What’s the difference between “sales” and “marketing” and why should you care?

Learning how to sell was becoming an increasingly attractive option.

There are a number of definitions for the words “sales” and “marketing” but what follows are the ones I prefer to use. Many would shrug their shoulders and say “who cares” but I think they would be wrong. Have a read and see what you think.

Why is it important to know the difference?

Put simply if you are relying on the wrong approach to help you secure new clients or win business then you will be working harder and spending more but achieving less. In today’s business world that is a luxury few can afford.


So here are a few key points about marketing: –

  • it’s made up of 1:many activities such as mail-shots; advertising; mass events; PR and broadcasting
  • only practical when what you’re selling doesn’t cost very much
  • is pointless unless your offering is different enough to pass the “so what” test.
  • “here is what I am offering  – come and get it if you need it” approach
  • typically you do not know who your actual client is going to be
  • can help to build and sustain a brand
  • is usually expensive and you cannot easily measure a return on your investment
  • can be habitual – do the same thing over and over even though you aren’t sure if it works.
  • When challenged a common defence is “we need a presence” – I don’t buy this and neither should you!


And the same for sales: –

  • it is a 1:1 activity such as taking somebody for lunch; calling them to invite them to an event or asking for the business
  • most effective where the average business deal is larger – the bigger the deal the more you should be selling not marketing
  • “let me understand what you need and then propose a way forward” approach
  • you know the actual name and contact details of your target – or can easily find them out
  • is not about establishing a brand – it’s about individual rapport, trust and understanding
  • Is very cheap (unless you “lunch” at the Ivy) and you can easily measure the return on your investment
  • should never be habitual – you should be “going where the money is” right now or is going to be in the near future.
  • In most cases you don’t need a presence or a brand – it’s all about finding a way to get to your target, understand their needs and propose an attractive way forward.

What next?

Don’t get me wrong traditional marketing does have its place. It’s very useful as a “poke” or reminder to your external stakeholders that you still exist and you still love them but as a means of winning new business I’m not so sure.

Marketing activities tend to be expensive in time and money and since you can’t really measure their effectiveness I can’t see that it’s sensible to keep pouring money into it especially in these difficult times.

If you’re product or service costs more than a few thousand pounds or has a high probability of a repeat sale then I would suggest sales over marketing. You will spend less, have a clearer idea of which activity provides the best results and achieve more revenue in less time. True, it’s harder (which is why most people don’t bother and rely on the marketers instead) but that isn’t a valid excuse to avoid doing it.

So here’s my advice if you want to sell more and market less: –

  1. Get a CRM system and add all your clients and prospects to it
  2. Learn how to sell
  3. Know what your ideal client looks like
  4. Go where the money is – put your time and money where you are most likely to make a sale!

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Business Development, New Business, Sales, Uncategorized

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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