Sales vs Marketing: understanding the difference

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand — that is no secret. Together, they are the lifeblood of any business. Many entrepreneurs compare sales and marketing, justifying the importance of one over the other, and the sales vs marketing debate is as old as the concept of entrepreneurship. 

The reality is that every successful conversion results from a well-aligned marketing and sales process. Without one, the other cannot function well. In this article, let us understand the differences between sales and marketing and see how both can be aligned using deep market research. 

What is Marketing? 

Marketing is the most discussed yet misunderstood word for a business owner. 

Some say that marketing is about being visible; others say that marketing is about ‘getting out there. But what is marketing, exactly? 

Well, in simple terms, marketing includes activities that increase your visibility, tell others about you, and attract more people to your products or services. 

Technically, marketing is the process of educating, influencing, and attracting potential customers towards what you are trying to sell. If we break down this simple definition, marketing involves seven differentiated elements: 

  • Competitive analysis
  • Target audience discovery & market research
  • Brand positioning and segmentation
  • Defining the brand & product offerings
  • Marketing strategy & planning
  • Marketing mediums and channels
  • Satisfaction & feedback discovery

Conventionally, marketing was defined by the 4 Ps — product, price, place, and promotion. But with the evolving business landscape, now processes and people are also crucial. 

Basically, see marketing as the sum of everything needed to bring attention to your business. This involves several pre-sale activities to move a potential buyer further towards making a purchase. 

Source: Skyword

Successful marketing requires a deep understanding of your competitive landscape, customers, and user expectations. Hence, it is not wrong to say that every marketing activity starts with market research. 

What is Sales? 

If you pay close attention to the funnel above, you will see the marketing cycle end at the sales. Well, technically, in an ideal world, a sales deal happens once the user is convinced to buy from you. 

But we are far from living in an ideal world. 

So, the sales process has several stages that define the sales function. Sales involve activities responsible for building a relationship with potential clients, explaining the proposition of a product, making them feel confident about the product, following up, and closing the sales. The sales process involves: 

  • Gathering and segmenting SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) from the marketing team. 
  • Scheduling sales calls or personalized demos.  
  • Follow-ups and lead nurturing. 
  • Recording conversion and closing the sales. 
Source: GetVoip

If you are in retail or eCommerce, the process might not look the same, but you get the gist. Right? 

Even after someone visits your store, you have to put in the effort to make them buy. For example, nurturing your leads, following up or personalizing follow-up campaigns like abandoned cart emails to close a sale. 

There is no question that if you need to close a sale, you need to be relatable, talk in the language of the potential customer, and say what they want to hear. Every reason to know your audience and have detailed customer personas is powered by deep market research. 

Sales vs Marketing Compared

The close relationship between marketing and sales is precisely the reason for the sales vs marketing debate. Let us look at how sales and marketing are different. 

ApproachOne-on-one personalized pitch, follow-ups, and answering apprehensions. Educating and attracting a large audience of potential customers through brand awareness initiatives
ProcessConvert potential customers into paying customers by aligning their needs with the product features. Analyzing the market, competitors, and audience pain points to create a compelling offer, attractive positioning, and campaigns. 
StrategyNurturing (pushing the proposition) Educating (creating a pull)
Priority Closing the sale and increasing revenues. Building a lead pipeline for the sales team to nurture and convert. 
GoalsIncreasing awareness and understanding about product proposition and the brand. Selling the product and building relationships.

Prima facia, they appear as two distinct functions. But honestly, they are too co-joined and should function together. No business can work without well-oiled marketing and sales machinery, where both are aligned with each other to improve the bottom line. 

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Every article you read about sales and marketing will indeed talk about alignment. This one is no different, as the primary goal of both functions is to take the business to the next level. 

So, they should be aligned regarding goals, processes, and activities. 

But a perennial joke is that sales and marketing never look eye to eye. 

Source: HackerNoon

But no matter the joke, marketing and sales need to go hand in hand more than ever. The reason — your customers are more informed, have multiple options, and use customer reviews and Google to look at your competitors. 

If your sales and marketing teams are not aligned, your sales team will not be able to close marketing leads, and your marketing and brand positioning will not be on point. Successful sales depend significantly on your marketing, and marketing needs real customer insights from your sales teams. 

So, both need to work closely to achieve a common goal — grow your business by bringing more prospects in and closing them into a sale. 

If you have read about the sales and marketing alignment before, you would have come across the idea of having a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between your sales and marketing teams. 

Aligning Sales & Marketing for Small Businesses

But when you are a solopreneur, small business or a startup with a small team, there is no structure to where marketing ends, and the sales process begins (Honestly, the big folks do not know that either — they’re just better at creating boundaries). 

sales and marketing - market research
Source: Encharge

Having an SLA contract to solve your sales and marketing alignment issues is not a relevant solution for a small business or early-stage startup. So, what do you do to ensure streamlined movement of leads or prospects right from when they discover you to buying something from you? 

Your best bet is to create a clear sales and marketing funnel flow powered by deep customer research. 


Here is what you can do to create clarity and align your sales and marketing teams: 

  • Creating a clear and documented sales and marketing plan powered by real insights, user pain points, and your business goals. 
  • Set clear goals and expectations for your sales and marketing functions. 
  • Validate your hypothesis about sales and marketing decisions using deep market research. 
  • Utilize the voice of the customer to improve your marketing and sales funnel continuously. 

Sales and Marketing Alignment Requires Real-time Market Research 

A successful business needs hard work, dedication, and commitment. But more than that, it needs a solid understanding of the market you are in. While marketing and sales are both critical, a strong alignment is required for real success. 

Building the whole marketing and sales processes on a solid foundation of real market research will help you improve your chances of success. 

So, instead of contemplating which one is more important, start feeding sales and marketing teams with real market insights. Your best bet is to set up a market research process, use the insights to build a sales and marketing plan, and start enjoying the benefits of sales and marketing alignment. 

If you are confused or scared of market research, you can automate the whole thing by utilizing customer reviews for market research using GapScout. So, start now!

Ready to Automate Your Market Research?
Get exclusive access to GapScout prior to release!

Share this:

Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol is an independent content marketing consultant who loves to write actionable pieces on small business growth, marketing automation, market research, and growth as a solopreneur. Reach out on Twitter.

The Best in Market Research

Market research tips & tools sent to your inbox.

By clicking Subscribe, you agree to our Terms and Conditions.

Get Early Access!

Sign up to get early beta access to GapScout before it becomes publicly available!

We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website.