The Difference Between Sales And Marketing: Can The Two Be Effectively Managed By A Single Person?

Photo Credit: Scott Maxwell on Flickr

Have you ever read a advertisement for a Marketing position that, after reviewing the job responsibilities, turns out to be a pure Sales job?

As a professional working exclusively in the Marketing department I am always frustrated by managers who don’t understand the difference between Sales and Marketing.

With the risk of generating a lot of debate here is my take on the issue.


In small companies there is no Marketing function to begin with. Here Marketing does equal Sales, and the few Marketing ideas come from the business owner or the Sales person.

As the company gets bigger the owner might consider adding a Marketing function, such as “Marketing Coordinator” or “Marketing Assistant”. This role is basically a pure Sales support role, whose main purpose is to provide the Sales force with catalogs, flyers and price lists.

Finally with the growth in Sales comes the need for a dedicated Marketing department that will help the company focus on servicing the relevant market, managing the 4 Ps, and build brands rather than products.

What Happens In The Real World

Sales and Marketing rarely work is sync, no matter the industry, product or target market. This statement is based on my personal experience working in the Marketing department of four different companies in various industries, from consumer package goods to the industrial sector.

When sales are bad the two departments come up with different explanations for the poor results.

Sales accuses Marketing for wasting the budget on ineffective programs, and setting the prices too high. According to them, Marketing people spend too much time in the office and are out-of-touch with the customers.

Their solution: pay higher commission to the Sales team, hire more reps and lower the prices.

Marketing in return blames Sales for thinking short-term, and focusing on satisfying an existing demand, instead of identifying new needs and expanding the market.

In their view the members of the Sales team are simply “order takers” who are just waiting for business to fall in their lap.

The difference between Sales and Marketing extends to most of the 4 Ps.

Let’s take price for example.

Sales wants lower prices that allows them to get more products out the door thus meeting the monthly target. Lower prices gives them more leverage to negotiate and close deals, regardless if the company is making money or not.

Marketing thinks more in terms of profits, and wants the sale to happen through brand building and not rock-bottom prices.

Then there is the difference of opinion regarding new products. The Sales team’s vision of a new product is usually a copy of the closest competitor’s best seller at a lower price.

Marketing believes in differentiation, in products with unique features that will offer the company a long term competitive advantage.

And finally promotion. I find that Sales people love Sales promotions, which give them “something to talk about” with the customer.

Marketing is usually cautious with using this communication tool, which in the long term cheapens a brand and decreases profitability.

The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Sales and Marketing can rarely be performed efficiently by a single person. These two functions attract people with different backgrounds and are meant to produce different outcomes.

Marketing requires long term vision and effective strategies to make it reality.

This involves taking a comprehensive look at the company as a whole, and a good understanding of full business cycle, including identifying new market opportunities, product development, packaging, promotion, among others. Profitability is also important.

Marketing compensation is based not only on meeting the Sales target, but also on the results of the projects being implemented. Marketing people tend to think more analytically, are usually at least University graduates, are able to think long term and are excellent project managers.

Sales usually focus on short-term actions to close the deal, and meet the monthly budget. They see promotion as the ultimate tool to grow sales, and always demand lower pricing. In their view Marketing’s role is to support their efforts. While that is partly true, Marketing is much more than an administrative role.

In terms of formal education Sales people are not usually required to have a post secondary degree. The skill that is mostly valued is relationship building, and the ability to close the deal.

I don’t believe in “Sales & Marketing” titles. I never accepted to report to Sales. Marketing should report to the CEO or President, not the Sales Manager. If you have a Sales and Marketing title, you are probably dedicating 90% of your time to one or the other.

The Solution

I understand the cost savings that result from combining the two functions. But there is one more cost effective solution to consider: outsourcing one function, most frequently Marketing. Management can allocate a monthly budget they feel comfortable with, settle on a number of Marketing initiatives and execute them rigorously.

Every business needs Marketing. The reason is simple, and can be summarize in one word: competition. Sales might provide short-term satisfaction, but Marketing provides long-term success.

Companies that chose the strategy of merging Marketing and Sales into a single position make a strategic error. Marketing and Sales are two separate functions, that require distinctive sets of skills rarely found in a single person.


  1. Michael says

    Dave and Geoff, thank you both for your comments.

    Dave, this has been my experience also: in every company I worked for, Sales and Finance were much more involved in the decision making process. I also found that, given the choice, companies would rather higher a new sales person rather than a Marketing expert.

    Geoff, Marketing is often seen as an expense, rather than the difference maker between success and failure as a business. Most of what we buy today is because of Marketing, and many business that offer excellent products are not seeing positive results because they fail to market them properly.

  2. Hi Michael,
    An excellent summation of the problem. I agree with your solution. Small companies should put a proportion of their budget aside to hire a qualified Marketing consultant. This need not be expensive. However, with many Small/Medium Enterprises (SME’s) they fail to plan never mind fail to have a reasonable marketing strategy, all for a number of reasons. Most of the time they are just struggling to stay afloat so they have little time to plan.

  3. Dave Demorotski says

    I believe Marketing has two functions. The first is to be primarily responsible for developing strategy and plans. The second is to provide the necessary materials to support the Sales force in the accomplishment of those plans. As part of the first, it is Marketing who directs Sales to the targets that will achieve the defined goals and accomplish the plan. If you think of Marketing as the commanding general, then I believe you can have a single individual over Marketing and Sales. Unfortunately, in every company I have worked, Sales was always over and/or higher than Marketing on the organization chart.

  4. Hi, its pleasant post concerning media print,
    we all be familiar with media is a great source of data.

  5. Hi Aamir,

    Thank you for your comment. Job titles and responsibilities vary greatly in both sales and marketing, depending on the industry, company size and distribution channel. Please use the examples below as guidelines only:

    Marketing: Marketing assistant, Marketing coordinator, junior brand manager, brand manager, marketing manager, VP of Marketing
    Sales: salesperson (sales representative), territory manager, country manager, VP of sales.

    I hope this helps.

  6. Really an worthy information

    What are the different job titles hierarchy for sales as well as marketing ??
    From basics to top level


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    The Difference Between Sales And Marketing: Can The Two Be Effectively Performed By A Single Person? • Strategic Marketing Ideas from BrandUNIQ

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