Biz Tips: What is the difference between marketing and selling?

Biz Tips: What is the difference between marketing and selling?


What is the difference between marketing and selling?

Thinking and writing about this topic makes me think of a well-known personality very popular among management students. He is none other than Philip Kotler, the father of marketing. I remember referring to his marketing bibles throughout the course of two years. So this was just about the memories that swayed across my head after I came across this topic.

Until the late sixties, the concept of marketing was not evolved fully, and marketing was considered to be part of the selling process. As the awareness of the customers developed and their interaction with the sellers increased, the demand patterns became more complicated. With the age of information technology kicking in, exacerbated by fierce competition, the companies were compelled to use the aegis of marketing to their rescue.

From the late seventies, the marketing faction gained enough prominence to outgrow its shell. Now marketing seemed a much bigger, more lucrative and highly regarded concept in the books of C-suits. So much so that it overshadowed its mentor, selling. The question that continually does the rounds of business enthusiasts and scholars is how different these two are. I have decided to throw light on this question in the article below.

So what is marketing?

There are multiple definitions of marketing provided by different scholars and associations. And when I look and understand these definitions, I can quote marketing in five simple steps.

1. Introducing a product.

2. Fixing up a price for the product that is profitable.

3. Making the product known to customers by emphasizing its benefits.

4. Making the product available to customers.

5. Exchanging the product with customers for money.

What is selling?

After understanding about marketing, let us see what selling means. In simple words, I know selling as the process of exchanging a product with customers for money. So theoretically, this means that selling is a subset of marketing. It’s the last step involved in the entire process of marketing.

Marketing and selling go hand in hand

Marketing starts right from the time when there is a need for an offering. It encompasses all that is required to result in an intent to purchase. This includes positioning a product, brand creation, awareness, buzz generation and to ensure customer loyalty to name a few. The end state is not just to generate demand for an offering but to convert this demand to profitable revenue. Speaking of this revenue, the primary activity undertaken to achieve it is selling.

The end state of selling is to convert this demand into revenue through the exchange of products or services. Hence selling is the logical conclusion of the value capture for an organization. This makes selling an integral part of the marketing process.

It’s true that in most of the organizations, marketing and sales divisions are kept separate. There are many reasons why the functioning is kept separate.

Operational effectiveness and excellence: Selling function is made to operate as an autonomous team because it’s the most crucial and final revenue generation process of marketing.

An autonomous team is a workgroup within an organization that has been authorized to formulate its own internal goals and work practices. There are many benefits of an autonomous team for an organization.

  • It is cost effective.
  • It increases strategy execution pace.
  • It makes communication effective.
  • It increases employee engagement, which in turn improves productivity and quality.
  • It makes the customer based decisions quick. This, in turn, improves customer value.

Skills required: Even though selling is a part of marketing, the skill sets are different for selling as compared to other functions of marketing.

Below are mentioned the skills required for selling:

  • Ability to communicate effectively.
  • Sound knowledge about the offering that has to be sold to the customer.
  • Ability to educate customers with new ideas and guide them towards a new perspective.
  • Ability to demonstrate potential return on investment to the customers.
  • Ability to listen well.
  • Fluency in multiple languages. This helps in establishing a connection with the customers.
  • Good networking and negotiation skills.
  • Ability to understand the customer’s needs.
  • Ability to handle and prevent objections from the customer.
  • Ability to present or demonstrate the offering to the customer.

Below are mentioned a few of the skills required for other divisions of marketing:

  • An excellent communication (verbal, written and creative) is a must.
  • Public speaking is another requirement.
  • Analytical thinking also plays a significant role.
  • Ability to manage stress.
  • Good negotiation skills.
  • Ability to learn and get adjusted to new technology.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Creativity plays a vital role as well.
  • Ability to think critically.
  • Ability to plan and manage events.
  • Ability to do financial planning and forecasting.

Notwithstanding this different segment, the underlying pull that binds these functions together is demand, and hence there is no way they can function exclusively.

While we speak of demand as a binding force between marketing and selling, it is this demand that also determines the dynamics between these two segments. It dictates the size of roles that each play and their interdependence.

In scenarios where the demand is varying or is fragmented due to competition or commodity nature of the offering, marketing plays a bigger role in keeping the demand pipeline intact. Despite these dynamics, the premise that marketing super sets selling stands well.


So selling is part of a more prominent family called marketing. Just that in most of the organizations, the operations are maintained separately because of obvious reasons with the ultimate goal of organizational excellence, effectiveness and ultimately profit.

Neither marketing nor selling can work in seclusion as together they are the same family that plays an essential role in generating revenue for the organization. This means that the fundamental purpose of marketing is also selling.

Each member of the marketing family is highly dependent on each other. They have to continuously liaison, collaborate, integrate and align to maximize the earnings of the organization.

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What is the difference between marketing and selling? was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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