One of the most frequently asked questions by SCORE clients is the difference between marketing and sales.

Since many companies have a vice president of sales and marketing, this confusion is not surprising. When we teach our business planning workshop, we make these distinctions:

• Marketing is characterized by analysis of potential customers, developing action plans to reach them and preparing them to buy. It includes identification of target market segments including their profiles, buying preferences and buying criteria.

It involves a systematic study of the buying decision-makers, their hot buttons, their ability to pay and any other dynamics of their purchasing behavior. From this analysis, plans for advertising, publicity, pricing and product distribution are developed.

• A sale is the conversion of all the prep work into a transaction. Leads that are generated by the marketing programs are contacted, qualified and turned into orders. The marketing work has prepared the customer to make a purchase. Sometimes the sale happens immediately, but usually there are transactional factors that delay the sale.

These could be nuances in the product features, availability and delivery issues, price or payment issues. The sales function is responsible for identifying these hurdles and overcoming them. Successful sales people know that the best way to reveal customers' objections is to use a "trial close."

Instead of talking around all the issues, ask for the order. The customer will either say yes or explain why they cannot place the order. This gives the sales person the opportunity to modify the proposal so it is acceptable to the customer.

Marketing and sales each require different skill sets.

Marketers tend to be analytical and quantitative. Sales people are extroverted, relentless and highly focused on closing sales.

Although it is unusual for one person to be proficient at both, a small-business owner must recognize that both functions must be addressed. Consider using consultants to fill the gaps.

Ralph Hershberger is president of SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment at several locations. For more information, go to, send email to or call 505-3636.