Sales and Marketing: Vital differences

Sales and Marketing: Vital differences

There are vital differences between sales and marketing. Sales are part of a fundamental concept of business dynamics, while marketing is a support technique. Understanding the difference is essential to maintain an appropriate competitive profile.

To understand the vital differences between sales and marketing, it is necessary to address concepts included in the science of Management. Therein lie the fundamental explanations.

The Administration, as a government science of organizations, supports “syncretism” as a method of epistemological nutrition.

It is not a general science that is based on independent knowledge of the things that constitute its object of work. It repeatedly resorts to the knowledge of other sciences to feed itself. For this reason, it is said that it has a syncretic character. Because it takes knowledge from different sources, adapts it, and uses it to achieve its purposes.

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The sciences that explain the structural nature of the Administration are, essentially, Law and Social Psychology. And the sciences that explain its functional nature are Economics and Political Science.

Administration draws on these four sciences. It draws from them to shape its state. However, its syncretic essence does not deprive her of resorting to other sciences that are of benefit to her work.

This lack of roots gives the Administration flexibility and adaptability that few sciences have. His sense of mission is an apology for the practical.

But as with many things in life, it is in its virtue that the Administration also finds its greatest weaknesses. Its flexibility, adaptability, and inherent pragmatism distance it from the essential security provided by concepts.

With increasing emphasis (as if generating a response to the growing dynamics of change), the Administration becomes a “technical trench”. To the point that “utilitarianism” replaces reflective analysis and ordered knowledge.

The culture of the “tip” and the “clip” characterizes many aspects of life in today’s societies, accustomed to “easy”, “immediate” and “light” concepts. This preys on the Administration quickly and forcefully.

The new generations of professionals in Administration come to the job market equipped with increasingly numerous and sophisticated techniques.

Today no professional can claim to be such if they do not know various techniques :

  • Strategic planning
  • Reengineering
  • branding
  • Downsizing
  • benchmarking
  • Total quality
  • Crisis Management Teams
  • “Command Panels”
  • Etc.

The manager’s “control cabin” looks more and more like those of those commercial airplanes from the 70s. Filled with innumerable and incomprehensible clocks and screens.

And in the shadow of this multiform variety of techniques the concepts lie exiguous and almost abandoned. Those who are the true foundation of science. The only ones who will be able to differentiate it from pure art.

Now, the most representative technique of this state of things, (the one that largely leads the progressive transition of the Administration to “utilitarianism”), is Marketing. Here begins the understanding of the vital differences between sales and marketing.

Marketing has become a “thousand-headed” technique.

Many minor techniques emerge from it, in it they take refuge and find sustenance. This powerful energy that exists behind marketing even distances it from the Administration itself. It is not surprising that many managers are convinced that their knowledge of marketing qualifies their own professional value.

Marketers themselves sometimes become the victims of this kind of cult in which they are involved. In a popular business culture (because it exists in the organizational world as well), the marketer is almost part of a “wonder world” rather than a collective of management professionals.

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The problem does not lie in the techniques, or in the marketing itself, in this case.

The techniques are necessary for organizational governance. The problem arises when they lack other foundations that are not strictly their own. When the techniques are unaware of the structures of which they are a part and become self-sufficient, they move from the practical to the “utilitarian”.

The techniques are only justified when they emerge as a functional necessity of the concepts. When they complement and make viable the gnoseological scope of those. Structured and comprehensive knowledge is found in concepts, not techniques.

Now, how can one determine which knowledge is found in concepts and which in techniques? How is the claim that marketing is a technique and not a management concept justified? How does this deduction lead to establishing the vital differences between sales and marketing?

To answer the question, a deductive process of the subordination that exists between some concepts and others is necessary. This is the way to reach the root: the pre-eminence and scope of one concept about another. For the major concept, the minor can be conceived as a technique.

This deductive process can be posed as follows:

1. The Administration is a government system whose work object is the Organization.

That is to say, the ordered and basic social structure of the human being.

People move between organizations. There are many types of them. From family to nation.

Man’s fundamental environment is a world of organizations. He develops in it from birth until he dies. In this sense, it is interesting to speculate on the scope of a hypothetical “ Organizational Ecology ”.

2. Organizations are different from each other in terms of the purpose they pursue.

But all of them need management. For this reason, the Administration is the subject and the Organization the object. The Administration is the function and the Organization is the structure.

Since this structural-functional relationship is not static, the motives that generate its dynamics must be determined.

All organizations are formed for a purpose. They all carry out some activity, one that must also generate profit for them. Organizations are not part of the nonsense.

3. The central purpose of any Organization is the Business that sustains and explains it.

The term Business comes from the Latin word “negotium” which etymologically means “any activity that generates utility, interest or profit for those who put it into practice”. This is the meaning of benefit that perfects the purpose of organizations.

The concept of Business is not alien to any type of Organization, since they all carry out some activity that generates “utility, interest or profit”. The Business is therefore a function, not a structure.

On the other hand, the Business concept explains a generic benefit. And with this, it also moves away from a frivolous and common interpretation, one that associates it only with economic, financial, or monetary criteria.

An Organization like the family is supported by a Business, in the same way as a company that sells cars. Because they both carry out activities that generate some kind of utility, interest, or profit.

4. Business in organizations is supported by a set of tasks that seek to achieve benefits.

It is assumed that they all aim to optimize the Business that supports them. But among the different activities that are put into practice, some achieve benefit, utility, or profit more directly and efficiently.

And no task in the Organization achieves this more expeditiously than production and sales tasks.

These are the two functions that perfect the Business.

5. Just as all organizations are supported by a Business, all of them produce and sell something.

Because only from these tasks is it possible to achieve the purposes. From the family, through the church, the commercial company, or the State, all organizations produce and sell something.

Now, at this point, there is a subtlety that is not without vitality.

Although all organizations produce and sell something, none produce something that they cannot sell later. For this reason, sales work takes precedence over production and thus generates a fundamental fact: the sales function perfects the Business.

6. Only the Organization that focuses on its Business, or what is the same, on its SALES activities, can reach appropriate levels of prosperity.

From this point, another variable enters to explain the organizational dynamics: the size, and the magnitude.

Although every Organization is formed from the functions of the Business, that is, from the production and sale of something, there comes a time when these demand other support tasks to optimize their performance.

And support functions include all those that typify an average Organization: accounting, financial, logistics, purchasing, research and development, human resources, etc.

In short, support functions are all those that are not part of the Business (that is, sales and production).

Many times, these support tasks are classified as bureaucratic functions, or belonging to the Bureaucracy. This is a methodological practice that seeks to differentiate them from the functions of the Business. Here the term Bureaucracy is used in its positive meaning, the one that links it to tasks that are carried out in the “bureau” (a French word that refers to a “desk”).

According to their magnitude, organizations are made up of Business and Bureaucracy. The latter is subordinated to the former. Bureaucracy by itself does not generate any benefit. Only Business functions (essentially sales) do.

Many of the problems that business organizations face stem from the simple mistake of not understanding the vital differences that exist between these concepts.

In many organizations, bureaucratic structures reach such a magnitude that they actually “suffocate” the Business.

7. When the production and sales functions are not homogeneous in an Organization, it is very difficult to define the Business.

If furniture, automobiles, and agricultural products are produced and sold in an Organization, it must be understood that there is more than one Business. And that therefore the Organization has a corporate structure. Then, it is very difficult to determine what the Business of the corporation as a whole is.

In these large organizations, the bureaucratic structure adopts such a magnitude that it conditions the management approach.

Management manages the Organization focused on the interests of the Bureaucracy and not on the interests of the Business. Because also many times it is worth asking what the Business is.

8. Given the existence of functions that justify the Business on the one hand and the Bureaucracy on the other, where does marketing fit in?

Regarding the vital differences between sales and marketing, no theoretician of the latter will easily accept positioning it as a synonym for sales.

The understanding of Marketing today goes beyond this consideration. Transits in the evaluation and proposal of various elements of commercial phenomenology: market, customers, trends, habits, inclinations, dispositions, customs, culture, etc.

Functionally, marketing has a greater scope of work than can be understood for sales. In many cases, it is even seen in the dilemma of limiting its own scope.

On this point, the comments of Jean Jacques Lambin are very interesting, in his book Strategic Marketing says that there are three popular meanings of marketing:

“Marketing, says one, is advertising, promotion and pressure selling, that is, a set of particularly aggressive sales media. Used to conquer existing markets”.

“Marketing, says another, is a set of analysis tools, forecasting methods and market research. Used in order to develop a prospective approach to needs and demand”.

“Marketing, says the last one, is the great corrupter. The architect of the consumer society. That is to say, of a market system in which individuals are objects of commercial exploitation by the seller”.

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Lastly, Lambin himself provides his interpretation:

“Marketing is the social process, oriented toward satisfying the needs and desires of individuals and organizations, through the voluntary and competitive creation and exchange of profit-generating products and services.”

How Lambin sets out the interpretations even illustrates a kind of evolution of the meaning of marketing. At least in terms of popular understanding (and there is no reason to think that this is not shared in the professional perspective).

From first being conceived as a “set of aggressive sales media”, it concludes by being understood as “a social process”.

What is clear is that marketing is not conceived as a substitute term for sales.

What on the other hand is logical? Well, there would be no more absurd effort than the one invested in just finding substitute words or concepts.

9. Marketing is NOT a function of the Business. This is the essence of the vital differences between sales and marketing.

If it is agreed that marketing is not the same as sales, concerning the analysis methodology, it will have to be discarded as a function of the Business, and it must be included among the functions of the Bureaucracy.

From the point of view of structural analysis (the Organization as such and the Business that supports it), marketing receives a first vital qualifier: it is a support function. And as such it is subordinated to sales.

This subordination should make it clear that marketing does not drive sales. Since support can never be understood as direction.

And with marketing the same is fulfilled as with any of the other functions of the Bureaucracy. If the Organization directs its management approaches based on the interests of the Bureaucracy, it significantly weakens those of the Business.

The Business demands that the management focus start on sales, and not reach them.

To understand why the interpretation of marketing comes to be positioned as a governing element of sales, the process of analysis of the second dimension of the organizational phenomenon begins with the functional aspect.

10. In structural terms, the Organization is made up of the Business and the Bureaucracy. In functional terms, its government is in charge of Strategy and Administration.

The confusion that exists in the functional analysis of the phenomenon explains the kind of “gnoseological usurpation” that marketing commits when attributing the direction of sales.

Both Management and Strategy are concepts of governance. However, in terms of their specific work objects, they differ substantially.

Although the conceptual subordination criteria between the two are not very clear, the difference in their functional scope can be perfectly understood.

Strategy as a concept of government historically precedes the concept of Scientific Management.

The man knows and practiced Strategy long before Administration in its current formats. Etymologically, Strategy comes from the Greek word “strategos”, which means General. The latter was responsible for commanding operations in military organizations.

The “strategos” exercised, of course, government functions, but he did so within a specific framework of facts and circumstances. Military operations differ from others because confrontational factors prevail in them: disputes, combats, and rivalries.

And these aspects have a common denominator: conflict.

The Strategy is the government function of STRATEGOS aimed at resolving a conflict in favor of its own interests.

It is true that also in the case of the Strategy, the Administration and its syncretism have distorted the good understanding. Today it is almost impossible to find a consensus among thinkers regarding the fundamental meaning of Strategy.

For the Administration, the Strategy is close to being “a type of plan” for the long term. An orientation system to establish positions, patterns, and perspectives of organizational behavior.

However, the Strategy has never ceased to be the function of the STRATEGOS to settle the conflict. And as long as good judgment prevails, it must be understood that conflict resolution does not begin and end with a plan because it is fundamentally an action. And neither does it project its resolution in the long term, because the conflict takes place here and now.

The Strategy is an element of government that is based on action and in the short term.

And this statement does not obey any bold interpretation, it refers to the understanding of conflict. This is not resolved only with long-term plans, but rather with immediate action.

In “non-military” organizations, there is also the type of conflict to which the Strategy is essentially directed. This is evident in the case of business organizations. In them, the conflict has a transparent nature and a real dimension: competition.

The existence of competition determines the presence of conflict.

Any Business Organization that acknowledges the existence of a competitor must also acknowledge the existence of the conflict.

In the pursuit of perfecting one’s own interests, competition affects the interests of others. So clear! It causes damage, generates damage, and prevents the maximization of results. It forces the establishment of additional costs and expenses and demands a permanent state of readiness.

The Organization itself does not seek any of these things. It is forced to do so to avoid or mitigate the damage that the competitor may cause it.

However, it is not the Organization as such, at least in its integral understanding, which is subjected to competition and conflict. This is reserved for the Business.

It is the Business that supports the Organization that is faced with the onslaught of the competitor.

There is no competition between bureaucracies or organizations. There is competition between businesses. As soon as the Business is exposed to competition, it can be said that the Organization is also exposed to it.

And the variable that explains the competitive dynamics between businesses has a name: SALES, not marketing. Thus emerges another of the vital differences.

Ultimately, it is the sales that are disputed by competitors and that explain the existence of the conflict.

The most evolved and effective government system known to man to deal with conflict is Strategy. For this reason, it must be understood that the Strategy is responsible for directing the interests of the Business and for its effect, the interests of sales.

11. It is not marketing that directs the interests of sales, not even the Administration, it is only the Strategy.

The exercise of the Strategy is based on the guidance provided by the Strategic Principles. These are the ones that distinguish the Strategy and differentiate it from any other system of government.

The Strategic Principles are a wise summary of the experiences of thousands of STRATEGOS in their interaction with thousands of conflicts throughout history.

Strategic Principles such as concentration, strengths against weaknesses, turning time into an ally, everyone should benefit from victories, care of the general-sovereign relationship, momentum and timing coordination, seizing the initiative, planning for surprise, applying Stratagems, deceive to the competitor, obtaining the mental advantage, etc., constitute solid and prudent knowledge to guide the action.

The Strategy works in the Organization from “outside to inside”. Because the fundamental conflict (competition) develops in the organizational environment. This fact will help later to understand the vital differences between sales and marketing.

On the other hand, the Administration, as an ordered set of government knowledge, develops better in the management of organizational interests from the “inside out”. That is why the Administration is more efficient in the management of the Bureaucracy.

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But given the environmental conditions of the Organization, and given that the Business must condition the Bureaucracy, it is admissible to suppose that then the Strategy conditions the Administration.

In any case, the epistemological debate on this aspect has many edges. And their treatment is not one of convenience in what is touched on here.

It is clear, however, that the Strategy governs the interests of the Business. Especially from sales.

And with this, it assumes full rights over the title of Sales Strategy.

All plans and work programs, forecasts and actions, mental focus, management priority, and the general logic of operation of the Organization, must be subject to the interests of the Sales Strategy. She must include everything in a holistic approach.

Here it is pertinent to make another clarification: conceptually there is nothing that can be useful when assuming that there are “other types” of strategies: Marketing Strategies, Financial Strategies, Human Resources Strategies, etc.

In business science (and practically in most organizations), the term Strategy is preserved in its pure, clean, and virgin state for sales.

Nor is there any benefit in using the concept of Strategy as a qualifying adjective for other functions.

The richness of the Strategy is not even partially manifested when “conceptual constructions” such as strategic marketing, strategic planning, strategic administration, etc. are referred to it.

In all these cases the Strategy acquires an almost cosmetic character. Something that neither she needs nor the functions that she “supposedly is called to enrich”. This is another way to appreciate the vital differences between sales and marketing.

The marketing, the plan, the administration, etc., are one thing, and the Strategy another. Neither they nor this one, require “crutches”.

However, as the Administration finds a “comfort zone” in the management of the interests of the Bureaucracy, many times it also emphasizes the importance of the functions that compose it. Even when this represents little benefit to the Business.

When the concept of Strategy is not firm or is not established in management practices, the Administration governs the interests of the Business from the Bureaucracy.

And the most useful and appropriate mechanism that he finds is marketing. From him the Administration reaches sales. In these cases, marketing adopts a leading role and not one as a support task.

When the process is repeated systematically, marketing ends up displacing the simple sense that sales have to improve the Business.

Then there can be long, endless journeys in which some fantastic marketing alchemy is developed and not sold. Then marketing is dragged into more complexity to be effective and increases its distance from the sales process.

In this way, a state is reached in which marketing becomes the object of study and attention in itself. Efforts are directed toward him and not from him toward a higher end.

12.- There is an increasing number of organizations that develop sophisticated marketing programs and yet do not sell in the proportion required by the Business.

More and more marketers are working away from sales and are ineffective. This is what a lack of understanding of the vital differences between sales and marketing leads to. Great marketing managers are unaware of basic conflict concepts and work in the style of the Bureaucracy. Long and pleasant days around the “bureau”. Waiting for “that” brilliant idea, that visit from the muse that qualifies art.

Marketing repeatedly professes that misconception of the cult of “inspiration.” An idea that frequently compares its executives with rock music artists; both in rebellion and in the firm desire to make “almost mystical knowledge” prevail.

Under the logic of the Administration, the existence of marketing is so decisive that its performance defines the being of the other functions.

There are more and more financial managers in organizations who value these marketing disquisitions little. And many sales managers perfectly understand the need and ways to sell, and yet do not understand why great marketing executives do not succeed or do not.

Napoleon (that great STRATEGOS) did well when he said, two hundred years ago, that “war is only learned by going towards the shots.” And in the business world that only happens in the sales trench.

13.- Marketing is not capable of becoming a uniting function either. This is one of the vital differences between sales and marketing.

Marketing is not a function that achieves the commitment and orderly action of the rest of the organizational tasks toward common purposes. This is, of course, the typical case of techniques. They are meant to complement and cannot be effective as constituting the whole.

In this inappropriate and dysfunctional work scheme, the Administration continues to resort to its syncretism to constantly feed a marketing approach that is not perfected.

Marketing continues to evolve. But in a good part of the cases, it continues moving away from its foundation. Of its mission of support and the effectiveness that is guaranteed in it.

However, the most dangerous aspect of this reality is that the misunderstood pre-eminence of marketing significantly affects the Strategy.

As the marketing momentum grows, attention to Strategy wanes.

While attention is focused on marketing, that which is essential to give to the Strategy declines. And while marketing is done, Strategy is often not done.

Marketing must be included in the Strategy. But in the desire to incorporate the Strategy among the marketing interests, the solidity of the Business is irremediably eroded. And on this point, there is no doubt: everything that affects the Business puts the very existence of the Organization at risk.

The responsibility for this state of affairs is not marketing, it is the Administration. This must make a turn, sooner rather than later, toward the origin and power of certain concepts. You must stop or postpone the syncretic exercise a bit or at least guide it toward the knowledge that best supports the development of the concepts.

There is a lot that the Administration must do still in understanding phenomenology and organizational dynamics. Much to optimize their approaches and government policies of the Bureaucracy. And above all to effectively commit to the interests of the Business.

On this path, syncretism will continue to be of great support. But something more distant from the dangerous point borders on “utilitarianism” and gnoseological comfort.

Marketing is an invaluable set of TECHNIQUES that greatly helps the effectiveness of the Strategy. This is the bottom line of the vital differences between sales and marketing!

Without well-supported knowledge of marketing and the application of its techniques, the Organization suffers from a severe competitive disadvantage.

In supporting sales lies the strength of marketing. In its proper inclusion in the Strategy, its value.

Today there is a lot of “marketing” behind the marketing itself, and this is not necessary. This is one of the reasons that cloud the understanding of the vital differences between sales and marketing.

The great responsibility for the health of organizations rests on the Strategy in this era of great “externalities”. The nature of the conflict will evolve in terms of complexity.

The dynamic tension that characterizes the relationship of the Organization with its environment, transits the rupture of the balance. The environment is getting bigger and more powerful. The Organization needs to resort to every ounce of effort that its structure can provide.

And the most intelligent mechanism that man has created to achieve this is not marketing, it is Strategy.


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