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Understanding the Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing. Two of the biggest names in the company. They share a lot of traits, responsibilities, and personnel, but they are not the same at all. 

This isn’t to say people get confused between a marketer and a sales agent. What does get confusing is where marketing ends and sales start. In practice, it can be hard to differentiate. Those differences can be made a little clear on paper (or in this article).
Let’s dive in!

Sales vs. marketing process

Marketing is about getting your audience familiar with your brand and what it sells. This can be done with a new customer or a returning one. It’s the job of the marketer to explain and market the product or service clearly, highlighting the issues it solves and the price points that go along with it. Through this process, the marketing team can help determine who is and who isn’t interested in conversion. As time goes on, this process becomes more and more refined.

Sales, on the other hand, has a slightly different process. Sales teams are most concerned with converting leads with a higher level of awareness about the product or service. This is done by interacting with customers on a more personal level, answering questions, providing resources, and assisting with relevant information. Often, sales can be broken down into seven steps:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Preparation
  3. Approach
  4. Presentation
  5. Handling objections
  6. Closing and following up
  7. Repeat sales and referrals
Image source

Processes for sales and marketing are relatively straightforward. Sure, you could make it complicated, and there an undoubtedly some complex ones out there, but these are the core fundamentals. 

Sales vs. marketing frameworks

A framework is a conceptual structure intended to serve as a support and guide your departments in building your processes within your business.

Within each respective department, there exists a few different frameworks. 

Let’s start with some of the most commonly adopted marketing frameworks. Marketing focuses on the awareness of a product before the lead can be handed off to sales. 

  • The 7 Ps of Marketing
  • SWOT and TOWS Analysis
  • Porter’s Five Forces
  • STP Marketing Model
  • Ansoff Matrix
  • AIDA
  • Growth-Share Matrix
  • Product Life Cycle
  • McKinsey 7-S Model

Sales frameworks are, of course, quite different from marketing ones. There are potentially countless sales techniques and approaches out there. Some sales frameworks are more popular than others, and some even use a mix of a few.

Here are the 10 most popular sales frameworks that people tend to stick to in no particular order:

  • Value Selling
  • SNAP Selling
  • NEAT Selling
  • Consultative Selling
  • Customer-centric Selling
  • Target Account Selling
  • Inbound Selling
  • Conceptual Selling
  • Command of the sale

Each one of these sales frameworks is unique. They all value specific aspects of a sale and focus on selling based on that criteria. I highly recommend doing your research before adopting any framework. 

Аs time goes on, more could be added to this list. However, these are the go-to for many sales and marketing teams. They work well and have stood the test of time. 

Sales and marketing buyer personas and ideal customer profiles

Both sales and marketing should have the ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and buyer personas locked in before executing any marketing or sales-related initiatives. 

The ICP is the perfect customer for your business. They have all the qualities and characteristics that would make them a perfect fit for what your product or service solves.

On the other hand, buyer personas are specific imaginary people profiles within your ideal customer profile. They help companies better understand who they’re marketing and selling to.

For instance, your ICP could be real estate companies in the US with a business size of more than 1 million per year. The buyer personas within that ICP could be the CEO of the company, the agents, and the accountants. 

By creating detailed customer personas based on actual sales and marketing data, you can align each department on the same objective — serving each persona and converting more leads to customers. This will help marketers create ads and content catered to them and help sales understand how they need to sell it to them. 

Of course, it can get a lot more complicated than that. Many companies that are after specific customers might have buyer personas with dozens of tiny details. They do this to make the sales and marketing process easier for them.

Sales vs. marketing goals

The old way of sales and marketing having completely different goals is outdated. Most people believe that sales are focused on revenue alone, and marketing is focused on leads and traffic. While this core value is still there, it’s not quite how it works anymore.

In reality, marketing should be in charge of revenue and not just vanity metrics. This brings sales and marketing together, aligning them across the board, including goals. This also includes creating frameworks that work for both.

The idea in all of this is that they should be aligned with the same goal — growing revenue. If marketing focuses on simply pulling traffic, they aren’t concerned with true conversion. 

What’s that old saying? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can make click-bait titles, visually stunning and insightful pieces of content, and high-budget ads, but if the lead doesn’t convert, then it’s all for nothing. Deliverables and marketing activities still need to be tracked, but the goals need to be aligned through and through.

Read more: The 3 Types of Sales and Marketing Analytics that Will Help You Grow

Sales vs. marketing strategies

Marketing tends to base strategies on information, gathering it and using it to target audiences and leads, eventually finding out what works and what doesn’t. This information is then used to target relevant audiences with tailored campaigns. This cycle is repeated over and over pretty much indefinitely. 

Sales pick up once the target lead is aware of the solution you’re providing, and it’s their job to connect with potential customers. They do this by talking to them and listening to them. They have to understand their worries, concerns, and desires to sell them the right solution and improve the company for the future.

Remember, both sales and marketing goals should align to grow revenue. If either sales or marketing simply does as their job description outlines and leaves it at that, nothing productive will ever come of their strategies. They have to work hand-in-hand, relying on each other and helping each other throughout the customer journey.

Sales vs. marketing tools

As we’ve seen, there are some areas where sales and marketing align and some where they differ significantly. This continues into the different tools that they might use.

To be fair, there are many tools out there designed for both sales and marketing. Big platforms and CRMs often have at least a few features that both departments will use.

The idea that I want to discuss here is a little different. Instead of listing different tools, we will list various categories of tools. This way, we can better understand the tools and features that each department might need, rather than generalize with entire, all-in-one tools. As usual, let’s start with sales tools.

Sales tools

Preferred sales tools depend on the company, what they’re selling, how many people they have on the sales team, and what volume of customers they deal with daily. That being said, there are a few categories of tools that most teams will find valuable:


CRMs are designed for sales. They provide sales reps with insight and information based on single contact profiles. This is valuable for sales. They can also be integrated with other marketing tools.

Scheduling tools 

Sales teams widely use scheduling tools to schedule events and meet with leads and clients. Keeping a tight schedule is exceedingly essential for a sales team.


This one is kind of straightforward. You can’t make a sale without sending an invoice, and invoicing tools have made it easier to create, send, and manage this process entirely. 

Of course, if you run a SaaS or another type of subscription, you probably don’t need to send manual invoices since all billing happens inside the platform.

Inventory and management

For a company that sells a physical product, the sales team needs access to an inventory management tool. Coming off of the last point, you can make a sale if you don’t have anything to sell. 

Marketing tools

Like the sales tools, marketing tools and team preferences will depend on many factors. However, they tend to follow a trend as far as categories go. Here’s a shortlist of the kind of tools that you can expect a marketing team to use:

Marketing automation tool

Marketing automation tools have paved the way for automation in business. Any process that can be automated, even if it is slight, has been automated, and the technology is only getting better. Email, content, advertising, and more. All of it can be automated to some extent.

Email marketing tools

Email marketing is probably one of the most powerful tools in any business’s tool belt. Everyone has an email, and it’s an easy way to connect and share information. Of course, marketing teams take advantage of this, even having their own micro-departments within the marketing team dedicated to this. It is an art, and email marketing tools will be your best friend.

SEO tools

Algorithms drive search engines. It’s not all random, but rather very detailed and somewhat complicated when your article ranks high. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of tuning your content to meet the criteria set in place by the search engine. There are many tools out there to help you properly optimize marketing content. In many situations, content would be impossible and pretty pointless without such tools.

Data reporting 

Without insight from data reporting tools,  marketing teams would never really know how to improve. It would kind of be just shooting in the dark. Tools like Google Analytics have given marketing teams the power to understand their audience better and create marketing materials that cater to specific audiences. It can be very complicated, but the data collected from such tools keep businesses afloat. 

Lead generation tools

Remember when we mentioned above that marketing teams help bring in leads? There are tools to make the process a little easier, too. Combining many of the tools we’ve mentioned, marketing teams and SEO experts create landing pages to help drive traffic towards a specific feature or solution that they provide. Lead generation tools also include lead form tools that allow you to embed a lead capturing form right into your website.


CMSs (Content Management Systems) like WordPress and Contentful allow marketing teams to create and manage the content they put out there to attract leads. Blog articles and other media can all be edited, controlled, and managed within these platforms, making them essential for businesses with a presence online. 

CRO tools

The primary goal of any marketer or salesperson is to create a conversion. Seeing as marketing has to potential to create conversions on a wider scale, it makes sense that they use tools to help optimize their conversion rate. These tools help with what’s called CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), giving insight into how exactly companies can improve to get more conversions.

How to properly align sales and marketing

Although there are many differences, it’s essential that sales and marketing are aligned at all times. They rely heavily on each other. Without one, the other wouldn’t be an effective use of resources within a company. Both of these departments hold a company together, meaning if one fails, so does the other.

Aligning the two teams might seem like a daunting task, but it can be done fairly simply, actually. Doing so requires taking all of the points we talked about above, and combining them into a single goal. We can break this down into a few steps. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Establish a singular customer journey

The customer’s journey should be a fluid experience from beginning to end. Dismantling each team’s idea of a customer journey and reconstructing it based on how both teams function will benefit both sales and marketing teams and the customer.

Image source

You do not need more than one customer journey between the sales and marketing teams. Having two different ideas creates siloed experiences that do more harm than good. It can easily confuse the customer, creating friction and sending them on their way to find something that’s easier to understand for them. 

From the time the lead enters the funnel down to where they pop out as a loyal customer, the sales and marketing experiences should mesh to create a seamless ride. Doing this will allow both teams to properly track progress, understanding when each lead needs intervention by the marketing team and the sales team. 

2. Create customer personas together

Going back to the top of this article, we mentioned the importance of having customer profiles and buyer personas. If the sales and marketing team don’t mesh well, these personas get mixed up, and the lead gets an entirely different experience.

You want to avoid this at all costs. While sales may want to target anyone with money, marketing might go after their ideal customer through a systematic approach. 

 You will confuse yourselves and the customer. The idea is to create a seamless experience. Any sign of obstacle or friction, you can kiss that lead goodbye.

3. Put marketing first

Sales and marketing need to be playing the same song. In any song, timing is essential. For sales and marketing, the same can be said about the order of processes. Marketing could be using a campaign to target a specific audience, while sales could be cold-calling and emailing another.

These are two entirely different tunes, and they do not mesh. Prospects and leads are far less likely to respond to outreach if they’ve never heard of you. This is why marketing is important and should always be the first step in the customer’s journey. 

The marketing team should target audiences with campaigns, and only once that is done should the sales team step in. The leads have to warm up to the idea of your solution through nurturing and timely messaging. If the sales team jumps straight in without any warning, the splash could be too great for the prospect to want to stick around.

4. Track KPIs together

For a long time, the biggest issue with aligning sales and marketing is that they measure KPIs differently. Sales might find success in numbers like new accounts, new trials, and closed sales. Meanwhile, marketing is worried about brand awareness and the quality of content.

In order to get everyone on the same page, you have to track joint KPIs. This ensures total transparency between the two teams and allows them to communicate freely.

We are talking about KPIs that sales and marketing teams should be concerned with, no matter what. These KPIs include the following:

  • Cost per lead (CPL)
  • Customer retention
  • Cost per customer acquisition 
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQL)
  • Sales qualified leads (SQL)
  • Marketing ROI
  • Closed deals
  • Sales revenue

There are several KPIs that can be jointly tracked. The idea is to have zero barriers between the two teams. If the sales team decides that they want to see how much traffic is coming into a certain landing page, they should have that information to track. If the marketing team decides that they should know the percentage of leads in each lifecycle stage, they should be able to track it.

A good tip here is to have frequent meetings where both teams can align their KPIs. Make it a point to discuss progress, issues, and successes in these meetings, and get everyone familiar with this format. This unites sales and marketing towards a common goal.

5. Look at customer feedback

Customer feedback is an extremely under-utilized tool that every business has access to, and it can be used to align sales and marketing. 

Customer feedback is typically managed by sales. Using the voice of customer data (VOC), sales reps have been able to identify pain points that the customers point out. 

Marketing can then take the VOC and use it to create marketing materials and ads. This lets both teams understand what the customers want and what they say about you.

You might be surprised at what customers have to say about you. They explain your solution based on their own understanding. Instead of creating messages based on your own understanding, the understanding of someone that works within the company and fully understands what they’re selling, you get an outsider’s viewpoint.

6. Keep messaging consistent

Messaging and wording need to be consistent from one end of the product to the other. If the sales team is calling a feature one thing, and the marketing team refers to it as something else entirely, the customers will undoubtedly be confused. 

This confusion and lack of consistency will eventually lead to a lack of trust. If the leads see messaging from any point of your company, and it’s not consistent with another portion of your messaging, they will not know what to believe. 

There are many benefits to having aligned sales and marketing teams, but perhaps one of the biggest is consistent messaging. Prospects will see messages from the marketing team, gain interest, and contact the sales team, which will then reinforce the message. 

7. Create sales-focused marketing materials

Too often, marketing teams go off on a tangent and start creating content simply to gain traffic. That traffic is worthless if it doesn’t convert. We mentioned this before with the importance of SEO. Still, it’s imperative also to understand that marketing resources like blog articles, landing pages, and sales guides need to be aimed at closing sales.

You don’t want to be caught in a situation where sales representatives don’t know what to send to prospects or, worse, don’t have that material. Sales teams should know the content that marketing is creating forward and backward. 

When this is done correctly, content is used and shared far more effectively. This will move leads through the funnel faster, more efficiently, and with a greater chance of conversion. 

Conclusions and takeaway

Sales and marketing are very different. They utilize different strategies, different frameworks and have numerous tools. But, that doesn’t mean that they should work against each other.

Often, people blur the lines between sales and marketing, forgetting where one stops, and the other begins. Before too long, people will be afraid to venture towards that line at all, leaving a massive gap in the customer journey. That gap is the perfect reason for any lead that makes it to that point to leave, as it’s literally an open door. 

Sales and marketing are different in many aspects, but that doesn’t mean that they need to act differently toward customers. Instead, they should work together, being aligned in every aspect, moving forward as a unit with a single goal: growing revenue.

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