Engaging Marketing & Sales: Underlying Reasons

Both departments perform different functions but their results are directly linked. A poorly executed campaign, can affect directly the results of a unit and, when this occurs, managers fall out blaming each other for deficient performance. In fact, this two departments not always get along when they work together. When the sales force is not meeting targets, they claim that the prices are too excessive or that the target audience is not understanding the product, starting to question the marketing budget. Similarly happens with the marketing team, they tend to believe that their roll-out plan is a great idea, asserting that the sales team should easily convert their leads. 

Lack of understanding, miscommunication and be out-of-sync can affect the performance of a company and alter the metrics dramatically in a blink of an eye. However, it has been proven that when both departments work together, remarkable results can be achieved. For example, companies such as Coca-Cola, IBM and Kraft foods have both departments integrated, the communication is aligned and well-coordinated, therefore they witness that their sales cycles are shorter and its market-entry costs go down.

Evidently, all these firms are major organizations, hence they manage massive budgets and are able take some risks. In real context, most of the companies are small or medium size, therefore, this begs to the question: Could we employ the same approach in any size of business? The answer is: depends.

In 2006, Philip Kotler conducted a research within various organization in diverse sectors with the purpose to identify in each department what can managers do in order to enhance marketing and sales performance in conjunction. Surprisingly, the findings identified two main strains between both departments that can slow companies’ output: Economic and Cultural.

However, it is important to highlight that the marketing role varies depending the business size. In small businesses, managers are multi-functional, they perform tasks such as sales, marketing and admin. The marketing culture is nil and is wrongly equated with sales. Then, when organizations start to grow, the departments begin to be more independent and a marketing position arises in order to relieve the sales workload (The first link between departments emerge) and eventually,  marketing ecomes the strategist of the organization, generating leads and opportunities to sales using diverse channels of communication, employing various strategies and implementing new technologies. 


At this stage is when friction between the two departments become visible, sales does not understand that marketing sees the consumer as a whole (segment) and marketing does not want to recognize that sales can provide valuable insights of the consumer. As a result, the economic and cultural battle begins.

Economic Disagreement

The disagreements begin when the budget is delivered by the General Manager. The sales managers tend to believe that more manpower within its department would ramp up the sales, thereby they start to criticize the spent money in pricing, promotion and product. Specially, sales focuses their criticisms in the pricing as they all agree that if the prices are lower, targets are easier to achieve, whilst marketing focuses to set a competitive market price. However, when low pricing is needed sales has the final word.

Also, the budget can reflect which department has more power within the organization. In most firms, the budget towards sales is higher than marketing because of their short-period impact, it is easier to measure and assess, whilst marketing efforts are viewed as a long time investment, aiming to generate future opportunities, therefore are less tangible and more difficult to judge.

Cultural Friction

Sales people are talented relationship developers and experts explaining product features, advantages and characteristics. They are self-motivated as their salary is tied to closing sales. They are accustomed to objections and rejections. However, they are not highly analytical and project focused as marketers. They just want to keep the same pace and finish the job quickly. 

It is hard to believe that in certain organizations this two groups cannot get along. Squabbles can arise about simple things such as which product is easier to sell. Marketers do not just want to sell the product, they also want to analyse which product has longer life-cycle in the market in order to build a future strategic plan, and the sales team is the only department that has a broad customer knowledge and extensive insights as their communication with the client/customer is in a daily basis. However, it is much more difficult to assess and demonstrate marketing competitive advantage in a short-term as they focuses their plans in a long-term.

Despite the fact that we can find some tensions in both groups, even when a good rapport exist between the two managers, the relationship evolves when functions mature. Kotler divides this evolution in four types: Undefined, Defined, Aligned and Integrated, highlighting that there is a point, in some cases, when both groups are conflict-free, boundaries are open, metrics and rewards are shared and the two departments share ideas until certain extent, respecting every final decision (It’s important to remark that if the organization is operating successfully, they can maintain the current level of relationship, unless the executive manager wants to create a joint development).

The following graph outlines the main responsibilities of each department. Notwithstanding that their tasks are well-defined, reciprocal communication and certain level of involvement of the managers in some steps would improve the understanding of the process within the two groups.


It would be a bold statement to assert that integrating both departments, the organization will generate more opportunities and convert more leads. Also, it would be unwise to recommend firms to change the way of communication when they are performing well. Yet, we can all agree that carefully planned improvement of communication will always have as a result a better service to customers (Sales) and help marketers to develop and enhance new products (Marketing).



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