Sales vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?

At most organizations there is significant overlap and integration between marketing and sales teams. This may leave you wondering: What is the difference between sales and marketing? 

Sales and marketing teams ultimately function with one shared goal in mind: to generate conversions. Here are some important insights that can help you understand how each team functions so you can better understand sales vs. marketing.

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with Crunchbase, the all-in-one prospecting solution.


What does a sales team do?

To understand the difference between sales and marketing, let’s first delve into exactly what a sales team does. Sales teams are tasked with creating and maintaining relationships with potential customers (prospects) and eventually pitching those prospects to close a sale. Traditionally, sales teams initiate contact with a prospect once they determine the prospect is “qualified,” or deemed likely to become a customer. 

Curious about how salespeople determine if a lead or prospect is qualified? Check out our step-by-step guide for more information about the lead qualification process

The most successful salespeople identify prospects’ pain points and position their product as a solution, clearly articulating how they can help. Sales have historically been used as the benchmark for a company’s success; when a business wants to expand, it hires additional salespeople. 


What does a marketing team do?

Marketing encompasses all actions that prepare the groundwork for sales. Marketers utilize market research and analysis to: 

  • Learn about potential consumer preferences;
  • Create educational campaigns that draw attention to a company’s product or service;
  • Build and maintain a brand’s reputation;
  • Engage potential and current customers; and
  • Boost brand visibility.

Historically, when discussing marketing vs. sales, marketing comprises advertising across a multitude of channels to catch the attention of potential customers. Marketers are generally responsible for developing informative content that educates readers and website visitors about how a company’s products or services can help solve their pain points.


What is the difference between marketing and sales?

While many people bundle sales and marketing together, the two operations are essentially separate from one another in terms of management, targets and approach. At its core, marketing is the process of increasing potential consumers’ awareness of your company and brand. Sales teams convert that awareness into profit. Knowing the differences between sales vs. marketing can help mitigate departments stepping on each other’s toes, streamlining internal processes.


Both marketing and sales strategies will leverage information about a company’s history and its overarching goals and efforts. Marketing strategies generally explain what the product is, how much it costs, who will buy it, and where it will be sold. Marketers frequently rely on the 4Ps: product, pricing, place and promotion to develop their initial strategies. 

Sales plans generally focus more on the details involved in the sales process like team structure, target market(s), territories and goals. In addition, sales plans lay out the strategy, techniques and resources that will be employed to achieve these goals.


Perhaps the biggest difference between marketing and sales is seen in their goals. However, as with all aspects of a business, the ultimate goal of marketing objectives is to increase revenue. In general, marketing goals can be divided into five categories:

  • Increasing brand recognition;
  • Generating high-quality leads;
  • Growing and maintaining thought leadership;
  • Increasing customer value; and
  • Empowering your employees to become brand ambassadors.

A sales team’s goals are based on how much the company needs to sell to make enough money to remain financially soluble.


When comparing sales vs. marketing, one of the easiest ways to differentiate between the two is through their key performance indicators (KPIs). Here are a few examples of common marketing and sales KPIs:

Sales KPIs

1. Monthly sales growth

The rise or decrease in your sales income every month is measured by monthly sales growth. Setting achievable sales revenue targets, both individually and as a team, helps motivate employees and keep sales efforts on track.

2. Average profit margin

The average profit margin assists sales teams in determining profit margins across their whole product and service portfolio. This is especially essential for companies that provide a variety of products or packages of products, and those who give their sales staff price freedom to lock in consumers.

3. Monthly sales bookings

A closed transaction or a signed/committed sale indicates the month’s overall number of “wins.”

4. Sales prospects

Qualified prospects allow sales teams to see all available options and evaluate which ones are worth their time and effort to pursue. This KPI groups prospects based on the value of the opportunity and the likelihood of a conversion. Through the value derived by pre-established criteria, a company can assist its team in prioritizing its efforts.

5. Sales targets

Sales targets analyze sales victories over time and are intended to motivate sales teams to improve their performance. However, it’s critical to establish a long-term strategy for sales target KPIs. Sales teams that are constantly under pressure to achieve the unachievable are prone to burnout.

Marketing KPIs

1. Cost per lead

The cost per lead, or CPL, is a metric for determining how cost-effective your marketing initiatives are at producing new sales leads. It assigns a monetary value to each lead generated by your campaign. Individuals with a significant number of viable leads will have a successful CPL.

2. Marketing-qualified leads

An easy way to distinguish between marketing vs. sales is the difference between a marketing-qualified lead and a sales-qualified lead. A marketing-qualified lead is a prospect that’s ready to be sent to your sales department for follow-up, but has yet to be qualified by your sales team. Oftentimes a lead will be qualified by marketing if they engage with a campaign, fill out a website form or take other action that indicates interest.

3. Retention

Customer retention evaluates how successful your company is at keeping customers over time. Focusing on this key performance indicator can improve your company’s reputation, customer service and overall customer experience.

4. Customer acquisition costs

The cost of each step required in persuading a potential consumer to make a purchase is factored into the cost per customer acquisition (commonly referred to as CAC). You can evaluate which methods are the most efficient for your business and budget by understanding how much acquiring a new customer costs.

5. Return on advertising spend

Return on advertising spend, or ROAS, is a metric for determining how much money an advertising campaign generates compared to the expenditures of operating the campaign. Many marketing teams rely on this metric to determine budget allocation and campaign success. 

Measuring the proper KPIs can help you get a better sense of your company’s health and the effectiveness of your sales and marketing approaches.


The ultimate goals of any sales strategy are to connect with potential consumers, communicate and listen to their needs, and turn them into paying customers. Typically, this process begins with a salesperson researching to find qualified prospects, then connecting with prospects via email, phone, or social media. 

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with Crunchbase, the all-in-one prospecting solution.

Then, depending on how complicated or technical the product or service, sales teams (often account executives and sales engineers) will present a demo to the prospect–all in the hopes of closing sales. Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are frequently focused on obtaining information about target audiences in order to determine which marketing and sales tactics work, and which don’t. 

Marketing teams often A/B-test messaging and other ideas to better understand what resonates with the audience(s) they’re targeting with a particular campaign. 


When sales and marketing work together

So, how can we break free from the sales vs. marketing narrative and establish a collaborative relationship between the two? For businesses, one option is to form a service-level agreement, or SLA. While often used to set expectations with external contractors, establishing this contract internally can also help the two departments align on a specific set of deliverables that one will supply to the other. This can aid in the formation of team relationships and help clearly define what is expected of both parties. 

Both sales and marketing departments will establish their common goals, buyer personas or ideal customer profiles, and lead definitions as part of this SLA. The SLA will also establish lead management procedures and define how sales and marketing success will be assessed. When sales and marketing are in alignment, the company is in a better position to attract and qualify more leads while becoming more profitable along the way.


Sales and marketing prospecting, all in one platform

Now that you better understand sales vs. marketing, it’s time to invest in a solution that can help you unlock the full potential of your company. Fuel your prospecting with Crunchbase’s all-in-one prospecting solution, powered by best-in-class private company data. Working on a team? Connect with our sales team to unlock our full suite of prospecting tools with Crunchbase Enterprise. 

Find information about sales prospecting tools, sales intelligence and more on the Crunchbase blog.

Crunchbase solution ad
  • Originally published October 28, 2021, updated October 29, 2021