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Marketing and Sales: What’s the Difference & How They Work Together [+KPIs for Each]

By Liza Shuttleworth Last updated: 13 minute read Marketing Guides

Years ago, product designers realized that throwing in new designs without consulting with the manufacturing team is a total waste of time. 

Recently, sales and marketing functions have also realized that it isn’t enough to coexist. A better way is to work together and generate greater value for the organization.

In fact, 67% of marketers report that trying to increase their sales leads is their number one goal, while 91% of marketers agree that marketing efforts directly contribute to their revenue by 208% (Marketing Insider Group, 2019). 

Considering this background, it would not be wrong to say that if both sales and marketing work together, organizations can reap greater benefits. Evidence also suggests that aligning sales and marketing can increase sales win rates by 38%.

Contrary to this, another study revealed that the inability to align marketing and sales teams, leads to wasted resources of up to 70%. 

In the following discussion, you’ll get a deep understanding of the fundamental differences between sales and marketing and the strategies to make them both work together. 

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    What is Marketing?

    By definition, “Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders” – according to American Marketing Association

    It is the science of identifying suitable target markets and choosing the most profitable one. It also involves understanding social, cognitive, and cultural factors that shape and alter consumer behavior.

    Some common types of marketing are influencer marketing, retail marketing, relationship marketing, green marketing, viral marketing, keyword marketing, and guerilla marketing. 

    Here are some key points that perfectly explain the core essence of marketing:

    • The goal is to popularize the brand message. 
    • The marketing function is responsible for making customers aware of a brand’s products and services. 
    • It satisfies customer expectations through building relationships and exchange processes.

    Now, What is Sales?

    Sales is an important revenue-generating department of any organization charged with selling its products and services. 

    The top functions of the sales department are discussed below: 

    • The goal is to reach prospective new clients.
    •  The salespeople use every possible tactic to close the deal and finalize a contract.
    • Facilitating customers throughout the purchasing process. 

    Marketing and Sales: Then and Now

    Not so long ago, companies were only relying on the ABC (always be closing) approach for sales, which simply means that salespeople should continuously hunt for prospects and pitch products to those people to complete a sale.

    However, the ABC approach has a new meaning in the modern era, or you can say it has shifted to ‘never be closing,’ because brands never want to close the deal.

    These days, sales is an essential element of the wider marketing mix. The key reason behind this is that with rising consumerism and awareness, people’s preferences have evolved, and old-school sales techniques no longer work. 

    Nowadays, most sales are made online because instead of receiving cold calls, customers prefer to initiate their own research.

    People are more educated today than in the past, and they like to do independent research, rather than depending on a salesperson. Plus, they rely on social media platforms to learn about a brand in order to make informed purchase decisions. 

    For this reason, the previous sales-driven funnel has evolved and transformed into a more marketing-focused funnel.      

    The Cold War Between Marketing and Sales

    The war between marketing and sales is old – it has been happening since the teams were created for the first time. I personally believe that to figure out the realistic solutions, we first need to recognize what’s broken inside the system. 

    Why can’t they just get along?

    As per my own research, the major reasons behind this disconnect is overlapping or unclear goals between marketing and sales.

    More importantly, sales and marketing personnel don’t really know much about each other or what their different routines involve.

    More often, organizations believe that marketing is embedded in sales, and sales is embedded in marketing. 

    Additionally, the lack of a proper feedback loop to allow both departments to iterate plans creates major differences in their approaches and thinking patterns.

    The superiority complex of the marketing team and pride of the sales department leads to a poor understanding of the importance of each other. 

    For instance, many marketing experts believe that sales professionals hold a myopic view of the firm, while salespeople usually underestimate the value of marketing campaigns. 

    Why Marketing and Sales Should be Working Together  

    Some things are just meant to be together. Pizza and Netflix. Ross and Rachel. Assignments and stress.

    Though it may seem unlikely, marketing and sales work significantly better when working closely with each other and not apart. From a theoretical point of view, it sounds great. But is it true in real life? Yes, 100%.

    According to research, companies are likely to achieve a 20% annual growth rate if they have a strong alignment between marketing and sales. Companies are likely to experience a 4% decrease in revenue if the marketing and sales team is poorly aligned. 

    To be successful, one needs the other, and overall, a business benefits significantly when both teams are on the same page. 

    Benefits of Syncing Marketing and Sales

    1. A clear understanding of the buyer persona

    Both marketing and sales interact with actual and potential buyers, but they do this differently, and that is why they have a different understanding of customers and their needs.

    If both start working as a team and combine their knowledge, it will become easier to create accurate customer profiles. 

    In the same way, by putting together one, agreed-upon client persona, will start to encourage a shared ownership of the buyer experience.

    Plus, potential customers are less likely to feel that they are interacting with a siloed company, with fragmented departments. 

    2. Working together benefits the customer 

    Throughout the buying process, a customer interacts with both sales and marketing personnel. Ambiguous or conflicting messages can negatively impact the customer experience. But when both departments are aligned, prospects can be converted into satisfied clients. 

    Even if you sell academic writing services, you need to realize that you can’t keep your promise if your content and quality assurance team does not coordinate and work closely.  

    3. Better response to customer feedback 

    Working together means benefiting from the experience and knowledge of each other. Salespeople and marketing teams gather a lot of information about the prospects directly and indirectly. When both teams work closely, there’s a high chance that they have integrated their communication systems to transfer customer data. 

    Both teams can position themselves to better recognize and engage the most profitable customers by sharing insights about their behaviors, likes and dislikes, preferences, opinions, attitudes, and pains. 

    In fact, the more details are shared, the more accurately salespeople can facilitate leads. All in all, sales will spend less time figuring out which ones to prioritize. 

    4. Greater support from top management 

    It is very natural for the business leaders to offer support to their staff who are showing enthusiasm and commitment to work together better.

    The support will not be limited to this scenario only, but it will be extended to every aspect of the company.

    From taking new initiatives to break department silos, to modifying compensation plans and from allocating funds to integrating tools, good leaders will help the teams every step of the way. 

    5. A more targeted strategy

    Today, more and more organizations have realized the need to become strategic in their actions. Managers tend to emphasize on getting a broader picture. In other words, they focus on the long term value. 

    How do marketers generate a certain type of lead without the input of the sales team?

    Agreement on a single strategy allows both sales and marketing to work for a common goal. Although the objectives are different for both, and that is why both operate on different mechanisms.

    6. Strong relationships

    No coordination between important departments such as marketing and sales means each team will execute its own task without considering the goals and objectives of the other.

    From the customer point of view, these differences can create confusing experiences, and it makes it extremely difficult to identify where the lead drops off. 

    But when marketing and sales work as one and brainstorm regularly, the company is able to amplify the impact of their efforts and successfully build strong relationships with actual and potential customers. 

    Not only this, but better interdepartmental relations also increases employee engagement and commitment. 

    7. Staying ahead of the game

    Generally, the marketing pros are charged with evaluating the market situation and analyzing what the rivals are doing, from changes in the website to the social media content.

    They do this to know where they are standing in comparison. 

    Combining efforts can keep your sales professionals informed about the existing situation of the competition.

    By knowing these details, the sales team can appropriately establish their reasoning about how their company’s products and services are better than the rivals, when speaking with the prospects. 

    Be Familiar with the Dangers of Misalignment 

    When marketing and sales teams don’t work in tandem, both suffer. I’ve already discussed the common costs organizations have to face due to conflicts between sales and marketing – lost opportunities and declined revenues.  

    But the long-term consequences can be much worse than you think. For example, finding and converting leads will be the main issue that can bring disastrous effects on the financial health of the firm.

    The vision, roles, and functions of each department will be unclear, which can lead to confusion and tension between both teams.

    Because there is zero visibility into what has been communicated with the prospects, the teams are forced to apply a one-size-fits-all approach, leading to lost customers. 

    What it Takes to Bridge the Gap Between Sales and Marketing 

    How can you reconcile differences between your sales and marketing team and earn a better competitive advantage through their alignment?  

    1. Match department goals

    One of the most under-discussed reasons behind the misalignment of sales and marketing is the fact that both departments operate with different goals and key performance metrics.

    Here, alignment means gaining practical insights for both departments and making adjustments accordingly. 

    The alignment of sales and marketing allows both to understand each other’s mission. This means sales would be able to define their expectations from marketing and articulate it clearly.

    Similarly, marketing would know what kind of results sales is looking for. Knowing each other is the foundation of a strong bond. 

    For example, if you observe that potential customers are not responding to a campaign, then your sales and marketing teams can adjust the campaign to make it more personalized. 

    1. Encourage transparent communication

    Would you believe if I say you can sell more by communicating better? Well, that’s true in the current case. Most business leaders believe that the core factor behind the unsatisfactory relationship between sales and marketing is miscommunication.  

    One of the core components of any successful organization is open and frequent communication.

    It not only builds transparency, but it also builds trust between two departments, which is increasingly important for making collaborative efforts fruitful. 

    But you need to adopt actionable ways to improve communication between sales and marketing, like scheduling meetings periodically, hearing both sides of the story, and encouraging team members to sit together and come up with creative solutions. 

    1. Centralize information sharing

    While it is important to develop an accurate buyer persona that can be used by both sales and marketing, it is equally important to ensure that both use a single source of information.

    Yes, you heard it right. To deliver a superior customer experience, you need to gain a holistic view of the customers. 

    A lot of customers receive phone calls for a product from companies even after they purchased the product.

    Getting calls repetitively would frustrate anyone. This inconsistency can be eliminated by ensuring that both sales and marketing get information from a single source.

    1. Deliver a consistent message

    We’ve all experienced it before – the salesperson and marketing personnel calls a product with different names.

    The mismatch in messaging confuses the customers, and the chances are high that they will not trust the brand when it comes to actual buying. Plus, you are giving a bad impression of your company.

    If truth be told, 21% of marketers believe that ‘a poor impression of organization’ is extremely damaging and caused by poor content marketing. You need to understand that people aren’t just looking for a product, but they are also interested in the story you sell. 

    This means that brand representation, tone, and voice should reinforce the same idea. Just stick to one message, whether it’s about the name of the product, the terms you use to make your product distinct, or the brand story. 

    1. Set shared targets and rewards

    A contemporary organization cannot succeed unless it shares the responsibilities equally between marketing and sales for accomplishing its revenue goals and objectives.

    A good tactic is to incentivize collaboration to encourage salespeople and marketing professionals to achieve shared targets. 

    1. Ask them to sit together for joint projects  

    This is probably one of the most realistic ways to achieve better alignment between sales and marketing. Since both departments follow the same goal, reaching out to prospects shouldn’t be viewed as a competition. 

    By adopting a collaborative approach for producing and sharing content, a brand can leverage its content marketing strategy while focusing on driving higher engagement levels.

    Even today, many higher education students sit together for group projects or ask their seniors to provide dissertation proposal help for complex assignments. 

    Mutual Key Performance Indicators – KPIs

    Undoubtedly, each department should design and track their own metrics, but having shared KPIs is important.

    Why? Because I personally believe that a ‘rise or fall together’ culture is the basis of a successful and healthy organization.  

    Common metrics are important as marketing personnel are judged on the basis of sales targets, while marketing plays a crucial role in sales.

    To become customer-centric, companies need to identify and integrate metrics that track both sales and marketing performance. 

    For sales, defining and tracking metrics is easier, such as sales quota percentage, number of new prospects, sales expenditure, and gross profit per customer, and number of deals closing. 

    But when it comes to upstream marketers, the metrics change to accurate product forecasting or discovering profitable market segments. Don’t forget to add digital marketing KPIs such as email subscribers, conversion rates, social shares, etc. Some important KPIs are discussed below:

    • Opportunity to customer ratio

    To put it simply, the opportunity to the customer is the sales qualified lead (SQL). It measures the efficiency of the salespeople, or ‘how well they are able to close a deal’.

    This means that here we evaluate the efforts of the salespeople, whether they are taking benefit from the marketing team and engaging quality leads. 

    • Conversion rate 

    This high-level metric has the ability to tell you a lot about your marketing efforts. Conversion rate basically involves steps that progress a prospect towards becoming an actual paying customer. You can identify actions users take while being on your site. 

    • Revenue per unit

    It is very likely that your organization gets high-value leads at the maturity stage of your alignment effort. Calculating the conversion rate isn’t enough at this stage. You need to know more about the efforts. Calculate the average revenue generated by a single account.

    This means that you will be able to know how marketing and sales teams are working in collaboration to sign and retain customers who take part in revenue-generating. 

    • The sales timeline

    The time to complete one sales cycle has important implications for an organization. We need to calculate the sales cycle in order to determine the effectiveness of the sales effort.

    The shorter the buying cycle is, the better the performance of your sales and marketing team is. It also means that the marketing experts are transferring the best leads to the sales department. 

    • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) 

    It is a lead generation metric that tells whether the marketing team has worked with a profitable potential buyer or not. In other words, it tells whether the marketing team has knowledge about what is considered as a good lead. 

    To make it clearer, the reward should be tied to results. By doing this, you can ultimately track the performance of both sales and marketing in one go. 

    Ending the War Between Marketing and Sales 

    Marketing and sales function is deeply interconnected, and joining both forces can help you enjoy immense benefits. By adopting the above-mentioned tactics, you can see significant improvements in your top and bottom-line growth. 

    About the author: Claudia Jeffrey is a Business Executive & Sr. Research Analyst at Dissertation Assistance, a reliable platform that assists students throughout their educational journey. Being a marketing freak, she loves to share her opinions with start-ups through her blogs. In her free time, she connects with business people on social media.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the difference between the scope of marketing and sales?

    Marketing is a wide concept while sales is an aspect of marketing. Marketing involves market research, customer analysis, market segmentation, competitive analysis, branding and positioning, promotions, market sizing, and much more. Check this article for more information.

    Would I benefit if I use digital marketing?

    Definitely. As the number of internet users is growing around the world, digital marketing provides a means to connect with people using electronic devices. Refusing digital marketing means you are limiting your access to the media most people turn to at the start and all hours of the day.

    What is the biggest mistake that salespeople do?

    Among several mistakes, one of the biggest mistakes that salespeople do is not doing enough research about the customer. When you don’t know the customer and their need you might provide them with irrelevant suggestions which can frustrate them. Secondly, speaking more and listening less is another mistake that must be avoided. Speaking less also prevents you from making promises that your company can’t keep.

    What is the biggest mistake that marketers do?

    Not targeting the right audience can be a big issue for both marketers and sales force. Making assumptions about your customer base can lead you to significant losses and you might miss a profitable target segment. Target everyone is an ineffective marketing strategy because you cannot satisfy everyone.


    AMA: The Concept of Marketing

    LinkedIn: Conflicts Between Sales And Marketing 

    Marketing Insider: Sales and Marketing Differences

    Tenfold: Using Key Performance Indicators for Marketing and Sales