It is not uncommon in the business world for people to lump sales and marketing together. At my former employer, I was a manager in the sales and marketing department. The only thing was, there were only sales people in our department – no marketing personnel. I remember having a talk about this with our VP of Sales, to whom I reported. I also remember her response : “Sales, marketing – it’s all the same”. Indeed it is not.

The difference? The selling concept, instead of focusing on meeting consumer demand, tries to make consumer demand match the products it has produced. Whereas marketing encompasses research and promotional tactics to discover what products are wanted and to make potential customers aware of them.

Let’s say for example I am a successful sales person selling raincoats only to a particular category, say college students. I have a colleague Joe who has been able to identify the possibility of successfully selling raincoats to a completely different customer base, say senior citizens. He feels this could be accomplished by altering the colors and fit to suit seniors’ taste. What my colleague has done is identified a new market segment towards which I can cater to by using my sales skills. Joe will focus on techniques to create product awareness among senior citizens. I will find ways to get as many of the coats in to their hands as possible.

In short, marketing is standing atop a hill and seeing where all the customers are and identifying their current needs. Sales is going to the hill side and giving them what they want.

Beth Anne Whalen

Palo Alto Software Inc.

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