Marketing vs. Sales (With Definitions and Differences)

Updated December 4, 2022

Professionals often use the terms sales and marketing interchangeably as they share the same goal of selling products to consumers. Although they both have the same aim, the approach is different. If you're hoping to work in sales or marketing, it's beneficial to learn more about the difference between the two. In this article, we discuss the marketing vs. sales approach, define sales and marketing, share some marketing strategies, explain the difference between the core elements of sales and marketing, and provide information about service level agreements and lead generation.

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Marketing vs. sales approach

Marketing vs. sales employ different approaches, even though their end goal is to make a profit. Here are the fundamental differences between the two approaches:

Sales approach

  • Sales entail planning the movement of a product from the company to the consumer, while marketing entails analyzing the consumer base and making decisions on how to position the product for broader appeal.

  • Sales are short-term in scope, while marketing is a long-term approach.

  • A sales department focuses on company needs, while marketing prefers a broader approach, looking at the market needs and using them as a primary motivator.

  • Sales see the customer as the end of the supply chain, while marketing considers the customer as the start of the process and uses the consumer's needs to drive demand for the product.

  • Sales display a fragmented approach, with a focus on moving all the products supplied, but marketing is more refined and has an integrated approach that determines customer needs and seeks to satisfy them.

Marketing approach

  • Marketing pertains to a wide range of users, generating an ideal customer archetype to focus their efforts on, while a sales department focuses on a single lead and is usually concerned with the individual buyer.

  • Marketing is driven through media interaction, while sales is a person-to-person process.

  • Marketing aims to attract the customer to the product, while sales attempts to press the product onto the customer.

What is sales?

Sales is the term we use for the activities that occur that lead to a seller exchanging goods or services to a buyer for a profit. Companies tend to have a sales department comprised of different sales teams. Sales teams are usually formed based on the product or service they're selling, the buyer they're targeting and the region in which they expect to sell the product. Sales teams are responsible for meeting daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly sales goals that the company sets. Sales teams often consist of a sales manager, sales specialists, representatives and customer service representatives.

Related: What Is a Pre-sales Process? (With Tips for Effectiveness)

A company's goal is to convince a customer that they require the good or service and, as a result, they purchase it. Strategies for selling include demonstrating a product or service for customers and offering discounts, which make the product or service more tempting when compared to a competitor's product or service. You can think of a sale as the beginning of a contract between a buyer and a seller. It's the salespeople's responsibility to develop and sustain a relationship with customers with the hopes of them making additional purchases in the future.

Related: The 4 Sales Funnel Stages (Definition and Benefits)

What is marketing?

Marketing is an intricate process concerned with analyzing consumers to uncover their needs. The ultimate goal is for consumers to purchase the product or service. Marketing employs measurable information, such as website visits, to gauge a customer's interests. A marketing department can use this information to create advertisements that appeal to the target market for their product or service. A marketing department's primary concern is turning the consumer's attention to their offerings. To achieve this goal, marketing strategies often focus on the four P's of marketing, which include:


A product can be an idea, a good, a service or a combination of all three. When marketing a product, a marketing team considers what needs or wants it fulfills and who may buy it. For example, a company marketing blow dryers are likely to have a woman with beautiful hair on the packaging because their target audience is women.


The price is the amount of money a customer is required to pay to obtain a product. To determine the price, a marketing team considers how much a customer values the product and what they're willing to pay for it. If the price is too low, consumers may consider it an ineffective product, and if the price is too high, they may not end up purchasing it. Where the other three P's affect cost, price affects revenue.


Place, or distribution, refers to effectively getting the product to the consumers. A marketing team aims to make the product accessible to its target audience. For example, a team considering where to sell their high-quality non-stick frying pan may decide to distribute it to a cooking store.


Promotion is how a marketing team gets information about the product or service to the right consumer. A marketing team may use various promotional strategies depending on what it is they're trying to sell. Some examples of promotions include sweepstakes, rebates, special packaging and coupons.

Marketing strategies

There are various marketing strategies, which include:

  • Content marketing: a marketing strategy where a team creates and distributes relevant and valuable content consistently to a specific audience.

  • Green marketing: refers to the marketing of environmentally friendly products, meaning the creation and use of the products don't cause harm to the environment.

  • Inbound marketing: a marketing strategy where customers initiate contact with the marketer. Some examples include event marketing, web design and content marketing.

  • Influencer marketing: instead of marketing to a large number of consumers, a brand may compensate influencers, such as celebrities, content creators and other people with large social media followings, for spreading the word about their product.

  • Keyword marketing: when messages appear before users due to keywords the user typed into a search. For example, if a user searches for a heat-proof blender, they may see advertisements for a heat-proof blender appear in other places as well.

  • Outbound marketing: the new term for traditional marketing methods, which includes contacting a customer through outlets like TV and radio advertising.

  • Relationship marketing: marketing with the goal of building relationships between the brand and consumer. Loyalty programs are a strategy that marketers may employ.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): a process where a marketing team tries to increase the visibility within a search engine.

Read more:

  • Content Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing (With Examples)

  • What Is Push vs. Pull Marketing? (With Tips and Examples)

  • 10 Types of Marketing to Explore (With Tips and FAQs)

Differences in marketing vs. sales core elements

Here are the differences in marketing vs. sales and their core elements:


Both sales and marketing have process manuals to outline their methodologies. Marketing plans inform businesses about products, where sales may occur and who the potential buyers may be. A sales plan explains the action plan and states the business's resources and tools to make the sale a reality.


The primary focus of both departments is to generate income for the business. Marketing focuses more on long-term goals, such as cultivating customer relationships and how the product or service fills the consumer's needs or wants. A sales department thinks in a much shorter timeframe. Sales departments aim to hit quotas and move products efficiently from the company to the consumer. Achieving this goal usually requires dividing the labour across the entire department, with each salesperson being responsible for hitting their own sales target.


Because of the difference in time scales for both departments, their strategies for meeting their goals also differ. Marketing departments favour campaigns that evaluate the benefits of a product and respond to questions that a potential buyer might have. Conversely, a sales department prefers a more direct methodology for its strategies. They discover a need, want or problem that their product or service can solve, then convince the buyer that they require the product or service.

Combining sales and marketing with a service level agreement

A service level agreement (SLA) joins the sales and marketing departments together in a formal agreement. In most SLAs, there's a stated set of deliverables that one department provides to the other, creating a shared goal for both departments and aligning them accordingly. The marketing department, for example, may have the responsibility of developing an ideal customer profile and generating leads for the sales department to follow up. The sales department would then be responsible for receiving those leads from marketing, then following up to ensure that the company closes sales and makes revenue.

Related: What Is an SLA and How Is It Different From a KPI?

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Lead generation

Integrating marketing and sales allows a business to leverage the research that marketing has done to inform their sales process. A team may develop a comprehensive strategy using a lead generation system, which may include:

  • Cold leads: These leads usually come from marketing campaigns and typically lead to warm leads. Cold leads often consist of social media ads, direct mailing and traditional advertisements.

  • Warm leads: These leads are often from strategies the business develops for itself, and they sometimes generate interest in a customer, which may create a qualified lead. Warm leads may include sales letters, personal email invites or free training sessions.

  • Qualified leads: These leads are consumers who have shown interest in what the business offers. The responsibility shifts to the sales department, which ensures the consumer closes the deal and makes the purchase.

Related: 10 Effective Strategies for Generating Leads in Marketing

Aligning sales and marketing departments can increase revenue for the company significantly. SLAs exist to coordinate efforts between the two groups to ensure the company operates efficiently.

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