The Great Divide: The Fine Line Between Sales and Marketing Teams

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

Do you feel that the line between your sales and marketing teams is blurred? You are not alone. Marketing drops leads into the funnel and sales closes the deals. However, without some type of relationship, it’s difficult for marketers to acquire leads. This is why the two departments are so closely interrelated yet manage to be so separate.

To put it simply, marketing is anything related to reaching and bringing in leads, while sales is anything related to closing the sale. When these two teams work together, magic happens. When they don’t, success can be thwarted. If you’ve seen the latter happening in your company, it’s time to educate yourself on the differences between sales and marketing. This way, you can clarify roles, reduce tension between the teams, and increase your bottom line.

Sales vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?  

The typical goal of a marketing team is to generate interest in a particular product or service. The people who show interest - leads - are then passed onto the sales team. Common marketing activities include:

  • Consumer research

  • Product development

  • Brand awareness

  • Social media

  • Direct mail

  • Relationship marketing

  • Viral marketing

A sales team is focused on converting leads into actual paying customers. Salespeople generally work with individuals and small groups, whereas marketing works with large groups. Their interactions are highly personalized, and activities involve cold calling, networking, and one-on-one meetings.

Sales & Marketing Myths: Are They Causing the Great Divide?

Many of the rifts that exist between sales and marketing are based on misconceptions of what each team does. By understanding the subtle yet important differences between the two departments, you can iron out tension in the workplace.

Let’s review the most common misunderstandings between sales and marketing and the solutions for dealing with them.

Myth: Marketers only care about the quantity of leads, not the quality.

How many times has your sales team complained about low quality leads?

It’s often believed that marketing doesn’t care about the customers, they just care about bringing in long lists of names. However, the success of a marketing team depends on how many leads convert, just like sales. If marketing continues to deliver low quality prospects, don’t assume they don’t care. Chances are, they aren’t qualifying leads correctly.

Talk with the marketing team to better understand how they are assessing and preparing leads for the sales team. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get this right. As you identify areas of weakness, you can work together to come up with a better lead scoring process.

Myth: Sales doesn’t understand what marketing does.

Your sales team is full of smart people. They know that their pipeline isn’t being magically replenished on its own. Thanks to marketing, salespeople always have prospects to follow up with and people to sell to. Plus, marketing is responsible for tracking numbers, analyzing data, and understanding which channels are driving the most leads.

If you see that sales doesn’t fully understand the efforts of your marketing team, do a shadowing exercise. Have the sales team shadow the marketing team for a few hours so that they can see how leads are qualified. It’s not as easy as it looks!

Myth: Marketing doesn’t understand what sales does.

The same argument can be made for both sides. Marketers, after all, take a lot of pride in knowing their audience like no one else. After all, they’re the ones who invest time and money into understanding each part of the buyer journey. However, marketers are not the ones actually engaging with customers in a one-on-one setting.

A shadow exercise can be helpful in this case as well. Let marketers listen to the conversations between prospects and salespeople. They can use these conversations to expand on their data and shed light on what prospects are really like.

Myth: Good salespeople can sell anything.

A good salesperson has a knack for building relationships and putting customer fears to rest. But, this doesn’t mean they can sell anything. In fact, today's consumers are highly aware of what they buy thanks to online reviews and product comparisons.  

To be successful, salespeople need all available resources. Sharing information is crucial, so it can be beneficial to schedule monthly meetings where data between the two teams is exchanged. If there's a chance that new insight can close a deal, the sales team should have it.

Myth: Marketers don’t know how to allocate their budgets.

Years ago, marketers had to make a lot of guesses on how to allocate their budgets. Thanks to marketing automation, marketers can now distribute money to the appropriate channels and campaigns. In fact, today’s technology is so precise, marketers can determine exactly when and where a prospect converted.

That said, there are times when data is limited. This is where salespeople can fill in the gaps. They are the ones actually talking with the prospects, so they might have fresh insight into why prospects do and do not convert. This information should be shared with the marketing team for a more well-rounded understanding of your buyer persona.

If you feel that your teams are strained, take the time to educate each department on member roles. Schedule meetings to exchange ideas and present new findings. Make time for team members to shadow each other. The more collaboration that takes place, the more the two teams will view themselves as part of something bigger and better.

About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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