Marketing and Sales: Key Differences and Everything You Need to Know

Marketing and Sales: Key Differences and Everything You Need to Know

Marketing and sales have two key roles in your business: attracting more customers and developing the customers you already have. The ultimate goal of both is to bring in more revenue.

Sales and marketing work their magic when you combine them, but to do this successfully you first need to understand what makes them different. In this guide, we’ll cover:

What is sales and marketing?

Let’s define sales and marketing before we get into their specific activities, tools, responsibilities and their integration.

What is sales?

Sales refers to activities that lead to convincing a prospect to buy a product or a service from you. A sales rep usually communicates with prospects one-on-one over email, phone, or in person.

To get a ‘yes’ from a prospect, sales reps regularly:

  • Ask their prospects relevant questions
  • Tackle prospects’ objections
  • Schedule meetings, demos and follow-ups

Sales professionals are also often responsible for upselling and cross-selling products and solutions to existing customers.

What is marketing?

Marketing consists of strategies and processes that generate prospects for the sales team and customers for the business as a whole. Marketers help their business reach new people, turn them into high-quality leads and drive demand for products or services. They also communicate with customers to make them aware of the latest products and features, both to promote these updates and to act as guides.

Marketing has a key role in supporting sales by reaching many target customers at once. To do so, marketers focus on:

  • Market and audience research so they can understand what target customers are doing to solve their challenges and pain points
  • Lead generation strategies across a range of channels
  • Long-term efforts to build a recognizable brand and raise awareness of it

Sales and marketing play important roles for each other and for the business, but the way they do it is different. That’s what we’re diving into next.

What is the difference between sales and marketing?

What makes sales and marketing different? Let’s look into specifics: goals, processes, roles, day-to-day tasks and tools.

Sales and marketing goals

Measurable goals are essential to making both marketing and sales teams successful. Here’s what goals mean for each department.

In sales, the ultimate goal is to drive revenue. Everything sales reps do is tied to the bottom line. Here are some ways to format your revenue goals:

  • Total revenue per quarter/year
  • Revenue per year/quarter per sales rep
  • Average purchase value: the average amount earned per transaction
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV): total revenue you can expect from a customer account

High-achieving sales teams go beyond revenue goals. First, they break up those goals into sales activities they need to take to achieve them, such as making cold calls, following up over email, sending proposals and more. Then, they set daily and weekly goals for each of those activities.

This is called activity-based selling and it gives sales teams control over their impact on a company’s bottom line.

In marketing, the aim is to provide sales with the best leads possible, to encourage people to become customers or to retain existing customers—but, unlike sales, this is rarely done in direct communication with leads and customers.

Their goals can be sorted into awareness, engagement, conversion and retention. Here are examples of indicators marketers can use to measure success:

  • Awareness: website traffic, social media reach, video views, podcast listens, press mentions
  • Engagement: social media shares, likes and comments, website visit length, pageviews per visit
  • Conversion: free resource downloads, webinar signups, contact form completions, newsletter signups, purchases (for products/services that can be purchased without an interaction with a sales rep)
  • Retention: engagement and conversions from existing customers, customer reviews

Processes, sales pipelines and marketing funnels

Pipelines are a great way to visualize your process. Getting quality leads and prospects into your pipeline and moving it efficiently through each stage is the key to driving revenue and hitting targets.

A sales pipeline is an organized, visual way of tracking multiple potential buyers through the stages of your sales process. Most companies will have some version of these stages in their sales pipeline:

  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying
  • Contacting
  • Building relationships
  • Closing
  • Following up with leads that went cold

A sales pipeline is a useful tool when it comes to activity-based selling. Each stage defines a set of activities a rep needs to take to move a prospect to the next stage.

As a result, reps follow a sales process: a step-by-step formula that outlines all the activities they need to do to close a deal. This typically includes finding and qualifying prospects, reaching out, giving a presentation, closing the deal and, sometimes, retaining the customer.

If you don’t have a sales process just yet, this flowchart can help you get started:

marketing and sales flowchart

A marketing or sales funnel is the full journey a prospect goes through as they discover your brand.

Before a prospect is aware of potential solutions and products that will help them with their challenge, they’re in a stage where they feel pain of some kind, an issue in their life or work, and they’re looking for information—not products or services, yet—to help them fix it.

With this in mind, your funnel can be divided into:

  • Awareness or pain-aware prospects (top of funnel, or TOFU)
  • Consideration or solution-aware prospects (middle of funnel, or MOFU)
  • Decision or product-aware prospects (bottom of funnel, or BOFU)

Prospects that enter your funnel are looking for different answers in different stages of the funnel.

Let’s use an example of a company that sells customer support software. Their prospects could have these questions and search for these terms as they progress through the funnel:

  • Awareness: “Customer support industry benchmarks”
  • Consideration: “How to provide good customer support over the phone?”
  • Decision: “Does [provider 1] provide better support software features than [provider 2]?”

The ultimate goal of marketing and sales teams is to give the prospect what they need to move to the next stage of their purchase journey.

Marketing and sales funnels can be connected—for example, the final stage of a marketing funnel could be passing the lead onto the sales team as an MQL (marketing-qualified lead, as opposed to a SQL, sales-qualified lead).

But these can also be completely separate. For example, the sales team can find and research prospects on their own and reach out to them through cold calls and emails, moving them through to purchase. On the marketing side, if a product can be sold through online checkout and without a sales rep to guide the process, the marketing pipeline can exist on its own.

With a well-defined funnel, it’s much easier to define the roles and team sizes you need to move prospects efficiently through their purchase journey.

Sales and marketing roles and day-to-day tasks

The greatest difference between sales and marketing roles and activities comes from the processes that drive them.

Sales teams work on moving individual prospects through the sales pipeline day after day, while marketers focus on planning and executing campaigns and producing content and marketing assets.

Here are some examples of sales roles:

  • Sales development representative (SDR)
  • Account executive (AE)
  • Inside and outside salespeople
  • Account manager
  • Regional sales manager
  • Sales operation manager
  • Sales engineer
  • VP of sales or a chief sales officer

Regular sales activities include tracking deals, contacts and deal stages in a CRM, as well as setting (and planning for) sales targets. People in sales roles also measure and report on the results of their (and their team’s) sales activities. They look for the best prospects to focus on and nurture and remove unqualified leads from their pipeline.

Sales teams prospect, qualify, close and repeat day in, day out. Their team structure differs based on factors like company size and the sales process specific to their industry.

Roles and daily tasks can look dramatically different for marketing teams. Their roles will also depend on the company size, but also on the types of goals and projects the company focuses on. Here are some examples of roles:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist
  • Email marketing specialist
  • Content marketing writer, editor or strategist
  • Graphic designer
  • Video marketing specialist
  • Social media specialist
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) specialist
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist
  • Marketing analyst
  • Director of marketing and/or chief marketing officer

A company may have multiple people in all of these roles or only a handful of people covering all bases. If there’s a massive budget just for paid advertising and the majority of growth comes from it, you could work with a paid advertising agency and only have a few in-house marketers to manage the rest.

The day-to-day activities of a marketing team involve the brainstorming, creation, execution and measurement of marketing campaigns across selected marketing channels.

Sales and marketing tools

Technology and tools help marketing and sales teams improve their processes.

Most sales teams rely on tools to keep track of the many activities they complete on a daily and weekly basis. Data entry, emailing, taking notes, scheduling calls, following up with leads, creating proposals—the list goes on. It would be near impossible to do this many sales activities well, and remember them all, without a tool.

Based on our State of Sales Report 2019-2020, reps that are happy with their sales tools are 18% more likely to consider themselves successful at their jobs and 28% more satisfied in their roles. That’s the power of tools that streamline, automate and simplify a rep’s day-to-day routine.

Here are some sales tools that make this possible:

  • CRM: a tool like Pipedrive serves as a central hub for all lead and customer information, interactions, pipeline stages, templates and more (you can also use CRM for marketing purposes as well, to schedule and automate emails, track leads through the marketing funnel, assess the LTV (lifetime value) of MQLs and more)
  • Sales enablement and engagement: a tool like Outreach.io gives you insights to optimize your sales outreach and cadence
  • Meeting scheduling: instead of the back-and-forth of asking and confirming best times for a call, you can make this process short and easy with a tool like Pipedrive’s Scheduler
  • Invoicing: easily create invoices based on deals, people and organization details in your CRM

For high-performing sales reps and managers, CRM is the all-in-one platform to track sales activities, deals, transactions, as well as to forecast future sales performance. Other sales tools they choose will ideally integrate with the CRM.

Marketing teams build their tech stack based on the channels, platforms and strategies they’ve chosen and implemented. Their team size and budget are also important factors. If you’re a new startup, your marketing stack will look very different to a global business with hundreds of employees and a large marketing team.

Marketing tools can be sorted into these categories:

  • Social media: both social media platforms and tools that allow you to schedule social media posts
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): conduct keyword research, analyze competitor’s organic presence and track your SEO efforts
  • Email marketing automation: with a tool like Mailigen, you can build email campaigns that are perfectly timed based on your lead’s behavior for maximum results
  • Content creation: user-friendly tools that allow you to easily create on-brand visuals
  • Video marketing: platforms that let you host videos for your landing pages and email campaigns
  • Website traffic analysis: analytics platforms that help you understand what your visitors are looking for and interact with the most
  • Online advertising: tools you can use to run paid advertising campaigns on search and social

For marketing and sales teams that are aligned, CRM is an ideal way to track contacts all the way from lead through to customer and beyond. While marketers may not directly use a CRM, many of the tools they use to nurture their audience can integrate with it. This gives sales teams insight into all the interactions a lead went through before it was assigned to them.

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How can marketing and sales work together?

Aligning your sales and marketing teams and operations can have a huge impact on your business and bottom line.

The CMO’s Agenda report by Aberdeen Group uncovered that 74% of the best-in-class organizations have strong or complete marketing and sales alignment. These top companies work more efficiently, generate more revenue and retain more customers.

Marketing and sales alignment means you’re taking into account the way your potential customers look for solutions.

More than 70% of B2B buyers fully define their needs before engaging with a sales rep. If you wait for them to talk to your sales reps and you don’t have marketing to cover the period before they do, you may lose them to your competitors.

Here are the best ways to align your marketing and sales for maximum impact.

Get marketing to share their audience research with sales

Your marketing team spends a lot of time getting to understand the interests, behaviors, preferences and background of your target audience. While your sales team certainly knows how the solutions they sell can help their prospects, they may not have a granular understanding of why that’s the case.

This is why it’s useful to have your marketing team regularly share their audience research with sales. Just as they should be continuously updating their data about an ideal customer, they should update sales reps about these changes.

Data that will be useful to your sales team includes:

  • Age, location, time zone and language
  • Purchase patterns
  • Interests
  • Challenges
  • Decision-makers, revenue and size of business
  • Online behavior, such as social media shares and words they use to talk about the industry/topics you specialize in

This way, sales reps can tailor their messages and outreach to the right person at the right time.

Get sales to share questions prospects ask on sales calls with marketing

Unlike marketers, sales teams have the advantage of one-on-one time with the prospect. When a potential customer has a sales rep’s full attention, they get personal and ask their burning questions.

These questions often focus on:

  • Pricing, discounts and payment plans
  • Specific product capabilities
  • The timeline in which the customer can expect to see results
  • Fear of disappointment with the solution
  • What’s different compared to your competitor’s solution
  • Best ways to make the most out of the purchase

All the questions and sales objections your sales reps hear are valuable, but those that come up all the time are the most impactful. Start by sharing those with your marketing team so they can build assets around them, including:

  • Educational content like blog posts and videos
  • A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page
  • Feature-specific pages
  • Testimonials from happy customers
  • Competitor comparison page (here are our comparison pages)
  • Product guides and demonstrations

These resources will allow your company to reach your potential customers long before they’re ready to speak to your sales team. This way, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors so you can become your prospect’s solution of choice.

Another benefit of content created based on prospect questions is that your sales team can share it with them when they ask those questions. This is often called ‘sales enablement’ content. Instead of just ‘checking in’, you’ll be able to follow up with your leads with relevant resources.

Get sales and marketing to agree on a sales-ready lead checklist

Are many of the leads that marketing generates failing to convert or even respond to your sales team? If so, your sales and marketing teams may be working with different definitions of a good lead.

The solution is to get both teams in a room and define a strong checklist that the right prospect must match. Here are some questions to answer in this session:

  • Does the prospect look like your best customers? Think industry, number of employees, revenue, decision-makers and location.
  • Does the prospect’s behavior match your success profile? Look for patterns that reflect successful deals, such as length of buying cycle and typical roadblocks and objections.
  • Does the prospect pass your qualification criteria? You can use the BANT framework—budget, authority, need and timing—to set these criteria.
  • What needs are you most successfully addressing with your solution?
  • Bonus questions: Is the prospect an existing customer? Have they been referred by an existing customer?

You should end up with items that are easy to check off every time marketing hands an opportunity over to sales.

You can also use these insights in your CRM to:

  • Customize fields that track prospect information so that they match your unique process (Pipedrive makes this possible with Custom Fields)
  • Tailor the web forms on your website to get the most valuable information about leads

Tweak your email templates to include the most relevant information to leads in your sales outreach

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How to know when you need to hire for sales and marketing

“When should I hire a marketer? What about sales?” The answer to both: “It depends.”

Your first sales hire

Hiring your first sales rep can feel like an easy solution to fast-track your growth. You hire a salesperson and, because they know what they’re doing, you’ll see more revenue than before.

However, you need to make sure you know what you’re looking for before hiring a sales rep. According to Harvard Business Review, annual turnover among salespeople in the United States runs at 27%, with U.S. firms spending $15 billion a year training salespeople. If you hire the rep at the wrong time, you’ll end up wasting your budget while missing out on sales.

Here are some questions to consider before you hire your first salesperson:

  • Do you need a dedicated sales rep to move your leads towards a purchase?
  • Do you sell solutions that can be purchased in a self-service way? Do they make up the majority of your offerings or just a fraction?
  • Do you have enough leads coming in to fill your sales rep’s pipeline regularly?
  • Do you serve different products to different audience segments? Could a sales rep that specializes in one or the other bring an uptick in sales with their expertise?

If answers to these questions reveal you’re ready to hire a sales rep, create your sales hiring strategy so you can hire the right person and avoid making costly mistakes.

You could also consider channel sales if it fits your business better.

Your first marketing hire

Thinking of hiring your first marketer? Arielle Jackson, a marketer at First Round with experience in Google and Square, suggests you consider these questions when it comes to timing and rationale for hiring a marketer:

  • Do you have multiple marketing channels that you, the founder, can’t tackle well?
  • Will marketing play a huge role in the success of your launch?
  • Does your headcount budget line up with your marketing budget?
  • Are you willing to spend the time it takes to find the right person (usually three to six months)?

Consider whether you need full-time help or a turnkey solution from an agency or a freelancer. Think through the specific issues you’d want to tackle by hiring a marketer. Is it a lack of (your) time? The need for expertise in organic and/or paid marketing campaigns? A combination of both?

When you can no longer achieve your goals or continue to grow with your current hires and resources, see if you can get specific about the solutions a marketing hire would bring to the table. If so, it’s a great sign to hire a marketer.

How about a hybrid sales and marketing hire?

For some small businesses, hiring a person that fulfills a dual role of sales and marketing can be an excellent way to align these functions.

To determine that this is the way to go for your company, go through questions in previous sections for both roles. This will help you make sure you have the need for both functions.

Then, consider the volume of tasks that a single person would have to do if they took over both roles at the same time. Here are some activities they need enough time for:

  • Handling your current flow of incoming leads
  • Communicating with potential customers over email and phone
  • Strategic and creative planning for marketing
  • Marketing campaign execution, such as writing, designing and scheduling content across various channels
  • Reporting on both marketing and sales metrics to measure performance and optimize future activities

Will your hybrid sales and marketing hire have the room in their schedule for all of these regularly? If the answer’s yes—great! You’re ready to build this job description.

If your answer is closer to “yes, but we might need more than one person to cover all these activities,” you’ll see better results by hiring specialist sales reps and expert marketers because each of them will thrive in their own area of brilliance.

13 ways sales and marketing can combine

Marketing can save your sales team time, stress and effort by allowing them to refine your sales pipeline and focus on more of the best quality leads.

You just need to learn how to make marketing your secret sales weapon.

Your content marketing program should be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for your reps: reeling in leads, answering frequently asked questions, and identifying leads who are ready to talk to a salesperson by observing the way those prospects interact with your brand’s content. 

Below is a step-by-step process for enabling sales and marketing to work better together so they can generate better leads and hit your sales targets.

1. Tell marketing what questions Your prospects are asking at each stage of the sales process

Sometimes you’ve got to give a little to get a little. 

Marketing is desperate for insights into the prospect’s wants and needs. Your sales reps talk to those people every day. They know what prospects want and how often certain questions are asked. 

If you can give a list of those questions to marketing, the team can build content that answers those questions so your sales reps don’t have to waste your time continually covering old ground.

Marketing can create content in the form of a FAQ page, blog posts, or other content sales reps can easily share with prospects. Your prospects will welcome this; according to research from Forrester, 78% of buyers were put off by the fact that salespeople weren’t offering them relevant content to help them research and understand your offering.

2. Ask marketing to share their buyer personas with sales

Marketing puts a lot of work into creating buyer personas: profiles of very specific ideal customers for your product or service. 

These personas include information like age, position in the company, pain points, even favorite television shows. 

Deals are often lost because salespeople don’t know who their ideal customer is, and where to find them. 

For proof of that, look no further than the research from Forrester, which found that more than 75% of prospects feel the salespeople who contact them don’t understand their business, role at work, or even the problem they’re trying to solve. 

Those are huge oversights that can be solved with a simple buyer persona developed in conjunction with sales and marketing teams. 

3. Explain why the leads sales is getting from marketing don’t work

According to Demand Gen’s report, one of the top complaints sales has about marketing is that they’re not sent good leads, while one of the top complaints marketing has about sales is that the leads they send over aren’t being followed up. 

Explain what a solid lead looks like for the sales team, based on what leads have converted in the past. Use that information to develop a lead scoring that works for everyone. 

4. Examine your sales team’s biases about “good leads” 

Is your idea of a good lead based on data or your gut? Is your team ignoring bona fide marketing qualified leads (MQLs) because they don’t “feel right”? 

To quote Paul Wander of Inviqa, “feelings are not always a good thing” in sales. 

Once you’ve got a solid formula to determine MQLs, use it and follow up on all those leads quickly and efficiently to make sure you’re not wasting time on leads that won’t go anywhere. 

5. Know that the definition of an MQL is always changing

Keep working with marketing to refine your formula for qualifying leads. 

On the marketing side, this means keeping an eye on how leads behave when they engage with content, and whether that behavior further qualifies them. 

On the sales end, this means measuring the leads that convert and adjusting the MQLs so that new leads resemble existing customers. 

It may also mean adjusting your process; tools like Pipedrive’s Contacts Timeline can show you what activities prompted a lead to convert, so you can duplicate the process with other, similar leads. 

6. Work together to refine the fields in your lead generation forms

If you’re not getting good leads from marketing, maybe the web forms on your site don’t match your needs.

Maybe your best leads are college administrators who have a specific minimum budget. 

A well-crafted lead generation form with the right fields can isolate those leads and get them directly into your pipeline.

7. Keep the data in your CRM up to date

Things change. People leave jobs. Companies move. Businesses close. Don’t let MQLs sit in your CRM forever. 

Strike while the iron is hot, but also make sure the data doesn’t decay, or a solid lead now might be useless in a few months. 

Pipedrive’s Founder and CEO, Timo Rein learned the importance of how to lose better in sales the hard way:

“Like most salespeople, I made a lot of mistakes early in my career.  But I was taught an axiom early on: ‘70% of all deals should be winnable.’ Learning to mark deals lost earlier in the sales process and of my own accord helped me spend more time on deals that were winnable and less on those that weren’t. Consequently, I felt that the deals I spent time on were genuinely at least 70% winnable, keeping my sales pipeline clean and my sales velocity high.”

Every week, review all open deals as well as the lost deals from the previous week. Understand your losing and winning categories (on price, on product features, in a specific industry, or other) and make this clear to your sales and marketing team. Together, you can fine-tune your tactics on a regular basis by learning from this knowledge.

Work to make sure both sales and marketin know your ideal customer profile and figure out how to get as many prospects who fit the profile into your pipeline.

8. Let marketing turn your reps into thought leaders

Customers aren’t always excited to hear from a sales rep, but according to LinkedIn, 92% of B2B prospects will engage with someone who is seen as a thought leader. 

Marketing can use the info you give them to create content that makes your sales reps into experts who share information that speaks to your prospects’ needs. 

Your sales reps use their social media to send out the content your marketing team creates

It’s a win-win-win: the content makes your reps look good, prospects start seeing your reps as experts, and you can turn that newfound industry authority into trust, which will help you convert more deals.

9. Share sales data with marketing, so they can give you content to share for every stage in the sales funnel

What’s worse than checking in with a prospect by sending an email with the subject line: “Just checking in”? 

You know what you’re doing, the prospect knows what you’re up to, but you have to touch base with them, so here you are. 

Marketing can make this awkward exchange go away by providing sales with premium content. 

Use your marketing assets in conjunction with your knowledge of cognitive bias to make sure you can avoid the awkwardness and develop genuinely effective sales conversation starters.

What is premium content and how does it solve your subject line problem? This sort of high-value content—infographics, white papers, ebooks, and case studies—is usually stashed behind lead generation forms. Since your prospect is already in your pipeline, you can use this content to get back in touch with a prospect, especially if it speaks to that prospect’s needs. 

It’s a helpful reason to contact. Rather than saying ‘just touching base’ you can say ‘Hey, I remember that you were trying to improve your organization’s internal communication with remote employees. We’ve just published a white paper that deals with that issue.’ 

Once you’ve added value for that prospect, then you can move them further into the funnel.

10. Let marketing nurture your leads

There’s one more simple way for marketing to cut down the leads in your pipeline (and cut down on those awful “just checking in” emails)

Develop a process for marketing to find prospects who aren’t ready to buy and take them off your hands. 

If a qualified lead is passed to the sales team but they aren’t ready to buy, you need to pass the prospect back over to marketing and let them nurture the lead until the prospect really is ready for you. 

(Work out clear sales definitions and criteria for triggering this process ahead of time, so your sales team is not shooting a curt email about an unqualified lead to the marketing team.)

11. Look past closing the deal

You want to sell once and keep the customer for life.

Keep sending premium content from marketing to prospects even after you’ve made the sale, especially if that content directly relates to the prospect’s needs or pain points. 

The next time that customer needs something your organization can provide, they’ll go to their trusted, helpful authority source. You earn credibility with your content. You can convert that trust into more revenue when the time is right.

In the meantime, you can encourage your customer to share your content with their network and act as an unpaid brand ambassador. 

12. Trust marketing to do the marketing

Even if your sales team gets comfortable with using content to help you in the sales process, discourage reps from creating content marketing themselves. 

A recent Demand Gen Survey found 75% of buyers are put off by salesy language. 

It’s marketing’s job to write content that’s not a hard sell. 

And remember: if sales have a good relationship with marketing, everyone can focus on what they are best at.

One more bonus (and important) step you need to take

Talk to your sales and marketing team. Regularly!

This one seems like stating the obvious, but regular meetings between sales and marketing are easier said than done.

When surveyed by Demand Gen Report, 49% of sales and marketing leaders said the biggest challenge to alignment between their teams is communication. Sales and marketing just aren’t talking. 

So the most important task to help sales work with marketing to close more deals is to develop a regular meeting. 

The sales and the marketing teams are going to need to come up with a set of unified goals and work out how best to hit them to keep driving your business forward.

Make an impact with aligned sales and marketing

If your marketing and sales teams are working in silos, you may be losing potential customers before your sales reps even get a chance to talk to them. These teams work best when they exist to support each other.

Now you know the difference between sales and marketing and how these differences fill the other team’s gaps. Their alignment will help you create better content and align all your marketing and sales messaging. The result? Higher quality leads, engaging conversations, ideal buyers and loyal ambassadors of your solutions and your brand as a whole.

Don’t forget to track all your sales activities and results with a CRM solution like Pipedrive and customize it to your team’s needs and the specifics of your target customers.

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