The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

By Indeed Editorial Team

August 23, 2021

Many professionals use the terms marketing and sales interchangeably since both positions seek to sell products or services to a consumer. However, how they manage to do that differs. In this article, we will look at the different approaches to sales and marketing, and how their cooperation is necessary for success in business.

What are sales?

Sales is the transfer of ownership of a product or delivery of a service in exchange for cash or some other consideration. Sales generation takes many forms. Usually, it involves expressing a product’s benefits to the customer through demonstration, or by offering discounts to make the product or service more attractive than competitors.

A sale is the start of a contract between a vendor and a buyer. Salespeople are responsible for developing and cultivating a relationship with the consumer.

Read more: Sales Professional Resume Samples

What is marketing?

Marketing is a more involved process than sales, and pertains to the analysis of a consumer to better understand their needs to make purchases more appealing. The discipline uses measurable information like website visits to gauge a customer’s interests.

By using these metrics, a marketing department can craft advertising that appeals to the people who are likely to want the product or service the most. Marketing departments are primarily concerned with sparking a consumer’s interest in their product or service.

Read more: Learn About Being a Marketing Specialist

Core elements of sales and marketing

Developing a strong bond between sales and marketing is a significant goal for almost any business. To accomplish this, a company needs to understand the different aspects of each discipline. The core elements of these fields are:


Both sales and marketing have process manuals to outline their methodologies. Marketing plans allow a business to inform itself about the product, where sales will occur and who the potential buyers will be.

A sales plan, on the other hand, makes a note of the plan of action and states the resources and tools the business will require 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 time frame. Sales departments aim to hit quotas and move product as efficiently as possible from the company to the consumer. Achieving this goal usually requires dividing the labor across the entire department with each salesperson being responsible for hitting a sales target.


Because of the difference in time scales for both departments, their strategies for meeting their goals also differ. Marketing departments favor campaigns that evaluate the benefits of a product and how to respond to questions that a potential buyer might have.

Conversely, a sales department prefers a more direct methodology for their strategies. They pinpoint a need, want or problem that their product or service can solve, then convince the buyer that they need the product or service.

How marketing and sales differ

Marketing and sales are different in their approaches, even though their end goal of making a profit is the same. Here are the basic differences between the two approaches:

Sales approach

  • Sales entails planning the movement of a product from the company to the consumer. Marketing entails analyzing the consumer base and making decisions on how to position the product for wider appeal.

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

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

  • Sales sees the customer as the end of the supply chain. Marketing considers the customer as the start of the process and uses the consumer’s needs to drive demand for the product.

  • Sales displays a fragmented approach, with a focus on moving all the product supplied. 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 archetype of the ideal customer to focus their efforts on. 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. Sales, on the other hand, attempts to press the product onto the customer.

Combining the disciplines with a service level agreement (SLA)

A service level agreement, or SLA, links one department to the other through a formal agreement. In most SLAs, there is a stated set of deliverables that one department should provide to the other. It creates a shared goal for both departments and aligns 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 on. The sales department would then be responsible for receiving those leads from marketing, then chasing them down to ensure that the company closes sales and makes revenue.

Lead generation

Integrating marketing and sales allows a business to leverage the research that marketing has done to inform their sales process better. A comprehensive strategy can be developed using a lead generation system:

  • Cold leads: These usually come from marketing campaigns. Social media ads, direct mailing and even traditional advertisement make up the base of cold leads. They typically lead to warm leads.

  • Warm leads: These are from strategies the business develops for itself. They include things like sales letters, personal email invites or free training sessions. These warm leads sometimes generate interest in a customer, creating a qualified lead.

  • Qualified leads: These are consumers who have shown interest in what the business is offering. From here, the responsibility shifts to the sales department. They aim to ensure that the consumer closes the deal and makes the purchase.

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

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