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Sales vs. marketing: The differences and how they work together

Sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Both affect your sales pipeline, and each depends on the other. Here's what makes them different and why it matters for your bottom line.

Por Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Última atualização em January 20, 2023

Marketing and sales are arguably a company’s best tools for generating profit. Generally speaking, marketers attract leads and sales agents close deals, but the interconnectivity and differences between sales and marketing go deeper. When both are aligned with your broader strategy, marketing and sales help streamline business operations, improve customer loyalty, and ensure clear communication across the board.

To explain the difference between marketing and sales, we’ll cover both departments and how they interact. We’ll also go over how you can align your sales and marketing teams to boost efficiency and profit. So, instead of choosing to invest in sales vs. marketing, we’ll discuss how to align both for the best results.

Overview of the difference between sales and marketing (+ smarketing)

Marketing and sales teams work in tandem to increase lead generation and revenue but use different tactics and set unique goals to maximize profitability. A marketing team, for instance, may leverage customer data for campaigns in order to spark interest in the brand; meanwhile, the sales team contacts interested prospects to convert leads into customers.

To define the sales and marketing process (and their intersection) in simple terms:

  1. Marketing teams attract prospects to the company through campaigns.

  2. Sales teams use outreach to reinforce marketing messaging, address prospect concerns, and nurture leads into customers.

  3. New customer testimonials and data help marketing teams refine messaging for future campaigns before the process repeats.

What is sales?

Sales is the process of facilitating or completing a transaction. Sales teams directly interact with leads interested in a product or who fit the target demographic. Sales teams identify customers, convince them to buy a product, and measure the company’s success against quotas and benchmarks. The process involves:

  • Identifying prospective customers

  • Learning customer interests and pain points

  • Educating leads about a product or service

  • Converting prospects into customers through outreach

Sales representatives rely on diverse tactics and outreach strategies. Some of the most popular tactics include:

  • Cold calling
  • Attending networking events

  • Product demonstrations

  • Personalized messaging

  • Researching and qualifying prospects

What is marketing?

Marketing attracts customers to a company’s products and services. Marketers create content, messaging, and research that generates interest in a product, fosters brand loyalty, and segments customers. Marketing ultimately improves sales by creating conditions in sales reps’ favor.

While sales involves a lot of direct contact with leads, marketers reach their audience through direct and indirect channels. Some of the most popular approaches include:

  • Content marketing

  • Social media marketing

  • Hosting promotional events

  • Email marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Conversational marketing

What is “smarketing”?

“Smarketing” refers to the integration of the sales and marketing processes. By unifying both teams, proponents argue company performance improves across the board. According to LinkedIn, 85 percent of sales and marketing leaders assert that alignment is the largest opportunity for improving business performance.

Sales vs. marketing: A comparison

Marketing and sales play a vital role in generating revenue. Each team plays a complementary role to the other and contributes to the bottom line; however, sales and marketing create transactions from different angles. So instead of asking if sales or marketing is better, managers should instead assess each team’s strengths and weaknesses.

We’ll outline some essential differences below:

Sales Close deal Lead-centric Long-term CRMs, invoicing, order management Direct engagement Narrow Diverse
Marketing Create interest Product-centric Short-term SEO, CRO, content creation tools Indirect promotion Wide Specialized

State of Sales

Explore expert insights, customer stories, and actionable trends to improve your understanding of the state of sales today.

Smarketing: How sales and marketing work together

As previously mentioned, “smarketing” refers to aligning sales and marketing operations. Even though uniting sales and marketing efforts can boost revenue by up to 208 percent, the Zendesk State of Sales report notes that only 35 percent of firms do so.

Ensuring the two departments stay on the same page isn’t necessarily easy, but it is vital for long-term growth. In order for sales and marketing to work together, rely on the five Cs of smarketing: communication, consistency, coordination, clarity, and core team.


Breaking down silos between sales and marketing involves frequent communication. To keep both teams on the same page, set up systems and policies that promote collaboration. More specifically, you can align sales and marketing with these strategies:

  • Host regular meetings with both departments

  • Define common terms for consistency across teams

  • Identify key performance indicators sales reps and marketers share

  • Acquire technology to support communication initiatives

  • Ensure agents, managers, and senior leaders all support alignment


Keeping branding, tone, key performance indicators (KPIs), and company values consistent across departments is essential to instituting a winning marketing and sales plan.

Improve consistency by:

  • Creating clear brand messaging information to use in sales and marketing

  • Working within standardized processes marketing and sales teams will recognize

  • Aligning on broader company KPIs and priorities

  • Cultivating a culture that speaks to company values


Improving coordination between departments can enhance your output without a substantial investment. Collaboration improves customer support and sales. Many organizations achieve this by:

  • Scheduling interdepartmental meetings at least once a quarter

  • Determining which projects require interdepartmental attention well in advance

  • Standardizing methods of sharing customer feedback

  • Conducting high-level department reporting on KPIs

  • Sharing impactful team changes or internal issues with dedicated management team members as soon as possible


Transparent practices are key for smarketing efforts. Sales and marketing teams need a clear, shared vision. In this case, clarity between teams ensures:

  • A shared understanding of the sales and marketing landscape and customers

  • The ability to communicate a product’s value to customers

And instead of ignoring external or internal red flags, management teams should confront them head-on with a solution-oriented mindset. Important information, including “bad news,” should be shared as needed and addressed to support overall improvement.

Core team

While everyone should collaborate, a core team should maintain communications and manage shared resources. This core team should consist of employees with varying levels of seniority. Sales reps and marketers can make up the majority of your team, but a few managers and department directors will go the extra mile.

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

How to align sales and marketing

Now that you’ve wrapped your head around the core philosophy of sales and marketing alignment, let’s put it into practice. Because marketing and sales share multiple elements, it’s easy to assume that alignment happens naturally—but this isn’t always the case.

To help you along, here are a few strategies to align your sales and marketing teams.

Use a sales CRM that removes silos between teams

CRM systems streamline the process of aggregating data and sharing views between teams. Though aligning sales and marketing does more than cut costs and share tools across departments—removing silos between teams can dramatically improve a company’s performance. The Zendesk State of Sales report includes a few examples:

  • When Standard Beverage pivoted to aligning the team with a simple CRM, it saw a 300 percent increase in accounts.
  • Wavy reached a 25 percent conversion rate on the sales side after aligning its teams.
  • Conrad Electronic leveraged its CRM to shed light on pain points and provide more robust service.

Create a service-level agreement (SLA)

A service-level agreement (SLA) is an agreement between a business and its customers, but you can also create one between departments. Teams often use an SLA to list a set of deliverables 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 report by LinkedIn found that 87 percent of marketing and sales leaders say alignment between teams enables critical business growth. Down the line, this growth can boost morale and inspire more trust between departments.

Set shared goals

It’s easy to work separately when focused on unique goals, but what about KPIs that sales and marketing both work towards?

Let’s look at lead management and qualifying as an example.

Sales departments do a fair amount of analysis on leads to ensure sales reps are concentrating their efforts on the best prospects, but they can’t cultivate what isn’t there. Marketing departments, therefore, have the shared goal of accruing valuable leads that match the target audience and who are likely to move past the interest phase and into purchasing.

When both teams work together on a shared goal, they can better hit KPIs and streamline progress.

Meet regularly and collaborate often

Meetings shouldn’t only occur during chaotic times. The best way to keep staff on the same page is to create an environment where communication is consistent and proactive. Set a precedent from the start, briefing each new hire on best practices during onboarding. If multiple staff members are onboarding, go through the process as a group as much as possible.

For established team members, you can ramp up your communication by:

  • Hosting regular meetings

  • Creating more opportunities to share research with colleagues

  • Using business messaging platforms like Slack or Zendesk

  • Sending email updates on important changes and new information

Team mentality is easier to build when it’s a core foundation, not something tacked on.

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 allows external teams to share relevant information with both groups.

A team alias also gives sales and marketing staff easy access to what the other is communicating and what formats (such as sales process templates) they are using.

Measure KPIs with reporting and analytics

Net income might indicate overall profitability, but you can get more granular when assessing marketing and sales. By using specific KPIs, you can gauge the success of these departments relative to the whole company, and you can see how well they work together. Here are the most important KPIs to watch:

  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs): The number of leads your marketing team hands off to sales for outreach.
  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs): The number of potential customers your team converts into sales opportunities.
  • Cost per lead (CPL): The cost of identifying a new lead.
  • Cost per customer acquisition: The cost of closing a sale with a new customer.
  • Customer retention: The rate of customer retention over time. Repeat customers cost less to convert than new prospects and ensure long-term income.
  • Marketing ROI: The amount of money generated from a marketing campaign relative to what you spent on it. ROI and net profitability stand out as some of the most important KPIs.
  • Sales revenue: The amount of money generated from sales. You can compare different team and agent revenue to find your highest earners.
  • Opportunity-to-win ratio: The rate at which you convert leads into customers. This ratio highlights employees’ strengths. A low opportunity-to-win ratio can mean your rep is great at identifying leads but needs to improve at closing sales. On the other hand, a high ratio highlights agents who can reliably sell different products.

Additional strategies

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

  • Note the external factors affecting your sales to alleviate blame from either team.

  • Decide how to reach customers and give both teams specific and achievable goals.

  • Make sure the leaders of both teams follow best practices and lead by example.

  • Identify target segments and customer profiles both teams should prioritize.

Aligning the best of both worlds

Some companies spend so long weighing whether sales or marketing takes priority that they miss the best strategy right in front of them. Aligning sales and marketing takes direct action and organization. By implementing any of the previously discussed strategies, you can see improvements in content, revenue, budget tracking, and data analysis.

To get you started, Zendesk offers a modern sales CRM that combines easy-to-use tools with collective efficiency. Zendesk Sell:

  • Keeps all the information you need in one place

  • Provides a unified, customizable workspace for your teams

  • Makes sharing information across departments effortless

  • Updates metrics in real time

  • Tracks prospects at each stage of the buyer’s journey, allowing for clear, consistent communication throughout the sales cycle

Test-drive our powerful CRM tool for free for 14 days, or try some of our free forecast templates to help manage your sales goals.

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