After years and years of talking about sales and marketing alignment, why do so many of us still get it wrong? Only 8% of companies have a strong alignment between these two departments.

I’m of the opinion that most of these issues, at their root, boil down to department-centered vanity and control. 

Sure, both teams have the ultimate goal of driving more sales. However, each has its own agenda for how to get there.

Marketing feels fierce ownership of the brand strategy and voice and wants to craft the recipe for how to increase awareness and make your brand name and logo design famous.

Sales feels passionate about the one-to-one conversations with prospects and the real-world issues that can lead to productive dialogues that close deals.

Instead of arguing one is superior to the other, sales and marketing teams need to be in sync to meet revenue goals together.

1. Explore the divide

Before we figure out how marketing and sales can work together and help each other create a seamless buying experience, it’s important to look at what their functions are individually, and what their driving motivations and perspectives are when it comes to buyers. 

So what’s the difference between these two departments? 

sales vs marketing

Let’s look at the function of marketing.

  • Marketing is passive by nature
  • Marketing seeks to make prospects aware
  • Marketing wants the prospect to reach out
  • Marketing is content reaching people
  • Marketing creates leads

Now, let’s compare that to the function of sales.

  • Sales is active by nature
  • Sales seeks to make connections with prospects
  • Sales wants to reach out to the prospect
  • Sales is people reaching people
  • Sales closes leads

This comparison can be finished with the following statements.

  1. The lead that is the easiest for marketing to generate is rarely the lead that is the easiest for sales to close
  2. The lead that is the easiest for sales to close is rarely the lead that is the easiest for marketing to generate

What does that mean? 

Marketing can easily churn out content, create ads, and find the cheapest sources to generate leads, but that doesn’t mean that all those leads are actually sales-ready leads. 

If not properly defined and managed sales and marketing functions can be motivated by opposing forces: marketing wants to create the greatest number of leads at the least cost, and sales wants to close the greatest number of deals with the least amount of effort. 

That’s why you need to do the following:

2. Revisit traditional roles

Breaking down silos and creating transparency is crucial for a successful relationship between sales and marketing. 

Another challenge is simplifying processes and keeping costs down. 

That’s why many organizations opt for implementing a single platform for everyone in their sales and marketing based on where they perceive the most pain. 

Not enough leads? Let’s get marketing automation software. 

Not enough sales? Let’s put everyone in a CRM or sales enablement platform. 

Still, infatuation with the latest business buzz can lead us down the wrong platform path.

Before you make any major decisions about your sales & marketing software, examine the roles and needs associated with each.


In many sales & marketing organizations, you have three general roles: marketers, sales reps, and account reps. 

Each plays an important part in generating and maintaining revenue for the business. However, the way each role is executed and the priorities of each role are different.

Therefore, different technology platforms are needed for each player to do their job.


Once you look at the specific roles that your team members play in the process of achieving revenue goals, it becomes a little more apparent that the tools they use should serve their role-specific needs.

Some vendors will try to argue that a single solution, typically CRM, can do all of these things for all of your team members in a single platform. 

To be fair, there are some great solutions that provide features for both marketing automation and customer relationship management in a single platform, but they fail to meet the real needs of sales “hunters” altogether.

Your sales hunters need more than marketing automation and CRM functionality. They are tasked with new customer acquisition and lead generation activities with the goal of turning leads into prospects and then into new customers.

If you shove your sales hunters into the marketing automation platform, they will be hunting for and cherry-picking whom they want to call – potentially calling leads that aren’t qualified. And that’s a waste of time.

On the other hand, if you force them into the CRM solution, they will be sorting through lists of existing customers, leads, and other data trying to figure out the right person to call.

The ideal solution is to select a platform like VanillaSoft that is built specifically for sales professionals who are responsible for closing new business. Hunting for new business is difficult, and requires its own set of tools to be successful.

Data and leads from your marketing automation platform can be imported into VanillaSoft, and all of the data your sales hunters collect can be pushed from VanillaSoft to your company’s CRM program so that there is transparency throughout the organization.

3. Marketing should make buyer persona creation more collaborative

Marketers often take a lot of time and effort to create buyer personas. 

These personas help drive their marketing strategy and lead generation efforts. Unfortunately, not all marketers take the time to brain-check these personas with the sales team.

Sure, there may be times when sales feedback may not be as useful. If you’re launching in a new vertical, for example, or rolling out an entirely new product. 

Maybe the executive team or product marketing/management team wants to attract a different kind of customer. Still, marketers shouldn’t underestimate the value of what sales representatives can bring to the buyer persona creation process.

Sales reps speak to people every day who are interested in your product. Salespeople know who will and won’t buy and the reasons why. They can give you insights into whether or not the marketing strategy is really attracting your target personas.

Ask sales for input to gut-check your personas.

4. Sales must speak up about their content needs

Buyers want to educate themselves before they ever talk to a sales rep, so compelling content is more important than ever. 

Unfortunately, many sales organizations feel they lack access to strong sales content. 

But instead of constructively voicing their concerns, they re-create the same sales deck, product sheet, script, or email that the marketing team attempted to put together for them.

Don’t be a martyr who “has to do everything because marketers just don’t get it.” 

Help your marketing team understand the difference between the content marketing they create to attract people to start a conversation versus the sales content you need to convince people to buy.

5. Define what a qualified lead is

Obviously, sales and marketing teams should work together to define lead criteria and processes for closing the loop on lead follow-up.

With that said, years of rivalry may still cause a little petty back and forth — “Your leads stink!” “No, your follow-up stinks!”

How do you move past this back-and-forth griping? Here are some ideas worth considering.

Marketing should consider further qualifying leads before handing them off to Sales

Marketers, if you firmly believe you’ve got some great leads, put on your sales development rep (SDR) hat — or get some SDRs on your team — and start reaching out directly to these leads before handing them over to sales and account executives. 

Instead of letting your marketing investment turn to dust, put your money where your mouth is and prove the value of your efforts. Get those leads into an SQL state to hand off to the reps who can close the deal.

Sales should stop cherrypicking leads

Salespeople, if you’ve got a loosey-goosey CRM where you pick out the leads you’re going to call that day, you’re already at a disadvantage. 

A list-based CRM makes it all too easy for you to spend a ton of time “panning for gold” in that stream of leads instead of just picking up the phone and getting down to business. 

A list-based solution allows you to make judgment calls based on your “gut.” 

You think the leads marketers are sending over are garbage because they don’t fit your preconceived notions of what a good lead is. You may be passing up real sales opportunities because of your cherrypicking.

Both teams should embrace the value of a sales engagement platform

Sales engagement software is often the missing link in the sales and marketing tech chain. 


Marketing automation only gets a lead so far in the sales process. Once that lead gets dumped into the company’s CRM solution, it often falls off a cliff. 

A sales engagement platform is the bridge that safely moves a lead from a prospect to a potential customer by allowing your SDRs to engage with qualified leads at the right time using content that matches a prospect’s progress in the buyer’s journey.

With a sales engagement solution, sales and marketing can ensure that leads get:

Sales & Marketing Can Work Together

The secret sauce in sales and marketing alignment is working together. Instead of reading a bunch of articles about what should be happening, start looking for ways to make collaboration and communication work in your company. With open minds, a little less ego, and the right technology stack, you’ll be amazed at how much more these two teams can accomplish together.

Watch the Researchers Discuss the Study