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What is the difference between Marketing and Sales?

Posted on: 10 September '09

I often get asked what is the difference between marketing and sales? I think it’s a great question to debate here because I feel marketing is often misunderstood in business. If I relate this question to MindTree’s business, many of you probably think that marketing exists to sell our services. However, I believe the opposite is true. Selling starts only when there is a service (product). Good marketing starts before there is a service (product) and exists in the form of extensive market research; figuring out what IT executives need; and what MindTree should offer to the market. Marketing should determine how to position, promote, price our services and to whom (segmentation). Marketing then should monitor the results and make course corrections along the way (i.e. improve the product or service).

So if you agree with my thinking, selling is only a small piece (although important) component of marketing. Thus, marketing is a far more comprehensive process than selling.

That’s my view… what’s yours?

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  • Geetha

    Thank you for differentiating Marketing and Selling for us. If Marketing is the ‘beating heart’ of an organization, then, is it okay to say that Selling is the ‘ticking brain’? Marketing and Sales departments actually complement each other and their contributions to the success of an organization is pretty similar to the role of both parents in a happy family?
    Thanks and regards,

    • Raj N

      You are right Geetha, the function of marketing is to do the research and gauge the future demands and sales is required to find the right customer for the right product. In case of our Cultural Photography Tours, we constantly strive to find new ways of Marketing and try to understand customer needs by survery etc. Selling is also Crucial to get the finances in order for any company!

  • Niket Mohan

    Hi Joseph,

    I totally agree with you. Marketing is the big picture and sales plays a part in marketing.

    Marketing starts much before sales and it ends much latter after sales. Like you said, Marketing is a ever going process and successful sales is a result of successful marketing strategies.

    Marketing Mix (Product, Price, Promotion and Place) plays a vital role and has to be backed by a solid marketing research focused on customers requirement and targeting the right customer segment.

    With many existing players in IT Industry, It becomes important for MindTree to differentiate itself both as a company and its products (Offerings).

    On the other hand selling should complement the efforts of marketing. A poor selling effort and after sales service or support can easily wipe out all the hard work done through marketing.This can lead to disaster in form of losing customers.

    I have a own way of looking at marketing and sales….

    Marketing builds up an expectation in a customers Mind…. Sales delivers to those expectations!!

    Whats your take on this?


    Niket Mohan

  • Shashi

    Hi Joseph,
    Thanks for clarifying me both concepts in such a simple and elegant manner.
    Thanks & Regards,

  • I agree with your view point that Marketing is more customer centric and bottom-up ( Customer to Organisation) and where as Selling is Product/Service Centric (top-down, where you are concerned with pushing your offerings against the competition).

  • Very well said, Marketing is about demand generation, Market Identification, Market creation. Marketing is about thinking on lines of Blue Ocean Strategy, create uncluttered market space, where you are the only competitor:) and then let your sales guys go and close the case 🙂 and take pat at back

  • In the IT services context, marketing doesn’t impact the product or price in any significant way. It’s mostly about promotion.

    Re its difference from sales, marketing views and addresses prospects and customers as a category. Sales addresses treats them as individuals.

    Once the company agrees on this, much of what sales and marketing does differently will become clear to a lot of people–including CEOs!

    That is why marketing thinks in terms of filtering the prospect base through segmenting, targeting, and positioning and then reaching out to the target audience to generate leads–which then passes on to sales for follow up.

  • Chandan Kumar Modi

    Hi Joseph,

    Marketing is a very wide concept with the bottom-line as “Sales”. For all organizations, to meet bottom-line is the most important thing. But how to achieve it is what can be answered through the marketing concept. Right from the market research, need-gap analysis, to prepare strategy for market formation/penetration and to keep the market share intact is all the part of marketing. The marketing is used as a tool to provide enough tool and information for proper sales and satisfying our “bottom-lines”. sales is all about selling the product and getting the revenue, rest all is marketing, it is the prefix to sales (marketing research to indentify the TMS) and suffix to sales (relationship management to make this one time buyer into repeat customer)

    In a nutshell I would say that marketing is the enabler without which (desired) sales cannot happen.

  • What you say is true of course, marketing should be about all the four (or more) Ps. But in IT services, marketing has hardly any impact on product or price and is mostly concerned with promotion.

    Re how it differs from sales, marketing views and addresses prospects and customers as a category. Sales addresses treats them as individuals.

    Once the company agrees on this, much of what sales and marketing does differently will become clear to a lot of people–including CEOs!

    That is why marketing thinks in terms of filtering the prospect base through segmenting, targeting, and positioning and then reaching out to the target audience to generate leads–which then passes on to sales for follow up.

  • I partially agree with you. If you are operating in a Product business, what you said absolutely holds good. For a services business, such as in which Mindtree operates, I would say sales play a key role, though marketing need to supplement it.

    One of the observation is, in Services business, you are selling what you can do. Marketing would play a key role when you have a single solution which caters to certain section of customers. If every customer needs are unique and your services vary from customer to customer, it would be a surmountable task to market these services.

  • Roshan Prabhakar

    Hi Jo,

    I totally agree with your thought. Also I would like to add my view on the difference between Sales and Marketing.

    When we talk about Sales we are talking essentially about a saleable product or service. But in case of Marketing we need not necessarily talk of a product or a company.

    Marketing can be just to make our presence felt in the market. A company can market itself to make its presence felt. Doesn’t mean its for sale.

    Marketing can the first step towards Sales.

  • JP de Vooght

    I agree Joseph,
    I believe that Marketing pieces the Story together, with the help of all departments (Eng, Sales, Ops, etc.) – that’s where it manfests itself as a comprehensive process throughout the organization.
    Sales delivers that story in a phyiscal manner – by travelling, calling, reping, etc. – yes it is a piece of execution which feeds back into the story being told.

  • Shivakumar Buddharaju


    I, as an entrepreneur, would like all of you to know how I perceive these two activities.

    I do not think Marketing and Sales can be compared against each other. They are two different, distinct activities. I would rather say, they have a pipeline hookup. The output of marketing activity goes as input for sales activity.

    Positioning our services / products must be endorsed to some brand management team. Marketing may lend them a helping hand rather than owning the bottom line of positioning activity. Also, I believe Pricing must be handled by Sales folks.

    For me, Marketing is mostly about researching and extracting usable data points from such researches. Marketing promotes our services / products, generates the leads and classifies them ( lead segmentation ).

    Sales is primarily about converting the LEAD to a DEAL, and little more beyond that.

    The first activity of Sales is Pre-Sales. This essentially qualifies the leads generated by Marketing. This is where we do some prospect assessment. Following are the some of the high level criteria I put for my company, ( I am sure every company has its distinctive criteria )

    1. Is there a REAL opportunity for sale ?

    2. Do they have a COMPELLING requirement for our service / product ( That will make them spend money ) ?

    3. Do they have the REASONABLE time-frame for the required change ?

    4. Do they have BUDGET to spend on the solution ?

    5. Lastly, Can we WIN ( not too big / not too small & not too complicated / not too simple for our service / product ) ?

    This pre-sales will tell me the quality of generated leads and eventually will shape out the marketing strategy, which is a continuous process. ( Filtering out too less or too many leads for an iteration will send an alarm signal. )

    Now, the sales guys pitch in. They do the price negotiation, talk about the timelines, convince the customer of TCO & ROI, discuss and sign the legalities, etc., etc., These guys convert the qualified lead to a customer.

    There is After-Sales as well. This is to ensure that we are available to the customer during the agreed-upon time periods for the agreed-upon support activities. Nothing more, Nothing less. SLAs will define the salaries for these support guys 🙂

    This is how I get the things done in my company. We all know that nobody is perfect and I am not an exception. I am grossly imperfect 🙂 I invite your thoughts / views on this discussion.

    Warm regards,

  • Rahul Jain

    Marketing is an umbrella activity and Sales is an important part of it.

    From setting up organization’s Vision, mission and goals to defining the value chain is Marketing.

    Doing market analysis, coming up with the suitable workable business model and evolve the business model as and when the environment changes, is Marketing.

    Shaping the products/services or offerings, positioning the offering in a competitive market place and pricing them, is Marketing.

    Marketing is about setting the value chain and sales is an important activity of the value chain.

  • Amith Hegde

    Dear Joseph,

    I completely agree that sales is a small component of marketing. Marketing is like a blue print and action plan for sales along with support in terms of delivering information, eliciting curiosity/enquiry,etc.

    Sales is like the closure to what marketing has set in motion. Thats why even though its a small component, it is very important as it converts potential into results.

    Marketing is like all the ingredients mixed to make the cake dough and sales is like the oven which bakes it(may be too simplistic an example to show the difference)

    One more issue related to this would be business development. Sales is a bit more clearer to differentiate but I think Marketing and Business Development are a bit more closely linked. Dont you feel that in many organisations BD and marketing work on the same things duplicating the same things…

  • Vijay. M

    Hi Joe,
    I totally agree with your views on the difference between marketing and sales.

    Sales is a part of the marketing function. I also think sales follows a push based strategy and marketing follows a pull strategy with respect to customer base creation.

    And also as you have said, marketing encompasses a huge gamut of activities and tasks to understand the customers’ needs and developing the right set of products(services).

    Its a good post to start off a marketing blog.


  • Sanju

    Hi Joe,

    Many a times I get this question on my face, especially from my techie mates. Your answer is crisp and clear cut for those who do not understand the concept. Most often people think that both function is the same, little do they know that Sales is just an extension of Marketing.Although the ultimate objective of Marketing is to sell, it covers lot of the other aspects of business.

  • I agree with you Joe.

  • Faisal Khan

    what is need, wants and Demand?

  • Hey Joseph,
    marketing is an Idea,or a process of creating a product where in sales involves in Selling the developed product and u are right people always confused between marketing and sales and they assume both are same

  • Sir ,u are right .But there is a one liner which i used to hear from the marketing arena is that – Marketing is all about finding the right products for our customer and sales is all about finding the right customer for our products .Would you agree with this statement ?

  • Neha

    Hi Joseph,

    I have a different line of thought on this.

    I believe marketing & sales are 2 different functions that may overlap at some point (especially in smaller firms where marketing is synonymous with selling, its only after it grows it develops more dimensions like positioning, branding etc ),may also have the same goal but still cannot be concentric.

    For example, you may want to market the social responsibility awareness factor of your firm but it may not necessarily be a push for your IMS offering you want to sell.

    So, while there are many instances where they are closely aligned, it’s not necessary that selling is a subset of marketing.


    • Vimal

      Spot on !

  • Sunder

    Dear Joseph

    I would agree with this view. Feeling the pulse of clients, co-creating value based offerings using the trigger and positioning it in a differentiated manner in the marketplace are the key marketing actions.


  • imtiyaz khan

    well i think,marketing is a demand of the customers,and sales is nothing but fulfilling that demand…thank you..