What's the Difference Between Marketing and Sales?

Donna Arriaga November 20, 2014


So what IS the difference between marketing and sales, anyway? In the days of Don Draper, this was a fairly easy, straightforward question. But in today’s world of big data, technological advances, and changing consumer behaviors, answering this question is no longer so straightforward.

For many businesses, the evolution of successful sales and marketing teams means a much stronger, closer alignment of the two initiatives. Marketing and sales must work together to address the needs and questions of prospective customers. They need a clear, shared understanding of the ideal buyer personas. And both teams need to be able to track success throughout each stage of the buyer journey from stranger, to lead, to delighted customer.

When the silos between marketing and sales are down, there’s a remarkable synergy that happens. Marketing and sales start using a shared terminology. They use closed-loop reporting to track efforts, and the overall goals and functions of marketing and sales are integrated and in sync.

At times, this close alignment may blur the lines between marketing and sales. Not to mention, while technologies like marketing automation can strengthen that alignment, the same tech can also amplify questions about roles and responsibilities.

So, let's breakdown the differences (and a few similarities) across marketing and sales...

Since our team uses an inbound approach to marketing and selling, we've used the inbound marketing methodology as a foundation for defining roles and responsibilities. Here are very broad definitions...


  • Responsible for overall brand and messaging.

  • Attract site visitors and grow web traffic by creating and sharing high-quality, relevant content.

  • Generate leads through premium content offers and optimized conversion pathways.

  • Nurture leads with persona-driven content that is in alignment with the individual’s unique positioning in the buyer journey (leverage interests, behavioral data, etc. to customize the prospect’s digital experience)

  • Implement lead scoring criteria

  • Notify sales of sales-qualified leads

Marketing & Sales

  • Collaboratively define buyer personas

  • Collaboratively brainstorm content ideas that address core questions and needs among buyer personas across each stage of the buyer journey

  • Collaboratively develop lead scoring criteria

  • Delight clients and promoters

  • Engage in closed-loop reporting: Use data throughout the marketing and sales process to identify success points (and areas for improvement) from lead generation through closing a sale.

Sales (or Selping… “always be helping”)

  • Engage in “selping” activities: Proactively reach out to prospects with a helping approach; usually by fielding questions and/or leveraging content offers created by marketing. The selping approach requires highly contextual engagement that is personalized and relevant to the individual’s unique needs and circumstances. Activities could include social selping, in-person networking, email, and other channels.

  • Develop a meaningful relationship with the prospect and establish deep insights into the prospect’s unique needs, goals, and challenges. Utilize this knowledge in order to help the prospect discover the most optimal solution for goal achievement (even if that means sometimes having to say we’re not the right solution).

  • Usher the prospect through the closing process by serving as a resource, answering questions and providing any additional support.

  • After closing, serve as the primary steward of the relationship.

Of course, those roles are not necessarily siloed. There are certainly times when it makes sense for roles to crossover. For example, a marketing strategist could work hand-in-hand with business development to collaboratively discover and develop a fitting solution/proposal.

I’m sure these roles/responsibilities will vary from business to business. Does your business use a different (or similar) approach? What would you add to or change about this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

New Call-to-action