What is the art of Marketing and Sales? – What is the difference between sales and marketing?

This is an interesting discussion on what the marketing and sales functions really do. This concept is often misunderstood. This post articulates the interdependencies and differences between marketing and sales.

In most small businesses, the functional activities of marketing and sales are often misunderstood and combined into a single function.

Small business owners and SME investors and managers should understand the differences of each function, and ensure that adequate resources are put in place for each of this critical function. This is essential for the long term sustainability of any small business.

My apologies to Sun Tzu, the great ancient Chinese military strategist who authored “the art of war”, one of my all time favorite books for adapting and using the title of his book for this blog. Credit is due also to Donald Trump for coining the title in his best seller (in the 80s) “the art of the deal”.

In my title for this blog, I am not referring to the often occurring catfights and disagreements between the marketing and the sales functions in most organizations. Some of the disagreements are apt, some are dubious and others plain stupid. Some of the perceptions and disagreements are correct and are often perpetuated by actions from both sides. A common perception that I have heard from the sales folks are that “marketing is out of touch with reality” whilst the marketers often contend that “sales are not selling”, “they just need price cuts and are myopic in their approach to the market”. These sort of perceptions are sometimes a reality but often occur due to a lack of understanding of the importance that each role plays (and should play) for their mutual successes. There definitely exists a cultural and knowledge gap between these two most critical functions in a company.

In this blog I will try and attempt to share my views on the essential and critical roles that each of this function plays to the creation of billions of dollars of value for companies across the globe. No, I am not seeking an utopian world where harmonious coexistence happens between sales and marketing but rather will  attempt to convince you that  each of these two functions cannot succeed without the other.

Marketing is PR!

As an interviewer, I have often asked potential candidates applying for a marketing job to describe to me in their own words their understanding of the differences between marketing and sales.

Of course there never is a right or wrong answer to these questions. Some answers just happened to make more sense and are more appropriate than others.  Some which I particularly didn’t like (and these potential employees were never hired) were answers like “marketing is all about PR”, “marketing does brand”, “marketing does ads” and others in the same vein. Others have said that “sales does push and marketing does pull”. My all time favorite came from a very young lady whose name I shall not state here is that “sales work for commission and marketing does not get commission”. Whilst all these answers may be partially true, I think that it is much more than these uninformed quotes state.

My tribute to Sales

As a marketer, let me first pay tribute to all the sales folks who slog day in and day out often under extreme conditions of weather, risk to income, personal humility, safety and others

So what is a sale then? Wikipedia defines (with no citation but one which I entirely agree with) that a sale is the pinnacle activity involved in the selling of products or services in return for money or other compensation. It is an act of completion of a commercial activity.

Yes, it is the pinnacle activity that has to overcome the cognitive dissonance of all buyers at the moment when cash is dished out or when an order for goods and services are issued!

Guts and glory

Just imagine for a sale to happen, folks in sales have to succeed each and every time. If they don’t succeed it is not a sale. Winning a sale is the only primary example that they can set in business, to influence others.

As Zig Ziglar said in his quote that every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust. Imagine overcoming these obstacles to meet your targets! For a sale to happen, the sales folks have to be liked, trusted and known. Imagine that!

With tough targets and extreme market conditions, the good folks in sales cannot afford to have an “off” day. Other functions can afford to be “off” during certain days.  This cannot happen in Sales as most sales jobs have a high variable component in their compensation package. Deciding to have that “off” day can mean the difference between having a job or not, or being able to pay your rental, mortgage or car loan installments. So my dear friends in sales, I salute your guts and glory.

Sell=Selling, Market=Marketing

Before I say what I think is the primary difference between marketing and sales, I should at least describe what the role of the marketer is.

One good way to understand this is to look at gerund verbs like run (running), eat (eating), sell (selling) and about the market (marketing). So for me marketing is all about winning in the market place.

(For those interested, the first USA marketing textbook published with the word ‘marketing’ in its title was in 1914: (Butler, Ralph S., H. DeBower and J. G. Jones (1914), Marketing Methods and Salesmanship, NY: Alexander Hamilton Institute). Source : http://www.marketingpower.com/Community/ARC/Pages/Additional/History/Literature/Terminology.aspx)

There have been many definitions written about what marketing is. Two definitions when read together makes perfect sense for me. Drucker defines it as “Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view”.

Palmer defines it as “Marketing is essentially about marshalling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the customer on whom the organization depends”

What is your proposition?

So what is my interpretation of what marketing does or should do? The way I see it, marketing is responsible for delivering growth. Without growth no company will sustain. How does marketing do that? Marketing will have to anticipate, understand and deliver the customer needs. In order to do this, marketing will have to be plugged in to know, understand and act on the changes and trends in the industry and technology. Marketing will need to have deep insights on the customer needs. This means that marketing will have to ensure that the physical, logical, visual (and other sensory)  and emotional experience of the customer is encompassed in the totality of the proposition. Marketing as the owner of the customer value proposition will have to delight their customers with differentiated and superior products that are priced correctly (optimally), communicated so that the marketers brand and services are market aware, functional and relevant for its users. Marketers should create a totality of customer experience (physical, sensory, emotional, logical etc) that augurs loyalty and emotional bonding to the brand. In addition the marketer will have to determine optimally viable go to market strategies and tactics that ensures optimal channel economics, reach, coverage, access and others.

So does marketing do it all alone? Of course not! Marketing will have to orchestrate across various functions who deliver the different aspects of the proposition. Whilst all these functions are important, the success of the sales teams (all channels) in getting the customer to pay for a company’s services will be the pinnacle of the commercial activity that will determine if a marketer’s effort is fruitful J

Of battles and wars

So what then is difference between marketing and sales? The way I look at it is that every sales interaction is an individual battle. Every sale is a battle won for the company. Marketing is about winning the war in the market place. You cannot win a war without the success of individual battles and there is no point in winning a battle if you cannot win the war.

All rights reserved: John Lincoln, San Francisco, CA

Authored by John Lincoln john.lincoln@gmail.com and twitter @lincolnjc

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83 Responses to What is the art of Marketing and Sales? – What is the difference between sales and marketing?

  1. Koren says:

    So interesting to read your musings on marketing and sales….I remember you from your days in corporate development! Whether it’s a marketing or sales proposition in the end it’s all about value creation.

  2. Vikram Chadha says:

    Brilliant article, loved every aspect of it. The way you have brought forth the concept of winning a market and influencing the whole experience for the customer and sales about winning a deal against all odds is just super. Loved it.

  3. Carol says:

    Sh, It’s really great! Enjoyed reading it. You need to write a book!!

  4. Thomas Forsch says:

    I agree that the article makes for an interesting and informative read. But: At the very heart of it, there is not really a significant difference between marketing and sales. Both are forms of communication in a purpose driven environment, simply focusing on different goals. Ultimately, both are forms of applied analytical rhetorics.
    And while I agree with John that The Art of War is a good book (and so would be Machiavelli’s Il Principe, sort of the European counterpart of Sun Tse’s Art of War), both, marketeers and sales guys could still learn a lot if they went back to the roots and took a look at Aristotle’s treaty on Rhetoric……..

  5. Aditya says:

    It clearly defines the fine line & interdependence between marketing and sales. Analogy of “battle” and “war” really gives the big picture of what “marketing” is all about. Very nicely articulated in few words. Great read.

  6. Mutasem Adas says:

    Very interesting article, the heading is brilliant which is absolutely true , I loved it

  7. Prince says:

    Sell=Selling, Market=Marketing, John= Great Writings…. Please continue to enchant us….

  8. Peter Cardoz says:

    Dear Lincoln
    It is nice to read your blog on sales and marketing. it is very informative and educating to on how each dept is equally important in the organisation.
    Would like to know more on other depts too, like Finance & HR

    Rgds
    Peter Cardoz

  9. Rizal Khan says:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Very insightful. You have highlighted the importance of both sales and marketing in creating value. Like you said, no point winning the battle if you don’t intend to win a war.

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    very post-a-licious :-) thanks for the info!

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