Marketing Automation vs Sales Automation

One of the many things I have noticed over the last number of months helping startups as a consultant is the lack of clarity around the difference between Marketing Automation and Sales Automation. Both have a similar set of underlying principles but by looking at them through the same lens results will struggle.

The first key thing to understand is the meaning of the shared term between both ie Automation. In both, the goal is to identify activities and processes that are currently active. Then scrutinize the process until it is boiled down to its purest essence. Its a requirement for both Marketing and Sales automation. Then with careful process design with the help of technology and tooling automation elevates performance.

The difference between the two is timing and the journey. Marketing automation focuses on leads that have not converted and are still MQL’s. Nurturing those contacts throughout their journey is critical as its priming them for when they become SQLs.  Sales automation is everything that happens to qualify a SQL and gain more leads by prospecting. Prospecting is inherently a sales activity. 50 years ago prospecting would happen via cold calling but for saas companies, a lot of this activity has shifted to email ala “cold calling 2.0” hat tip to Aaron Ross for his genius.

The biggest area where I commonly see companies struggle is understanding the difference. To think that a classic marketer can run both marketing automation and sales automation is misguided as the goals are misaligned.

In beginning, lead generation, lead scoring, and outreach are the primary activities for sales automation. However, the goal of outreach is to gain a response not to educate but to simply get a response for which a conversation can be built upon. A marketing approach to the problem and channel will put less weight into the targeting and medium and more into the desired response. This approach generally leads to ironically long sales emails that hope to sell the prospect as that is often their goal when writing copy for other channels.

However, if a sales development rep were tasked with getting more responses the type of messaging will be more natural and shorter.


Sales automation is for everything that happens to inbound leads that have become SQLs and all cold prospecting and outreach. Think cold call days, you would not ask your marketing department to build the call lists. Don’t let your marketing team run your sales.


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