Marketing vs Sales: What’s the Difference?



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15 min


10 August, 2021

Marketing vs sales.

A battle as old as business itself.

They’re two terms which mean very different things, but are often used interchangeably.

Although marketing supports sales and vice versa, it’s important to understand what each of these mean and how they support the business.

In fact without marketing you wouldn’t be able to sell anything, but without sales, marketing efforts are pretty much pointless.

For any business, the relationship between these departments can often be overlooked. People can fall under the misconception that one is more important than the other, or that one demands more attention than the other.

The truth is they both serve a key purpose.

Although they employ different tactics, their goal is always the same: to convert leads and achieve sales.

Neither of these departments should exist separately as they need to work collaboratively together to improve productivity and identify ways to drive the business forward.

So let’s start with defining what they both actually mean.

What is Marketing?

We’ve covered this in another blog post so I’ll keep this fairly short and sweet.

The marketing department is responsible for educating and informing potential customers about a new product or service. They actively promote the company and tell people why they should invest.

Through various means, they develop innovative and creative ways to reach out to customers. By creating a connection with their audience, it encourages people to fulfil certain goals such as purchasing a product or filling in a download form on the website.

computer screen with analytics

What Skills are Needed to Work in Marketing?

Working in marketing requires a whole host of skills from being creative to analysing different types of data. Obviously the skills needed depend on the job description, but below are some of the key skills needed to be successful in this field:

  • Communication skills
  • Creativity and problem solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Content writing
  • Research
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Organisation

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What are Sales?

Even as I was typing this question, the answer seems blatantly obvious.

We all know what sales are, but what do the sales team actually do? And how does this differ from what the marketing team does?

In contrast to marketers who attract new leads, sales work directly with prospects and reinforce the reasons why customers should invest.

Marketers are responsible for sparking an initial interest and getting customers to a certain point of their buying journey. It is then up to the sales team to complete the transaction. They are responsible for managing the relationship with customers, and being their main point of contact.

By working closely with customers, and providing a solution to their needs, they can build up a good relationship which eventually leads to a sale. If they manage to build up a good rapport with clients, they will become repeat customers which is hugely advantageous to the business on a long term scale.

What Skills Are Needed to Work in Sales?

Believe it or not, sales is a lot more than just selling.

It’s about having the ability to seek out new opportunities, build relationships, and be resilient when you get a knock back – which happens very often in this role.

If a sale falls through, you need to be able to pick yourself back up and move on, as not every prospect is going to turn into a customer. This is part and parcel of working in a sales job.

Due to the nature of the role, you need to be good with people and understand what makes them tick.

Below are a few of the key skills required to be a successful salesperson:

  • Confidence
  • Active listening
  • Understanding
  • Presentation skills
  • Judgement
  • Curiosity
  • Time management
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy

green plant growing above coins

Marketing vs Sales

As we’ve outlined above, these two functions operate quite differently in terms of how they interact with a customer base.

Think of marketing as the starting point which warms up potential customers to initially capture their interest. Once this has been achieved, it’s time for sales to nurture the relationship and encourage buyers to complete the desired action.

Let’s take a look at some of the other differences.


Both of these departments have their own areas to concentrate on when it comes to generating revenue for the business.

For marketing, their main goal is to educate and inform people about a product or service. Through content creation, they need to speak to customers and encourage them to invest.

Compared to sales this is a lot more subtle as you’re helping customers when it comes to their purchasing decisions. By explaining the benefits of particular products or services, you are drawing them into the business without just hitting them with an advert.

You are telling them how you can serve their needs, and how your company is the solution to their problem.

In marketing, campaigns need to be strategic and can last for several weeks. It’s not a quick sell, as it can take time to solidify an idea into a potential customer’s mind. They need to be reminded about how your product works and how it can help. Simply putting out a single blog post and hoping it does the job will not do.

Your campaign needs to be carefully planned to instill a concept over a period of time by utilising a range of communication methods. By covering all bases, you are maximising your chances of attracting your target audience.

In contrast, anyone working in sales will be focused on hitting targets.

They will have a quota to reach each month in terms of how much money they have to make, and it is their responsibility to ensure that has been achieved. These goals tend to be more short term and are usually measured on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Sales managers define what the targets are and then calculate how much each team, department, and individual person needs to sell in order to meet the goal.

This gives the sales team something to aspire to and motivates them to sell more of a product. There is often a commission involved when working in sales, which acts as further motivation to reach your targets. It can also be quite competitive in this field, as members of the team try to exceed one another.

Because there is a commission involved in sales, consumers can be disengaged when interacting with a salesperson. They are very savvy and can be sceptical as to why they are being sold a particular product. As mentioned earlier, marketing is much more subtle as you’re not giving customers a load of sales spiel.

It’s important a sales team are aware of this and don’t pressure customers into making a purchase.


Whether you work in marketing or sales, you will always need a plan. This underpins your objectives and ensures different campaigns stay on track.

In marketing, your plan will be based on the 4 P’s:

  • Price – Customers need to know how much they are paying for a product or service. You should be able to justify the price point of the product and you must also take into account what competitors are charging.
  • Product – This refers to the goods or services that you’re offering to your customers. It should fulfill an existing consumer demand and help customers in some way. The type of product will dictate how much you can charge for it, how you will promote it, and its place in the market.
  • Promotion – You need to consider how you are going to get your product seen. This includes which channels you’re going to utilise such as social media, printed leaflets, your website, and advertising. It’s your promotional strategy and should attract your core audience.
  • Place – Marketers need to determine where to sell the product and how they should position it. For example, is it an exclusive, luxury good that should only be sold in certain shops? Or, are you positioning this as a lower end product which the majority of people can afford?

Taking the above into consideration, you will be able to make sure your marketing efforts are strategic and appeal to the right people. There is nothing more frustrating than a campaign which hasn’t been carefully thought through.

As part of your planning, you will need to determine what goals you hope to achieve so you can monitor the campaign’s progress over a period of time. In addition, you will need to consider your budget as this will affect which communication channels you can use and how much flexibility you have.

In contrast, a sales plan is more concerned with numbers and how you plan to achieve your targets. It outlines your objectives, what tactics you plan to use, your target audience, and any challenges you anticipate.

It also includes information about your team structure and what resources they need to achieve their goals. This helps provide direction for your team and ensures they each understand their individual responsibilities.

Working in a sales team is a collective effort, as some companies rely on each team member hitting their targets before the department gets commission.

By having an effective sales plan, you can monitor your whole team and make sure expectations are being met.

When developing a sales plan, you should consider:

  • Your target audience – Who are you trying to reach?
  • Revenue targets – How much money does your team need to make?
  • Tactics – How is your team planning on reaching out to customers?
  • Pricing and promotions – How much are the products and are there any promotions or discounts which could attract more leads?
  • Team structure – Who is in your team and what are their roles in the sales process?
  • Resources – These are the tools your team needs to achieve their goals. These resources are often produced by the marketing department.
  • Competitors – What are your competitors offering customers and what are their price points?

You should also make sure to review and update your sales plan to keep it focussed on satisfying the needs of the business.


Marketing and sales use some of the same resources to manage relationships with customers and clients. However, the way they utilise these platforms slightly differs.

For example, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database is used by both departments to manage relationships and contacts, either ones that have existed for a while or new contacts coming into the business.

A member of the marketing team might be responsible for uploading new contacts who have completed a form or a download on the website, but it will be the responsibility of the sales team to follow up on these new contacts.

Now they know a customer has shown interest in a particular item on the website, they can use this information to supply them with additional resources and create a relationship. In turn, this transforms a prospect into a sale, and the team can use the CRM system to document all lines of communication.

A customer relationship management tool is very useful as by keeping track of all information and communications relating to a client, you can build up a picture of their buying behaviour.

Social media is another platform that can be leveraged by both sales and marketing.

Marketers use social media as a form of promotion to let their customers know about upcoming events, new product launches, or a new product. Through imagery and video, they can showcase a product range quickly and easily.

In contrast, the sales team can use these channels as part of a social selling strategy.

Social media fulfills both needs and can be an effective way of obtaining new customers.

However, there are some tools which are specific to each department.

Marketing tools

  • Email marketing – Platforms such an Mailchimp allow marketers to create professional email campaigns to send to their customer base.
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Tools such as Ahrefs allow marketers to discover keywords which they can use in their content to improve their google ranking.
  • Canva – Creating images and graphics is important for various campaigns. Canva is a great free tool, but marketers might also choose to use Adobe Suite.
  • Google analytics – This provides marketers with an insight into how their website is performing as well as understanding where traffic is coming from.
  • Social media scheduling tools – Platforms such as Buffer and Hootsuite are highly beneficial to marketers as they can plan and schedule posts for multiple channels.

Sales tools

    • Live chat – This plugin on a website allows the sales team to easily reach out and speak to customers when they are most engaged.
    • Sales intelligence and sales prospecting – This type of software enables the sales team to find, monitor, and understand information on prospects and existing customers.
    • Sales acceleration software – This speeds up the sales cycle by automating administrative tasks and streamlines sales processes.
    • Video conferencing tools – Services such as GoToMeeting facilitate online meetings and allow the sales team to present information and demo products to customers.
    • Performance management – There are lots of tools to help keep your team on track and determine factors which impact your sales figures. You can then use this information to tweak or improve your sales strategy.


Depending on the campaign, a marketing department employs different strategies to push a particular product.

This enables them to be strategic and ensures they are targeting the right type of customer. You need to understand where your customers are spending their time and how you can use this information to reach them.

Are they mostly accessing your content on a mobile device?

Do video posts receive the most engagement?

It’s your responsibility to do your research and identify which type of marketing is most effective.

Failure to do so means your marketing campaign will fall flat.

Typical marketing strategies include social media marketing, video content, print marketing, search engine optimisation, and blog marketing. You might choose to engage in a few different types of marketing strategies and engage with customers through a variety of channels.

Similarly, the strategies a sales team decides to use depends on the product, market, and target customer.

However, each strategy aims to help a salesperson better understand their consumer and ultimately close a deal. The strategy you use depends on which stage of the buying process your customer is at.

Choosing the right strategy can be the difference between closing and losing a deal. If executed correctly, it helps you figure out what customers need and how you can solve their problem. You can then navigate them through the buying process and boom, you’ve made a sale!

Some of the most common sales strategies include SPIN selling which stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need. During this process, salespeople can identify a buyer’s real pain points and build a rapport with them.

Another typical strategy is conceptual selling which is founded on the idea that consumers buy into the idea of a product rather than the product itself. In this scenario, salespeople should never lead with a pitch but should instead explore the buyer’s perception of a product and try to understand their decision process.

SNAP selling is another effective strategy which encourages salespeople to keep it simple, be invaluable, always align, and raise priorities. This enables anyone working in sales to connect with busy customers by only relaying information which is most important to them.

hand shaking signage

Why is it Important for Marketing and Sales to Work Together?

As we’ve covered earlier, marketing and sales should not be separate entities.

It should never be a case of giving more attention to one department over another as they need to work together to drive the business forward.

It feels as though the distinction between sales and marketing roles have become very blurred.

They each play a different, but important role in attracting and obtaining customers to ultimately increase revenue.

One cannot exist without the other and it’s vital every company understands the importance of this relationship.

Marketing teams are crucial in kick starting the process of earning prospects by educating and informing them about the company. Through producing high quality content they effectively tell the brand story and build up customer loyalty.

Content is a great way of instilling a sense of trust and demonstrating product value.

Now they have gained a customer’s interest, it’s time for the sales team to swoop in.

They are responsible for turning these prospects into customers who are ready to buy. A big part of their job is building up a good relationship with customers and supporting them throughout the buying process.

They need to clearly identify the problem a customer is facing, and how they are resolving that problem.

Marketing vs Sales: What’s the Difference

Sales and marketing.

Whilst there is a lot of confusion around these departments, I hope we have helped explain some of the key differences. There is of course some crossover, and it’s easy to see why people use these terms interchangeably, especially if you don’t work in either field.

Historically, these departments have always sat in different offices, used different systems, and concentrated on separate metrics.

But by bringing them together you can break down these barriers and maximise revenue. Through sales and marketing alignment, you can form a single unit to deliver the right information to clients and turn them into prospects.

This cohesive strategy is very effective in not only attracting new leads but also retaining them. By managing these relationships, prospects can become repeat customers who continually revisit your products and services and financially support your business.

But remember, without marketing, they never would have got to this stage. They need to be told about your offering and encouraged to invest in the first place.

There should never be a debate about which department is more important as by working together you can achieve a shared goal: to convert leads and achieve sales.

Sales and marketing should be a partnership.

At Canny, we value partnership and work with a whole host of clients to achieve results. If you think you could benefit from our services, then contact a friendly member of our team.

Hi, I'm Amy, Content Strategist at Canny. In my day-to-day role, I'm responsible for creating content that gets you noticed and makes you stand out from the competition. Naturally, I love writing and creating engaging copy that brings your brand to life.

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