What is sales or marketing

Marketing and Sales: Differences and Similarities

Classical teaching counts sales as one of the marketing tools. Sometimes it belongs to distribution, sometimes to communication in the context of personal sales. Regardless of the exact assignment, the different perspectives have one thing in common: As a subordinate area of ​​marketing, sales are reduced to an instrumental level. Does that make sense in practice?

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A different picture emerges in business practice

The terms “sales” and “sales” are top of the list in the organization charts of numerous companies. Measured in terms of employees and the budget used, the importance is far ahead of that of marketing. 84% of European business-to-business companies expect sales to become increasingly important in the future. How do marketing and sales belong together and why is it important that both functions work closely together?

Differences Between Marketing and Sales

Meanwhile, they are not only found in organizational charts. Rather, marketing and sales are shaped by different perspectives and different knowledge. Marketing is often described as product- and long-term oriented, while sales are considered to be customer- and short-term oriented business area. Marketing and sales are now closely interlinked thanks to automated lead management and therefore often have tasks that overlap, e.g. B. in the field of advertising or sales promotion. Despite the joint fulfillment of tasks, the relationship between marketing and sales is anything but harmonious.

Marketers say ....Salespeople say ....
  • Sales people ignore corporate branding and positioning and just do their own thing.
  • We generate leads and create sales support materials that sellers ignore.
  • We don't know what really works in sales or what is used.
  • We are inundated with AD-Hoc requests from sellers for support.
  • Salespeople are slow to learn about new products.
  • The “one size fits all” messages from marketing hardly help me to conclude contracts.
  • Marketing wouldn't even recognize a qualified lead if it was right in front of it.
  • We cannot find any sales support materials that we can use and if so, they are not suitable for the sales situation.

Table 1: Marketing and Sales Perspectives (Aberdeen Group)

The interfaces between marketing and sales

Interfaces are the result of a division of labor, that is, they arise as a result of an originally holistic process being broken down into subtasks. If one understands marketing as an overall task of the company, then sub-processes can be distinguished which are perceived either by the "marketing department" or the "sales units" of a company. The division of the processes to different task carriers can be carried out down to the smallest available unit, the individual employee in marketing, sales or customer service. The figure shows the tasks of marketing, sales and customer service as well as their classification at the various points in the overall process.

Some of the mind-set differences between marketing and sales people relate to the following issues

  1. Customer vs. product: Salespeople are usually responsible for customers in a particular sales area or industry segment. Mostly, salespeople demand a broad product portfolio in order to meet the wishes of their customers as well as possible. Marketing, on the other hand, especially brand and product managers, are responsible for a specific product or brand that they focus on. Both focuses are reflected in the respective compensation models for marketing and sales. While salespeople are measured against territorial and customer goals, marketers must meet goals related to specific products or brands.
  2. Ongoing daily work vs. sporadic projects: Sales staff are continuously involved in customer-related activities. Customer visits, presentations, processing questions and services determine everyday work. Marketers, on the other hand, usually work on a project basis, be it for the introduction of a new product, the development of a new advertising campaign or the preparation of the annual marketing plan.
  3. Central vs. decentralized view: Salespeople work, for example, in a region in a specific sales area. They know the local conditions and restrictions as well as the specifics of local customers and competitors. The sellers' decisions are based on these local conditions. Marketing departments, on the other hand, are to be found at central points in the company, as they carry out cross-customer and cross-regional planning.
  4. Personal relationship vs. analysis: Salespeople are to a large extent person-oriented, as their task is aimed at creating, strengthening and expanding relationships with customers. Salespeople develop strategies to sell individual solutions to customers. Marketing employees, on the other hand, mostly deal with customer groups and develop a rather abstract understanding of customers, which is often based on market research data. Many marketing employees have no direct customer contact.
  5. Results vs. process: Sellers get feedback on their results very quickly - either they sell or they don't. The measurement of results for marketing employees is much more difficult. Because the effectiveness of marketing strategies, advertising campaigns and promotions is difficult to determine and usually only occurs with a time lag.
  6. Field vs. office: Salespeople are immediately confronted with concerns, rejections and anger from customers on site. Marketing staff are not affected by this type of environment in their day-to-day work.
  7. Short term vs. long term: Through incentive systems in sales that are linked to the results, salespeople tend to orientate themselves more quickly than marketing employees. While sales employees often pursue monthly and quarterly goals, managers in marketing usually strive for competitive advantages and positioning goals that can only be achieved in the long term.

These differences make it difficult for employees in marketing and sales to understand and interpret the topics and viewpoints of the respective counterpart. Effective coordination and efficient cooperation between marketing and sales is thus made more difficult.

Integration of marketing and sales

Companies depend on a functioning collaboration between the various marketing and sales units. Various measures can be used to better integrate marketing and sales. The organization, the information systems and the corporate culture form concrete starting points.


  • Integrated goals: Often the goals in marketing and sales are set independently of each other and not coordinated. Marketing is based on strategic goals, mostly market share, positioning goals and product group goals. In some cases, however, marketing is only carried out via cost budgets. Short-term sales and contribution margin targets often apply in sales. The coordination of these goals according to content and amount is so important because the employees align their behavior with these goals.
  • Cross-functional teams: When developing processes and concepts for the marketing and sales area, the composition of the team can determine the subsequent success. Cross-functional teams, in which both marketing and sales employees work, help to overcome departmental hurdles. On the one hand, it can be ensured that important requirements in both areas are taken into account. On the other hand, the commitment can also be increased, because it is not uncommon for the “not invented here” syndrome to lead to a rejection of good ideas in sales as well.


  • Common information systems: Amazingly, marketing and sales today still often work with different information systems. The result is incomplete, outdated and poorly maintained information about customers and the competition. In some cases, relevant information such as the affiliation of a customer to segment and class or contact logs that contain all customer-related processes (written approach, telephone contacts, visits, complaints, etc.) cannot be viewed in full by both offices. This causes dissatisfaction with the customer as well as with the employee who realizes that he is only poorly informed.
  • Joint meetings: In most companies, the mostly organizational separation between marketing, field sales and internal sales results in a differentiated meeting culture. Meetings are held for individual groups of employees, and the situation is similar for events. This often leads to the fact that information only insufficiently penetrates the other groups and coordination suffers. Due to the different specialization of marketing, field service and internal service, there is certainly a high proportion of information per meeting that is not relevant for the other departments. It is therefore not advisable to hold all meetings together. At certain time intervals, however, this can have advantages for everyone involved. It can also be helpful to invite a single employee from the other areas to each meeting as a "Linking Pin" and to integrate them into the discussion.


  • Job rotation: In addition to the interlinking of the company's operational and strategic processes, differences between marketing and sales also play out in the minds of those involved. In order to develop an understanding of the challenges, restrictions and overall circumstances associated with the work situation of the other party, employees can be exchanged between the departments. With a job rotation system, employees learn to take the perspective of other areas more closely and to take them into account in their decisions. In the long term, the corporate culture can thus be sustainably improved with regard to cooperation.
  • Joint events: Joint events at which the employees get to know each other privately can also improve the working atmosphere and culture between the departments. Many companies therefore hold joint summer parties, Christmas parties or company outings in which only employees from marketing and sales take part.

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