The Relationship Between Sales and Marketing

Balanced marketing and sales strategies can turn leads into customers

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Strong sales techniques are vital to driving business revenue and growth. But you won't have anyone to sell to if your business lacks an effective marketing plan. The balance of marketing and sales requires a comprehensive strategy that smoothly guides leads toward becoming customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing consists of the strategies your company employs to generate interest in your business. Sales are the methods by which you convert that interest into a transaction.
  • Marketing strategies attract cold, warm and hot leads, while sales techniques turn them into full customers.
  • Businesses must learn how to balance marketing and sales to effectively gain new customers.

Marketing vs. Sales

The difference between marketing and sales lies in how close you are to converting a potential customer to an actual customer.

Marketing encompasses the strategies you use to reach new leads and generate interest in your business.


Marketing strategies should have measurable benchmarks so that you can judge which marketing choices are cost-effective and produce results

Depending on your business, marketing could include:

  • Print, TV, or digital advertising
  • Public relations
  • Social media use and partnerships
  • Relationship marketing
  • Brand marketing
  • Viral marketing
  • Cold calling or emailing
  • Direct mail

Sales are the process of actually convincing someone to buy from your business. Most of the time, these leads have been driven to you via marketing efforts.


Sales often involve some level of interpersonal interaction that persuades a lead to become a customer.

Your sales strategies may include:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Cold calls or warm calls
  • Networking
  • Promotional events or trade fairs
  • Retail interaction
  • Direct sales
  • Abandoned cart emails

Cold, Warm, and Hot Leads

Turning a lead into a customer takes multiple points of contact. These can include any form of marketing, as well as social proof like recommendations from friends or online search results.

As potential customers progress through these points of contact, they are referred to as cold, warm, and qualified leads.

  • Cold: Leads who are unfamiliar with your brand, have no opinion on it, or don't intend to buy anything. You may know their contact information, but you haven't yet started the process of turning them into a customer.
  • Warm: Leads who have been exposed to some of your brand messaging or have heard about your business and are somewhat interested in buying. They may have followed you on social media or expressed interest in learning about your services.


When a prospect reaches the warm or hot level, it's much easier for a sales professional to convince them to buy.

  • Hot or Qualified: Leads who have a positive opinion of your brand, know what they would like to buy from you, and are close to making a purchase. They are ready to buy and need to be convinced that you are the best business to buy from.

Your marketing strategies guide cold leads through the stages necessary to becoming first warm and then qualified prospects. Sales techniques are what you use to close the deal and turn them into full customers.

Integrating Sales and Marketing

Integrating the work of your sales and marketing teams enables you to reach prospects at all three levels: cold, warm, and hot.

If your sales and marketing teams are in different departments, those departments must communicate in order to be effective. Have them work together to create a comprehensive strategy for reaching prospects from all three categories of leads.

Some possibilities include:

  • Cold lead strategy: Send out a direct mailing, run a digital ad, or sponsor a social media post.
  • Warm lead strategy: Write a personal follow-up email, send out a sales letter, or invite leads to a special seminar or free training session. If your warm lead strategy creates a qualified lead, it's time to proceed with closing the sale.
  • Qualified lead strategy: Conduct a one-on-one call; schedule an in-person meeting; offer a time-limited discount; or present a proposal, estimate, or contract.

Balancing Marketing and Sales

Small businesses and startups may lack the staff for separate sales and marketing departments, relying instead on just one or two people to handle both responsibilities. While this can make it easier to create a comprehensive marketing and sales plan, it can also mean that more energy gets directed to one side of the equation.

If your small business is having trouble balancing sales and marketing, invest the time and resources to learn about marketing materials, brand messaging, and sales tactics. When you and your staff feel equally skilled in both sales and marketing, you'll be able to balance the two to create a process that reliably turns prospects into customers.

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Updated by Taylor Tompkins
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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The American Marketing Association. "What Is Marketing?"

  2. Small Business Administration. "Marketing and Sales."

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