Sales and Marketing: Often Confused


Just about every football fan I know would make a superb manager, and knows just how to sort out the national team. Similarly, just about every golfer I know (myself included) can talk a great game. It’s because we understand it inside out. We have real insight. Or take driving. We’re all either ‘above average’ or very good drivers.


The reality of course is that there are precious few people who could sort out the national side (if any at all), there are very few scratch golfers, and by definition, most of us are ‘average’ drivers. Unfortunately – the same goes for sales and marketing. Most people think the terms are interchangeable. Indeed, you’ll often meet people at trade shows and so on with business cards stating that they are the ‘Sales and Marketing Manager’.


The reality here is that marketing and sales are two very different functions. Sales, as we all think we know, is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or some other compensation of value. To sell effectively, the salesperson must know his service or her product well, and have the ability to communicate its advantages and values in a way that makes sense to the prospective buyer. Then the deal needs to be ‘closed’ – the salesperson needs to get the buyer to actually buy and to make the agreed compensation. If you are serious about selling your product or service, your salespeople should be just that – salespeople.


Marketing supports sales. It creates the environment and perception in which the sales process is enhanced and eased. Marketing is to a large degree a creative process, but it uses hard sciences: psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology and these days, even neuroscience. Modern marketing is the process by which one identifies and understands the market, and then the development of the ‘marketing assets’ needed to create the environment and perceptions that enables selling to take place.


We have always bartered and sold – it’s in our very nature. We are all, to a greater or lesser degree, salespeople. You merely have to observe a child working on a parent in a shop to see the process take place. If unsuccessful with one technique, the change to another is immediate. Laughter and love is always a winner, but if that’s looking dodgy, there’s the guilt trip (everyone at school has one, I’m the only one…) or if desperate, try the weeping and whining. If all else fails, there’s always the tantrum – but use sparingly.


Marketing is the creation of the environment that will lead that set of circumstances to take place. It came about because markets matured. Products and services needed greater differentiation, stronger perceptions, consumer loyalty and so on. Marketing is the availability of the product and the fact that it’s placed at the point of maximum visibility to the child (maximise the ‘I want’ reflex), and maximum inconvenience to the parent (maximise the ‘keep her happy and get out of here’ reflex in the parent).


Understanding these important differences can provide a competitive edge in itself – that is to say you’d already be one step ahead of a competitor that treats the two things as one in the same. For fledgling startups taking their innovation to market – be that investors or be that consumers – this understanding can prove critical. Do the research. Find out as much as you can about your target. Their needs, their perceptions, their likes and dislikes, their buying capability and so on. Armed with that kind of marketing intel, your sales person will be in much better shape to do his or her job – even if they are one in the same.