Marketing and sales departments each focus on customers, albeit in different ways and at different customer journey stages. Generally, a marketing team develops messaging designed to attract and engage customers, while a sales team works to turn those potential leads into paying customers.
Despite their different goals, marketing and sales are deeply intertwined. If you’re considering a career in either marketing or sales, each has a lot to offer in terms of opportunity, growth, and earning potential. Here’s a closer look at each unit.
Marketing and sales sit at different ends of a purchase funnel—or the marketing strategy that outlines a customer’s journey—which begins when a customer expresses interest in a product or service and ends when they make a purchase. At the top of the funnel sits marketing: the team responsible for generating awareness or interest in a company's products or services. On the other end sits sales: the team responsible for establishing a relationship with customers and converting their interest into a purchase.
Each stage of the funnel requires communicating with customers:
Marketers communicate with customers via digital and print campaigns, including ads, social media posts, videos, blog posts, and emails. These efforts are meant to alert potential or existing customers to a company’s new or current products and services or build up brand awareness and brand loyalty.
Salespeople communicate more directly with customers. They’ll use email, phone and video calls, and in-person meetings to approach potential customers in the hopes of converting them to customers. Once they’ve achieved that goal, they maintain relationships with existing customers.
Marketing and sales work best together. For example, marketing teams can generate leads (known as marketing qualified leads or MQLs) for sales. In contrast, the sales team can inform marketing about customers’ needs so they can develop more specific campaigns and messaging.
A marketing career can take many paths, including:
Strategizing major campaigns for brands, products, or services
Communicating and engaging with customers using different mediums, such as digital marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing
Researching potential markets, customer behavior, and product competitors
Publicizing a company’s news and endeavors to press outlets
Social media marketers use social media platforms to communicate with new and existing customers. They may contribute to a social media team’s strategy, write copy for social posts, schedule posts, and monitor posts for engagement.
Market research analysts collect and interpret data to make informed suggestions that influence a business’s product and marketing strategies.
Marketing managers develop and oversee the communication between a business and its customers. With a high-level overview of a company’s marketing needs, managers help develop strategy and campaigns, delegating tasks that their team executes.
Learn more: Marketing Careers: 6 Areas to Explore
A sales career can also take a few different paths:
Working with prospective leads in different ways—either outbound sales (finding customers through research and prospecting) or inbound sales (working with customers who initiate interest)
Developing sales strategies to better position a company’s offerings
Maintaining and managing relationships with current customers
Overseeing a specific set of clients aka accounts
Sales development representatives (SDRs) work in outbound sales or lead generation. They’re responsible for researching potential customers and reaching out to pitch them on a company’s products, goods, or services. They try to understand a customer’s needs to fulfill them.
Account executives manage customer relationships, fulfilling a yearly quota that brings in new business. Like SDRs, they pitch customers on a company’s products, goods, and services, but they also do more customer maintenance to ensure a long-lasting relationship. SDRs may be promoted to account executives depending on their performance at a company.
Sales engineers sell products, goods, and services that are more technical or scientific. Because of the complex nature of what they’re selling, they need to have more in-depth knowledge of an industry and its particular products so they can effectively communicate the benefits of what they have to offer.
The answer to that question depends on a few factors, including the impact you want to have on a company, your personality and interests, and your skill set.
Marketing: If you enjoy being creative, strategic, and analytical, then marketing might be a good fit for you. Marketers often have to be collaborative, innovative, and organized as they research new ways to communicate, develop effective messaging, and work to generate interest in a company.
Sales: If you enjoy working independently, being competitive, and connecting with new people, then sales might be a good fit for you. Salespeople often have to be personable, organized, and self-starters so they can develop better relationships with customers, identify their needs, and convert those needs into a sale.
|Marketing jobs||Salary (average base pay in US)||Sales jobs||Salary (average base pay in US)|
|Social media marketer||$49,725||Sales development representative||$48,566|
|Marketing assistant||$43,817||Sales analyst||$67,068|
|Public relations specialist||$52,039||Account executive||$58,281|
|Market research analyst||$60,280||Sales engineer||$94,002|
|Marketing manager||$104,295||Sales systems manager||$118,371|
*All salary data from Glassdoor (December 2021)
|Marketing skills||Sales skills|
|Analytical thinking||Active listening|
|Customer knowledge||Customer relationship management (CRM)|
|Technical skills (CMS, SEO, social media, data analytics, and more)||Product knowledge and pitching|
If you’re interested in a career in marketing, a degree in marketing can help you learn about strategies and develop essential skills that may help you succeed in this line of work. But you don’t have to limit your options to a marketing major. Degrees in communications, public relations, or business can also provide a helpful and related pathway.
If you’re interested in a career in sales, a degree in communications, business, or finance can provide a strong foundation. Similarly, if you’re interested in becoming a sales engineer, a degree in engineering or computer science may help you develop the knowledge you’ll need to sell more complex products.
If you’re looking for a place to start, consider earning the Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate, which introduces you to the entry-level work SDRs do in tech.
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If you’re not sure whether marketing or sales is the better career path for you, completing a course in both areas can help you determine which might be the best fit.
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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.