Article | 9 min read

Here’s the difference between sales and marketing: A guide

Sales and marketing: two peas in a pod. Both affect your sales pipeline, and both depend on each other. Here's what makes them different and why that's important.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published October 19, 2021
Last updated June 1, 2022

Understanding the key differences between sales and marketing allows you to streamline business operations and ensure clear communication across the board. Below, we’ll answer all your questions about sales and marketing. And we’ll reveal exactly how you can align your sales and marketing teams to boost efficiency and profit.

What are the differences between marketing and sales?

Though these teams work in tandem to increase lead generation and revenue, for both departments to function, it is essential to understand the differences behind their goals and how they operate.

In short: Marketing gets the ball rolling by creating advertising and attracting prospects to the company. Sales then takes those prospects and reinforces marketing messages, benefits, and solutions to create enthusiastic customers from potential leads.

Below, we’ll discuss the primary differences between sales and marketing strategies through:

  • Process
  • Goals
  • Tools and resources


Sales and marketing strategies grow from the same foundation—they are rooted in the history of the company and must keep the company’s goals and mission at the forefront. From there, however, their functions diverge.

Marketing focuses on the product. A successful marketing campaign will understand what the product is, its value and price, the target customer, and where and when sales will occur. Ideally, a strong marketing campaign sets the ball for the sales team—now all they have to do is spike it.

The sales process generally employs a customer-centric strategy. Not every lead is going to become a customer. So, it becomes the sales team’s job to qualify leads and design an efficient yet flexible pitch while developing answers to any objections or hesitations on the part of the lead.


The crucial difference in measuring the success of marketing or sales goals is timing.

Marketing campaigns are geared towards long-term goals. Product awareness, especially for a fledgling company, can take months. Marketing campaigns are also ever-evolving depending on the target audience’s response to branding and pricing.

Sales teams, on the other hand, need to construct their plans for short-term goals. A goal of $500,000 in sales by the end of the year is far less reachable if, month-to-month, sales reps aren’t hitting their necessary quotas. Sales teams must be ready to readjust staff and strategy and go back to the marketing team if the short-term goals aren’t panning out in the sales analytics.

Tools and resources

We’ll discuss overlapping sales and marketing tools in the next section, but before we do, here’s a small sample of different resources utilized by sales and marketing.

Because both departments must employ radically different tactics to work towards their goals, it follows that the software tools they use can vary quite a bit. It’s also clear that marketing and sales teams must engage in different types of thinking and problem solving; not everyone is going to approach the same problem from the same perspective.

Why is aligning marketing and sales essential?

Sales and marketing are different enough to require entirely separate departments, so why focus on aligning them?

Very simply, alignment is a new reality. According to Jill Rowley, advisor at LoopVOC, “The new reality is that sales and marketing are continually and increasingly integrated. Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.”

Meanwhile, as companies strive for this alignment, the rift between sales and marketing is only growing larger. A recent study found that 87 percent of the terms marketing and sales teams use in reference to each other are “negative or dismissive.”

Alignment of sales and marketing is therefore not only crucial but also a solution to a growing problem that could cost your company significant revenue.

How to align sales and marketing?

Now that we know why we should align sales and marketing, how do we do so? Since marketing and sales share multiple elements, one might assume that alignment would happen naturally, but that’s not always the case.

With sales dependent on consistent marketing and marketing evolving based on sales success, it’s easy for a lack of communication to muck up the system. Ensuring the two departments are on the same page isn’t necessarily easy, but it is vital for long-term growth.

According to LinkedIn’s sales and marketing survey of over 10,000 global sellers and buyers, top-performing salespeople have a stronger relationship with their marketing department by a margin of 30 percent.

Here are several suggestions for aligning your sales and marketing teams.

  • Create an SLA (service-level agreement)

    An SLA is commonly used as an agreement between a business and its customers, but it can also be utilized as a contract between departments. Use an SLA to create a set of deliverables that one party has agreed to provide the other. These deliverables can range from qualified leads to a revenue pipeline.

    Using an SLA also provides sales and marketing with a tangible means of trust and accountability. A mere 25-percent improvement in interdepartmental collaboration can lead to improved company morale, coworker integrity, and increased revenue down the line.

  • Set shared goals

    It’s easy to work separately when focused on separate goals, but what about KPIs (key performance indicators) that both sales and marketing are working towards?

    Let’s look at lead management and qualifying:

    Sales departments do a fair amount of analysis on the leads from the marketing team to ensure they’re concentrating their efforts on the best prospects. But they can’t cultivate what isn’t there. Marketing shares the goal of accruing useful leads that are not only relevant to the target audience but also likely to move past interest and into purchasing.

  • Meet regularly

    Meetings tend to happen when things are already chaotic. It may seem obvious, but the best way to keep communication open is to create an environment where communication is consistent and proactive.

    Start at the beginning. Make sure that each new sales and marking hire is briefed on best practices during onboarding. If multiple staff members are onboarding, go through the process as a group as much as possible. Team mentality is easier to build when it’s a core foundation, not a tack-on.

  • Improve your sales process

    A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

  • Create a team email alias

    Creating a team email alias that goes to all members of the sales and marketing teams is a simple, ingenious tool. It allows for easier distribution of information within the sales and marketing departments and gives external teams a way to succinctly share relevant information with both groups.

    A team alias will also give both sales and marketing easy access to what the other is communicating and what formats they are using (i.e., sales process templates).

Additional strategies

Want even more alignment strategies? Take a look at this list of tried-and-true tips from Harvard Business Review:

  • Understand the external factors affecting your sales to alleviate blame from sales or marketing.
  • Determine what specifically needs to be done to reach customers to give both teams specific and achievable goals.
  • Make sure the leads of both teams are reflecting best practices. Managers need to facilitate a collaborative environment.

What makes for a good sales and marketing strategy?

Nearly every company has a series of core values that guide not only sales and marketing, but the entire business. These values make it simpler to form initiatives and streamline decisions; it’s the same for forming sales and marketing strategies.

Let’s dive into the three Cs of “Smarketing”: communication, consistency, and core team.

  1. Communication

    Every decision made by the marketing or sales team is going to affect its counterpart. The faster those decisions can be communicated and analyzed for implementation, the smoother your company is going to run. Set up systems to easily communicate changes and implement adjustments.

    Here are a few communication tips from Shelley Cernel, senior marketing manager at Knowledge Tree:

    Go to the top and obtain support from senior management.
    Acquire technology to support communication initiatives.
    Identify key performance metrics as a group.
    Create a ‘shareconomy’ of knowledge.
    Emphasize why communication is important to reinforce a natural inclination towards collaboration.

    No matter your communication strategies, the hardest component is keeping those strategies active over time. This brings us to our next core value.

  2. Consistency

    A well-rounded, successful strategy with proven revenue results is a dream—as long as you can keep it going.

    Consistency is crucial to team success. Like any well-functioning machine, it only takes one crack in the gears to bring production to a screeching halt. Keeping branding, tone, KPI numbers, and company values consistent across departments is essential to instituting a winning marketing and sales plan.

    Make things easier. Sales jobs are harder when the product doesn’t match the marketing, and marketing jobs are impossible when the team is unaware of what’s selling.

  3. Core team

    How do you maintain communication and consistency? By assigning someone to implement best practices and manage the processes.

    Every member of the team may need a piece of information, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be equally communicating. Select members on multiple levels in sales and marketing and make them responsible for maintaining communications and managing shared resources.

    Not only does creating a core team simplify information reception, but it also makes it easier for you to relay information to your teams. After all, a weekly meeting with 200 people is much harder than one with 20.

How Zendesk can help

Aligning sales and marketing is all about direct action and organization. As we discussed earlier, sales and marketing teams use a variety of software to handle content, meetings, revenue, budget tracking, and data analysis.

Variety isn’t always the best strategy, though—especially if things are in danger of falling through the cracks.

Zendesk Sell combines easy-to-use software with collective efficiency. As a leader in contact management software, Zendesk keeps all the information you need in one program and provides a unified, customizable workspace for your teams. It makes sharing information across departments effortless and keeps your important metrics updated in real-time.

With Zendesk, your teams can build the interface that works for them and integrate it with related sales tools, such as Mailchimp, to easily transfer information. Each prospect is tracked through the system from initial marketing to loyal buyer, making communication and consistency clean and hassle-free throughout the sales cycle.

Test-drive our powerful CRM tool for free for 14 days.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Read now