I am frequently asked about the difference between selling and marketing.

Academically speaking, selling is a function of marketing, as is advertising, promotion, and pricing. Practically speaking, marketing is what happens before the phone rings and selling is what happens after you answer the phone. Marketing is all about understanding the customer’s needs, figuring out how to get the message out, and negotiating the competitive landscape. Selling is all about the needs of the firm and is product focused; the desired outcome is financial in nature.

Part of the confusion about the definitions of the terms is how corporate America tends to treat marketing and sales organizationally. Many firms tend to align marketing with the manufacturing operation, while disassociating the marketing function from the sales organization.

The marketing organization tends to be lower paid, more technical, and is considered a staff function; the sales organization tends to be higher paid, more gregarious, and remotely located from the manufacturing plant. A chasm is created between the sales and marketing teams by this organizational design.

Instead of working as a team to serve the client, marketing and sales do combat about what is right for the customer and which team should control the decision-making authority. Thus, the debate about what is sales and what is marketing is rooted in the politics of corporate America. Luckily, small and medium sized businesses can organize sales and marketing as one department to avoid this type of conflict.

A little bit of philosophy: think marketing first, then sales. Marketing asks you to first think about the needs of the customer; selling often asks you to focus on your offering.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.

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