Ask SCORE: What’s the difference between marketing, sales?

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It’s common to hear “marketing” and “sales” used interchangeably.

In reality, they each have distinct characteristics. Startup entrepreneurs need to know the difference, so they can approach each with purpose while embracing how they need to work symbiotically to achieve success.

To put it simply, marketing encompasses everything you do to reach and engage prospects.

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Marketing is typically a media-driven function. It involves the use of print, online, and word-of-mouth communications to drive brand, product, and service awareness.

Marketing-related activities may include:

• Conducting market research to determine needs within your target market.

• Setting standard pricing for products and services.

• Raising awareness of your company and its products and services within your target markets using various media and platforms.

• Creating collateral and communications to support your salespeople in their efforts.

Sales encompasses everything you do to seal the deal with the customer.

Sales is typically a people-driven function. It involves human-to-human connections to build and nurture relationships.

Sales-related activities may include:

• One-on-one, face-to-face interaction with prospects and customers.

• Careful evaluation of specific customers’ needs.

• Solutions-selling to meet specific customers’ needs.

• Proposing special pricing when situations require straying from standard pricing.

• Asking for the sale and getting a contract signed.

• Follow up phone calls and email messages to keep the lines of communication open.

Realize that, while marketing and sales have distinct characteristics, the lines between them have become blurred to a large degree with the advent of social media. In the past, sales professionals were primarily accountable for establishing and maintaining relationships with prospects and customers.

But now, that responsibility also falls on the shoulders of marketers using channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and others.

Whether you are personally responsible for your small business’s marketing and sales or if you have employees performing the functions, you need a strategy to ensure your efforts are aligned. If you need guidance in how to make your marketing and sales activities complement each other so you can build and grow your company, contact your local chapter of SCORE.

With expertise in every aspect of starting and operating small businesses, SCORE mentors are a wonderful resource to help you succeed.

If you would like help with this process, or other aspects of your established or start-up business, the volunteers at SCORE are available to help.  SCORE is a nationwide network of over 13,000 experienced volunteer executives offering free assistance to small businesses looking for mentoring, counseling, tools and workshops.  You can read about SCORE at  The Polk County Branch of SCORE can be reached at 828-351-9003 or via email at

Western North Carolina SCORE, Polk Branch