sales vs. marketing in ABM

After I graduated from college, I landed an entry level sales position at a boutique information security firm. The first ten months consisted of making at least seventy-five cold calls a day. I learned how to create rapport, overcome objections, manage a pipeline and, most importantly, provide value and the best customer experience possible to my prospects.

A few years later, I joined Evergage where I had the opportunity to apply my sales development skills as a business development rep before transitioning to marketing in an account-based marketing (ABM) role. I hesitated — my experience was in sales after all! I knew how marketing operated, but I didn’t know how to do marketing! Would my skills transfer to this type of role? My manager believed it absolutely would, so I left the sales team to join the marketing team at Evergage.

Many people ask me, what is it like to be in sales vs. marketing? Everyone’s experience is unique, but after a full year in ABM, here are my general takeaways and my tips for how marketers can work well with their sales team members.

Sales and marketing are different, but they’re actually more similar than I thought

The thing that surprised me the most was how similar each department is. I always thought of sales and marketing as binary alternatives, but once I transitioned to marketing, I realized that it wasn’t just sales OR marketing but sales AND marketing. It wasn’t until I was in marketing that I truly realized how intertwined both departments are. Many people see the difference in the culture of the marketing and sales departments (that’s definitely true) and make assumptions about how different they are, but each department shares similar objectives.

For example, many of the goals of sales and marketing are similar. If you were in sales and you were to look at pipeline generated, you might drill into how many cold meetings the business development reps (BDRs) have set and what the value of those opportunities are; whereas in marketing, you might drill into what personalization campaigns and channels generated marketing-sourced pipeline. The day-to-day of each role is fundamentally different, but, ultimately, both are trying to achieve the same objective.

Sales and marketing both value personalized experiences

Both sales and marketing teams understand the importance of delivering personalized experiences. Sales teams are accustomed to tailoring their sales pitches to prospects to speak their language and find the pain points that will resonate most with each one. And our BDR team, in particular, is adept at personalizing their prospecting efforts to each company to really cut through the noise and land a meeting.

The marketing team, meanwhile, wants to ensure that our website experience and marketing emails are as tailored as possible to each prospect or customer. We recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work and that each person that visits our site has his or her own interests and goals.

Since both sales and marketing are interested in attracting the right prospects, effectively communicating the value of Evergage, and delivering a good experience, both take an account-based approach, and personalization is the key.

Tips for working with sales as a personalization professional

Because I have worked in sales, I understand what the sales team is looking for in a personalization campaign. If you are trying to create alignment but are having a hard time understanding why the sales team is resisting, here are some things to think about:

What is the goal of the personalization program?

This might seem obvious, but it is important. If you have goals for your personalization program (which you should!) but they don’t overlap with the sales team’s goal(s) or you can’t properly explain how the program will help them, they will be resistant. Communicate what your goals are and see if they agree! If they don’t, work with them to understand how you can get them on board or adjust the program for better alignment. The stronger your understanding of how each team operates in order to achieve a common goal, the stronger your alignment will be.

For example, if you know that your BDR team uses a sales automation tool for their prospecting efforts, you know that they are able to schedule emails to be sent. Let’s say, in this instance, that your campaign goal is to generate a certain number of net new meetings. In order to help the BDR team (from an efficiency standpoint), you might create an outbound calendar that they can refer to. This way, they are able to see which touches (both sales and marketing) occur when, and work to make sure that each of their personalized emails is set for the right date. This has the added benefit of holding everyone accountable for their participation. The best part is, as the campaign rolls on, marketing can take on additional activities to help drive certain individuals to take the meeting, and vice versa.

If I were in your position, what would I want/need?

Empathy is key. Everyone is working hard, but to be on the same page, you can’t be entirely self-interested. Anticipating what sales might ask for is a great way to start off on the right foot for any campaign collaboration and overcome any potential objections they may have.

If you are running an ABM outbound program in collaboration with your BDRs and you don’t know where to start, a great question to ask yourself is: what can I share with the BDRs that might help them get a response from a prospect? So, whether it’s building account-specific website experiences that the BDRs can share via unique URLs to each prospect, or sending a direct mail component that includes a handwritten note from the account’s designated BDR, you want to be sure that you’re not just focused on what you’re doing, but what everyone else is doing as well. Putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about what they’d potentially want or need is a great way of generating new, creative ideas to help engage prospects across programs and channels, outside of what you are already doing.


While being in marketing is different than being in sales, there are many areas where marketers and salespeople are similar and share common objectives. Both departments are trying to provide the best experience possible to their prospects — whether it’s through marketing campaigns or onsite sales presentations or demos. There is no denying that the process is different, but each team is working towards a common goal — that is, demonstrating the value of the company and its products and services. Though both teams are measured against different day-to-day activities and metrics, marketing has a vested interest in strengthening the relationship with sales, and vice versa.

Instead of focusing on what makes marketing and sales different, focus on what makes you similar and you will certainly see success!