Sales vs Marketing – Who Owns Revenue?


Plenty of marketing professionals will tell you that their team is often misaligned, misunderstood, or competing against the sales team at their organization. Unsurprisingly, many sales professionals echo this same sentiment. In fact, a 2019 survey commissioned by LeanData and Sales Hacker uncovered that more than a third of those surveyed (37%) do not believe that sales and marketing are properly aligned.

Sales vs marketing is an age-old war being fought in organizations around the world, but it is a battle that should never exist in the first place. Sales and marketing teams should be united around the same goals. Unfortunately, professional pride gets in the way as both teams want to take credit for successes and avoid blame for failures, putting them perpetually at odds. The result is reduced sales, slower revenue growth, and diminished morale.

Subsequently, aligning sales and marketing is a key component of strategic revenue growth. As Marketo explains, “Sales and marketing alignment is potentially the largest opportunity for improving business performance today. When marketing and sales teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing return on investment (ROI), sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth.”

The Shift To a RevOps Team

Some companies have already started combining sales and marketing into one revenue-focused team (A Revenue Operations Team) to align these two critical groups, and recent data indicates that many more will follow suit in the future.

  • According to an InsideView study from earlier this year, more than half of organizations will merge sales and marketing operations into one team within the next year.
  • Almost as many believe that Sales Development will adopt a more strategic role as part of this shift to drive revenue growth.
  • This data is mirrored in research from 2019, which reveals that 31% of organizations have a revenue operations team already.
  • 27% indicate they are currently building a revenue operations team.
  • These figures have risen dramatically from 11% and 12% respectively over the previous year.


According to a recent survey, the most commonly cited barriers to sales and marketing alignment include inaccurate or incomplete data, communication issues, and inefficient processes. However, these barriers are not the only prevalent challenges that exist. Culture is also a significant barrier to aligning these two teams, which is why it has been ranked as the most pressing alignment challenge to confront.

The “culture wars” between sales and marketing center on how each team perceives their own motivations, efforts, and results compared to how they perceive the other team across the same criteria. Whether it is deserved or not, marketing has the reputation of being fluffy and feel-goody – focusing on vanity metrics like followers, subscribers, likes, and clicks instead of using a revenue filter to guide their activities. The perception is that marketing teams are responsible for doing the shiny, clean things that look good but then sales is asked to do the dirty job in the trenches to bring in the revenue without getting adequate credit.

Sales thinks marketing generates bad leads and marketing thinks sales fails to follow up on the leads they worked to bring into the pipeline. The revenue reality is that both are true – marketing does not bring in quality leads when they are focused on the wrong goals, so sales does not pursue the them because it is not worth their effort to chase unqualified leads. This is evidenced in the fact that only 31% of companies say that their sales and marketing teams agree on which key accounts to target for growth.

Easing these tensions to achieve effective sales and marketing alignment requires equality. Neither team should lead the charge, but sales needs a seat at the table to drive revenue development in a merger. When teams are aligned around revenue, better leads from marketing fuel efficient sales performance, creating a symbiosis with company-wide benefits.


While a schism clearly exists in many organizations, there is hope! Of those surveyed earlier this year 74% said their team currently has a good or excellent relationship with the other team, indicating that relations are continuing to improve. This positive shift is likely occurring because more companies are taking a collaborative revenue-based approach.

Being successful with this method requires the right tools. Clean data is critical. Accurate market data, business analytics, sales intelligence, and customer data are a prerequisite for working together effectively. These numbers provide the basis for strategic planning efforts that bridge lead generation and acquisition.

Facilitating open communication is another crucial, albeit softer, tool for sales and marketing alignment. HubSpot recommends nine “smarketing best practices” which include:

  • Meeting regularly
  • Collaborating on content creation
  • Showcasing salespeople’s expertise
  • Listening to sales calls

These tools aim to refine customer touchpoints and streamline sales processes while creating empathy between teams. The result is a unified sales and marketing approach that generates better leads and facilitates closing more sales.

The Role of the CRO

A Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is uniquely positioned to drive the migration from separate sales and marketing teams to a single revenue operations team. Whether this shift is a formal restructuring or a change in strategic approach, a CRO can own the process. Companies that opt not to hire an in-house CRO can utilize a fractional CRO to create an equal partnership between sales and marketing. A fractional CRO will analyze how the two teams intersect and optimize that dynamic, creating a truly symbiotic relationship to maximize revenue growth.


Find out more about how your organization can benefit from hiring a CRO as well as how to find a CRO to unify your sales and marketing teams. Download “The Role of a Chief Revenue Officer” – a complimentary, instant-access eBook to help define the role of a CRO for your organization.


Topics: Revenue Growth Strategy Strategic Revenue Growth Chief Revenue Officer Revenue Generation