services, medical professional, the CEO/ MD of a large or small business, a tradesperson, customer service person, salesperson, administrator, or work for a non-for-profit, and so on need the ongoing custom of members, patients, supporters, sponsors or clients to make a living.

To attract, engage and persuade a person to exchange something of value with us i.e. their custom, support, commitment , etc. we need to be able to network, market and sell and, more importantly, know when and where to do each activity.

You don’t have to like selling; however, it is beholden to us all that we use the correct terminology when describing what we do when networking, marketing and selling, if not for ourselves, for anyone who follows in our footsteps.

We have a duty of care to inform them correctly so they too, may participate in these activities free from unnecessary confusion and fear.

Sue Barrett is the founder and chief executive of the innovative and forward-thinking sales advisory and education firm Barrett, and the online sales education and resource platform Sue was the first in Australia to get Selling a university qualification and has written more than 600 blog posts and 21 e-books on sales and with her team produces the ‘must read’ Annual 12 Sales Trends Report.

Striving for better sales practices and improving sales teams and operations, Sue is a sales philosopher, activist, strategist, speaker, trainer and adviser. Get to know her further on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments