Sales & Marketing

Business development (which includes sales and marketing) encompasses all functional areas of a business that are committed to growing revenues, acquiring customers, and building partnerships. Working in marketing, you are trying to anticipate the customers' future needs and wants, which are often discovered through market research. In sales, you are trying to convince the customer that your product is the best way for them to meet their needs. Sales and marketing work closely together, and starting out in a business development or sales position is often an excellent (and in some industries mandatory) first step to a career in marketing.

Marketing encompasses a wide variety of activities. Some marketing functions are very close to sales, whereas others set overall strategy. What marketing and sales jobs have in common is the sense of ownership over the product or service, understanding customer needs and desires, and translating those needs into some kind of marketing communication, advertising campaign or sales effort.

Marketers use research data from their sales team to identify potential markets and determine customer demand. Marketing involves quantitative skills to develop pricing strategies to maximize a firm's profits, increase market share and satisfy customers. Marketing is also very creative, and requires the ability to extrapolate data and information in order to understand customers' behaviors and attitudes.

Brand management is the application of marketing techniques to a specific product, product line, or brand. The titles of brand manager and marketing manager are often interchangeable. Brand management, however, implies more complete supervision of a product or product line.

Sales/business development professionals deal with the market directly and personally. The sales person acts as a liaison between the marketing team and the client or customers. There are a variety of entry level sales positions ranging from trade sales (representing products to wholesalers or retailers), technical sales (typically for products that require technical knowledge such as medical devices and information technology) to new business development, which involves generating clients for a service company such as an advertising agency or consulting firm. Often, entry level jobs are "inside" sales, meaning that much of the work is done from an office, either by phone or web-based. "Outside" sales positions are often filled from the ranks of inside sales forces.

A wide range of educational backgrounds are suitable for entry into the fields of marketing and sales. Experience is frequently cited as the key to getting a job in these industries. The best way to gain experience is either through internships or extra-curricular activities that develop the skills necessary for success in these fields.

Depending on the type of work, both quantitative and qualitative backgrounds can provide a solid foundation for entry-level positions in sales and marketing. Typically, graduates who enter marketing and sales careers tend to be personable, persuasive, mature, creative, highly motivated, flexible and decisive. Many have strong leadership skills and the ability to work effectively as part of a team. Excellent oral and written communication is vital.

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Business development and sales involve most or many of the following activities: cultivating prospective buyers (or leads) in a market segment; conveying the features, advantages and benefits of a product or service to the lead; and closing the sale (or coming to agreement on pricing and services). A sales plan for one product might be very different from that of another product. Sales professionals are often required to track market data and report on sales through spreadsheets and presentations. Success in sales relies on perseverance, as well as an ability to cultivate and maintain relationships with a variety of people.

Inside Sales/Outside Sales

Many companies with large sales forces use a combination of inside sales staff to collaborate and support their outside sales team. Inside sales people are office-based, and typically work with customers on the phone or online. Outside sales representatives travel to customer sites to sell products, and sometimes help with on-site technical support. Many companies require entry level sales staff to start out in inside sales.

Advertising Sales

Develops, implements, and manages the company's advertising strategy, both from a business, sales and technical perspective. They spend time negotiating agreements with outside sales representatives. They manage the development of sales materials, including media kits.

Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical representatives, also known as drug reps, provide drug information and product samples to physicians. Pharmaceutical reps monitor prescribing patterns of physicians in a given geographic territory. In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has experienced a significant reduction in its sales force, due to a number of market factors including medical practices prohibiting drug reps access to their offices.

Retail Sales

Sales staff in retail stores help customers find what they are looking for and try to interest them in buying the merchandise. Salespersons with experience and seniority usually move to positions of greater responsibility and may be given their choice of departments in which to work. They often move to areas with potentially higher earnings and commissions. In larger stores salespersons may move into managerial positions, first becoming assistant managers.

Financial Services Sales

Financial advisors and financial consultants are contemporary titles for stockbrokers, brokers, account executives or registered representatives. Some financial advisors specialize in serving individual clients and others concentrate on business clients. Traditionally, the job has involved buying and selling securities (such as stocks and bonds) on behalf of clients. The change in titles in recent years reflects a shift to focus primarily on facilitating transactions. Financial advisors should be investment advisors and financial planners who take a holistic view of their clients' financial needs and goals.

Insurance Sales

Insurance agents, who may be referred to as insurance sales agents, help clients choose insurance policies that suit their needs. Clients include individuals and families as well as businesses. Captive agents work for an insurance company, and only sell that company's products. Independent insurance agents, or brokers, represent several companies. Types of insurance include property and casualty, life, health, disability, and long-term care insurance. Many insurance agents also sell mutual funds, variable annuities and other securities.

Employers with jobs in sales and business development

  • Product and service organizations

  • Manufacturers

  • Financial companies

  • Print and electronic media

  • Consulting Firms

  • Profit and Non-Profit organizations


Marketing includes advertising, brand management, market research, promotions, and public relations.


In advertising you will work with all aspects of marketing from strategy to concept to the execution of the strategy. You will find that most jobs on the business side of advertising include account management, account planners, and media buyers.

Types of positions:

  • Advertising Managers develop, implement, and manage the company's advertising strategy, both from a business, sales and technical perspective.

  • Account Executives maintain relationships and favorable contacts with current and potential advertising accounts. Account Coordinators are responsible for organizing advertising for print media. They coordinate scheduling and promotions to ensure client satisfaction and project completion. They also assist Account Executives in maintaining and nurturing client relationships.

  • Media Coordinators are responsible for coordinating the purchasing of print space in newspapers and magazines, and broadcast time on radio and television for the clients of the advertising agency. They analyze statistic models to determine the best media plan for the client. Media Buyers are responsible for purchasing media space or time, as well as developing the campaign and researching how it will be most effective for the client.

Brand Management

Brand management is the key function in the consumer products industry.

Types of positions:

  • Brand managers plan, develop, and direct the marketing efforts for a particular brand or product. Brand managers are often likened to small business owners because they assume responsibility for a brand or brand family. They are always focused on the big picture. It is their job to distill the brand's essence, map out their competitors in their brand's category, identify marketing opportunities, and be able to effectively communicate the unique benefits of that product or service.

  • Product managers plan, develop, and direct the marketing efforts for a particular brand or product.

Market Research

Market Research involves researching the intended target. That target can be companies or individuals. In order for a company to capture a market it must first be able to understand that market. Research involves the first process of understanding the consumer, what their needs are, what their purchasing habits are, and how they view themselves in relation to the rest of the world.

Types of positions:

  • Market Analysts collect and analyze data to evaluate existing and potential product and service markets. It is their responsibility to identify and monitor competitors and research market conditions or changes in the industry that may affect sales.

  • Market Research Directors directs and oversee an organization's marketing policies, objectives, and initiatives. It is their responsibility to review changes to the marketplace and industry and adjusts marketing plan accordingly.

  • Market Research Managers direct and coordinate activities concerned with market research and development of new concepts, ideas, basic data on, and applications for, organization's products, services, or ideologies. They spend time planning and formulating aspects of research and development proposals, such as objective or purpose of project, applications that can be utilized from findings, costs of project, and equipment and manpower requirements.

  • Market Research Supervisors supervise activities concerned with market research and collection and analysis of information used to help determine the demand for products or services. It is their responsibility to plan and formulate aspects of research and development proposals, such as objective or purpose of project, applications that can be utilized from findings, costs of project, and equipment and manpower requirements.

Public Relations

It is the responsibility of the Public Relations department to manage the communication with the media, consumers, employees, investors, and the general public. They are considered the spokespeople for the company. They will often write press releases to promote new products or to keep the investment community informed of business partnerships, financial results, or other company news.

Types of positions:

  • Account Coordinators or Public Relations Coordinators provide administrative and strategic support to account teams in agencies.

  • Account Executives/Assistant Account Executives are often the main contact for the clients. They present concepts, plans and budgets and manage client expectations.

  • Media Relations Liaisons are the primary contact for a company or organization with media.

  • The Director/Vice-President oversee teams within an agency, and they are also responsible for guiding the overall strategy of programs, and ensuring effective implementation of plans.

  • PR Consultants are the individuals that works with firms on specific public relations challenges and/or programs. Many PR Consultants are self-employed and have a specialty area of practice (either by industry or function).

Employers with jobs in marketing

  • Agencies and consulting firms

  • Large Corporations: Advertising department; brand/product management

  • Media: Magazine, newspaper, radio and television selling

  • Management consulting firms

  • Marketing research firms

  • Public Institutions


Are you sure this is the field for you? Feel free to explore before diving in! While there are no formal educational requirements for many sales and marketing positions, some people seek out advanced degrees such as a master's degree in marketing or an MBA to support their move into management positions. MBA programs typically take two years to complete when attended full-time; there are some programs that allow students to complete their degree in twelve or sixteen months. The amount of work experience expected of MBA applicants varies according to school. While many MBA programs look for at least three years of work experience, others accept students right out of college or those with little related work experience. Certificate programs can also give those working in the field an edge by providing further skill development and specialized training in specific fields.

  • : MBA degree programs and business graduate programs in marketing.
  • : Presents general information on MBA programs, as well as the application process and financing information.
  • Is an MBA right for you? (Princeton Review) : Everything you need to know about choosing the business school that's right for you: the admissions process, financing, what business school is really like. Also offers a sample on-line GMAT test.
  • Which MBA? : Top one hundred schools, complete rankings, surveys and concise information on MBA programs offered around the world.
  • : A comprehensive site for exploring MBA programs, GMAT entrance exam preparation, and other MBA resources.
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