Marketing vs sales: what's the difference?

laptop displaying sales analytics
(Image credit: Pexels)

When thinking about marketing vs sales, it's easy to assume they're the same thing. However, marketing focuses on developing a message that attracts customers, while sales work to turn those potential customers into paying ones. The best CRM software ties together the customer data gained from marketing with the entire sales journey, from start to finish, so you can track the results.

What do marketing and sales do? 

Marketing and sales have very different roles, despite initially seeming very similar. Here's a look at what each department provides:  

  • Marketing helps generate new leads and interest, and is what makes a potential customer pay attention to your product; it develops a message to engage customers
  • Sales helps turn interest into a customer once a customer is attracted by marketing; a sales team then helps convert that interest into a purchase by the customer
  • Marketing can be automated, unlike sales, and marketing automation is a key part of developing leads; unlike marketing, sales requires more of a personal and bespoke touch that automation can't always achieve
  • Sales create customers out of different leads, and can develop purchases via cold, warm, and hot leads, with the latter two cultivated by good marketing
  • Both departments can work together and collaborate to develop an effective marketing campaign, which can be used to achieve better quality sales

How departments can use marketing and sales

checklist of business tasks

Every department of a business interacts with, and benefits from, marketing and sales (Image credit: Pexels)

Customer service

Good marketing often involves a social media presence nowadays, which can also be used to provide better customer service through strong digital marketing practices. By engaging with audiences, customer service can improve, but also other users can see how good a company is, thereby working as a form of positive marketing. 

Customer service departments can also lead to good sales leads, as representatives can encourage certain products or services. From there, they can refer them to a relevant salesperson. The business benefits from a strong sale, while customers feel as if they are being listened to.

How marketing and sales work together

Marketing and sales work together to formulate strong sales. Marketing is used to send out a strong message about a product or service. It can do this through direct mailing, digital marketing campaigns, or by marketing specifically at past customers. 

From there, a sales team then develops those leads into something more tangible. With much of the work conducted by marketing prior to the occasion, sales teams are more likely to be dealing with customers who already have some knowledge of the service and why they want it.


HR departments need marketing in particular. To attract strong talent to a company, a good marketing campaign must be initiated to lure in prospective employees. Developing a strong company brand is vital, as well as being able to research how different onboarding processes can help keep new staff happy and keen. 

Sales also plays a role, as it's useful for a well-designed HR department to be able to track sales performance, and see both which employees are performing best and if certain products or services are most popular. 


Finance departments can use sales to help accurately forecast a company's future. A revenue forecast can determine which products are most successful, as well as evaluate where marketing should focus in the future. It can also use information from marketing and sales to determine where budgets should be adjusted, pinpointing where improvements can be made. 

Combined, they can be a crucial part of small business marketing strategies given budgets are often tighter here, while still wanting to be able to clearly define what a customer wants and needs. 

IT department 

IT departments can deploy software to make sales and marketing easier. That can include marketing automation tools as well as B2B marketing automation software. It can also include CRM software, which can help sales teams record interactions with clients and customers more effectively. 

IT departments can also set up services that keep track of time management, working out where time is best used for marketing and sales departments. That can lead to improved efficiency, so that leads that aren't as successful can be ruled out in favor of more effective methods.

Features and benefits of marketing and sales 

person writing business plan schedule on notepad

Marketing and sales can together boost profits, improve brand awareness, and enhance customer relationships (Image credit: Pexels)

Marketing and sales offer numerous benefits. Here's a look at the five key ways in which both departments can improve a business. 

1. Superior quality sales

When marketing works well, it's able to funnel some great quality sales towards the sales department. When a potential customer is intrigued by a product because it suits their needs, they're far more likely to be receptive towards a sales representative's suggestions. That means everyone is happier. 

The customer gains a product or service that they actually need without feeling pushed into anything. The sales representative enjoys a good sale without struggling to achieve it, while the marketing department does a good job of communicating the right message to clients. 

2. Improved brand recognition

A company isn't just about each individual product it sells, but the view that the world has of it. With useful sales and a strong marketing campaign, it can enjoy superior brand recognition over its competitors. Even if someone doesn't buy a product from the company (because they don't need it, for instance), they'll still have a positive view of the brand thanks to effective marketing, which leads to a better overall image of a firm. 

3. Increased productivity

A strong marketing campaign leads to better sales, which means everyone is more productive. The marketing team establishes better plans which are far more effective for the firm, such as focusing on a social media marketing campaign for younger audiences, or pursuing direct mailing for specific business types. The sales team enjoys better quality sales at a higher rate, so they continue to be more productive. 

4. Better customer satisfaction

Customers don't like to deal with pushy sales staff. By understanding the product through a high quality marketing campaign, a customer will approach a company with a better idea of what to expect from it. Knowledge means they feel less pushed into a service or product, with a sales team that can develop a pitch that's more appropriate for their needs. A happy customer is more likely to return in future for other products, as well as recommend a company to their colleagues. 

5. Increased staff satisfaction 

When everything runs smoothly, staff are generally happier. By balancing marketing and sales appropriately, a good marketing department can ensure better sales are funnelled to the sales department, leading to less friction for everyone. A marketing team can feel successful in its plans, while sales can feel they're doing their job well, hitting their targets without being pushy or inadvertently misselling. 

How much do marketing and sales cost?

Like with any business service, there's no one-size-fits-all cost for marketing and sales. The amount varies heavily depending on the size of the business, its annual sales, the industry involved, and even how much the competition is investing in the same field. 

For some companies, the costs can be quite modest, or even involve training people in-house in the practices involved. For others, it involves hiring dedicated marketing teams and consultants. It's also important to consider how much you need a digital presence, direct mailing services, or something completely different. Each service can cost a varying amount of money. 

Sales can often be developed in-house, but you will need to make sure that your team is adept at 'sealing the deal', and turning a lead into a successful sale through strong knowledge and a good attitude. It can also be useful to offer commission schemes and bonuses to encourage sales personnel to work more effectively. 

Marketing vs sales FAQ 

Which is bigger, marketing or sales? 

meeting from above with marketing content

It's not a question of marketing vs sales: both departments co-exist and assist one another (Image credit: Pexels)

Neither needs to be bigger, as they both need to co-exist. Some businesses may prefer a larger marketing team that can devise strategies for strong advertising plans, while others may find a small team can achieve just as much.

For sales, it's a similar story. Generally, quality is better compared to quantity, so a handful of great salespeople could be more useful than filling an office with mediocre staff. 

Generally, the prospects for marketing are wider, but it depends how you want to split up sales, and if you want to focus on certain areas. 

Which comes first, marketing or sales?

Marketing should always come first. A strong marketing campaign can cultivate a strong message and positive brand ethos for customers to take onboard, before a sales department uses that lead to produce a good quality sale. 

Whether that marketing campaign is done through social media, direct mailing, or even billboards on the street, sales can then use that prior knowledge from a customer to work out what's best for them. 

Why should marketing come before sales? 

Marketing is the foundation of a business. An effective marketing strategy can help answer many of the key questions a customer might have, long before they consider dealing with a sales team. 

With marketing coming first, a sales team's job is made easier because a potential client already knows what to expect, and may even have an idea of what they wish to purchase from a company. It saves a lot of hassle for everyone. 

Is marketing a strategy? 

Yes. It refers to a business's overall gameplan for reaching out to prospective customers before a sales team takes over. 

There are numerous different strategies alongside that, but one key fundamental one is to attract customers through different methods, such as by establishing the right price, placing, and then promoting it to the right audience. There's no point marketing to the wrong people, so it's vital to understand your key audience.

How important is marketing when starting a business?

It's incredibly important. While word-of-mouth can help for many businesses, it's far from guaranteed at any time. Developing a marketing strategy that means customers know of your products and services and approach you is an incredibly useful thing to do. Even the best business plans will struggle if no one knows they exist.  

Main takeaways 

woman stood by whiteboard and post-its discussing marketing

Marketing puts the message out to customers; sales brings in the customer's business as a result (Image credit: Pexels)

There's a lot to learn about marketing and sales, so we've gathered together the key points to take away from the two departments.  

  • Marketing is used for putting the message out there to customers; it's used to inform customers what to expect from a product or service, as well as provide some insight into a brand's ethos
  • Sales are for turning a customer's interest into a purchase; when a marketing campaign works well, better sales are more easily achieved
  • The two departments work closely together; both marketing and sales co-exist, so that they can inform clients and customers about products in different ways
  • Strong marketing and sales lead to better customer relations; customers prefer to be sold something they genuinely need, and a strong marketing campaign teaches them what they need to know before they're sold it
  • A good strategy is needed for both; it's important to develop marketing and sales strategies that work well for your firm, and learning who to market and sell products to is one of the key elements here

Further reading on marketing and sales

There's a lot to learn about marketing and sales, in order for your business to then profit from good strategies. It's worth looking into what a marketing funnel is and how it works, and the best digital channels for the various marketing funnel stages. Understanding the seven functions of marketing is also a great place to start. 

When selling to businesses, it's vital to learn about essential B2B marketing strategies, as this can be different to selling to the general public. Establishing marketing objectives for small businesses can also help with initial planning. However you plan on selling, knowing marketing 101 basics will benefit you.  

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 

Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides and hunting down the latest coupon codes to save you money. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.