Sales orientation and product orientation are often confused with each other. Sales orientation focuses on promoting sales of a company's product or service through various methods, such as cold sales calling, discount promotions and special marketing tactics designed to make quick sales. In contrast, product orientation focuses on producing a product that responds to shifts in consumer demands, such as for grooming products without phthalates, or to improvements in the product, such as improvements through technological advances as seen with Windows 10.
The greatest strength of a sales orientation philosophy is the accumulation of immediate short-term sales and customers who are presented the "best deal," as is familiar when buying an automobile. In contrast, some strengths of the very different product orientation philosophy are innovation and development of product improvements.
Influence is important in sales orientation. A company may promote a product in order to create a demand for it. A convenient example is the auto industry where annual sales are regular part of the sales orientation in that industry.
In contrast, innovation in product orientation describes the introduction of a new product to the marketplace, such as a holographic computer or new food product. Product orientation allows creativity to flow from designers and inventors. Testing follows innovation in product orientation and includes introducing an innovated product to determine if the public will demand it.
One significant weakness with sales orientation is that this philosophy risks customer confidence and loyalty because often the focus is on influencing or pressuring consumers into buying what they don't want. An example of this is readily seen in the stocks and bonds industry where potential investors receive high-pressure calls from brokers.
Other weaknesses in sales orientation are cost and "backlash" reaction. Sales costs are high to produce different campaigns in different media. Backlash refers to loss of repeat or new customers due to mistakes in promotion approaches or resistance to the product.
Market orientation also contrasts with sales orientation. Market orientation focuses on identifying and meeting the wants and needs of consumers. These wants and needs may be "hidden" or "stated" needs, so identifying them can be as important as meeting them. Market orientation philosophy is the most common orientation philosophy in business. Market orientation has strength because the manufacturer is focused on knowing and meeting the expectations of the consumer.
The biggest strength in market orientation is that the consumer is the motivating focus of this philosophical business orientation. Another strength is that, since branding (brand planning and marketing) is a significant element in market orientation, the company develops customer recognition, confidence, trust and loyalty.
The most significant weakness of market orientation is that it requires extensive researching, planning and implementation, thus, a large budget and a large force of qualified employees. This makes the totality of the market orientation a bit more difficult for small businesses to develop.