The phrase “sales and marketing” implies that the sales function comes first, when sales -- like advertising, public relations and promotions -- supports marketing. A marketing plan is your macro, “big-picture” strategic plan, while a sales plan is a more targeted tactical document. Think of marketing as what you want to achieve and sales as how you’ll reach those goals. Planning your sales without having a strong marketing plan first can lead to short-term gains but long-term problems.


Marketing is a strategic function that helps you determine exactly what you’ll sell and to which customers. Instead of looking at your product or service as a car, dress, restaurant or graphic design, think of the benefits you offer. Car companies often advertise the safety, affordability or status of their vehicles. Fast-food restaurants offer convenience, while family eateries offer value and affordability. Common components of a marketing plan include determining a target audience, analyzing the competition, creating the product to meet customer needs, creating a brand or image, pricing the product or service accordingly, selling in the right locations and communicating with advertising, public relations and promotions.


Sales planning starts after you know exactly who your customers are, what benefits they want, the message you need to send and where you need to sell. This helps guide the sales department in creating sales methods and materials. For example, depending on your customer, you will create sales channels that might include retail outlets, online options, direct mail or direct sales from TV or radio advertising. Once you know these things, you can create sales territories, goals and materials.

Product vs. Sales Oriented

Small businesses with weak marketing planning often focus on a sales-oriented approach to revenues, offering discounts, relying on advertising and trying to push customers into buying. Using a product-oriented approach, you can create a product or service that pulls customers in because they are looking for what you sell. A product-oriented approach focuses on satisfying existing needs in the marketplace with product development, while a sales-oriented approach focuses on trying to create a demand with discounts or image advertising.

Strategies vs. Tactics

When you write your marketing plan, set specific strategies, such as achieving a certain profit margin or reaching a specific target audience. A sales plan will use tactics to effect these strategies. For example, if your marketing strategy is to enter the marketplace with a lower price, you will need high-volume sales because you have lower profits per unit. This will guide your sales department as it determines where and how to sell. Depending on the size of your company, the sales department should always get approval from marketing before it completes and starts using a sales plan to make sure it achieves the marketing strategies of the company.