The Sales and Marketing War revisited

The Sales and Marketing War revisited

Written by Professional Academy Tutor and Guest Blogger, David Todman.

Sometimes an issue or discussion lights the blue touch paper and, as the firework instructions say, ‘retreat to a safe distance’ is good advice.

One such long-standing issue is the role in a business of sales and marketing. This is such a hot topic that, in 2006, Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham, and Suj Krishnaswamy published in the Harvard Business Review one of the most popular and requested articles ‘Ending the war between sales and marketing’. The article highlighted how many CEO’s of major companies were unhappy with the joint activities and the resultant performance of their sales and marketing groups. They determined that there was a deep-seated disconnect between the two functions that should, one would think, naturally work closely together for mutual benefit.

They researched this gap and found that the two groups were, in many ways, very different in background, motivations and aims.

Neil Rackham, in his later INSEAD interviews, clarified this ‘difference’ as

‘marketing people are more cerebral, analytical, structured, and traditionally in many sectors have more education and training’.

He then went on to say that traditionally sales people were seen as

‘poorer at data and not very analytical, and driven by shorter-term tactical aims’.

In defence of sales people, he also said that as their performance as the most measured in the majority of businesses, they could defend their role very easily, whereas the more esoteric and strategic-sounding marketing programme could not so easily promise a clear return on investment. He summed up by saying that putting more sales people ‘on the street’ had a relatively clear outcome probability that a similarly-costed marketing programme could not so confidently forecast.

Sales vs MarketingSo where are we today, 10 years later, in this complex issue? As a quick-and-dirty piece of research I raised the issue as a topic of three major LinkedIn discussion groups,  as well as asking for opinions from established academics at both Portsmouth and Chichester Business Schools and some well-respected consultants.

A broad response and a wide range of views were received, from a quite extreme point-of-view: 

‘if Sales did what Marketing told them to do and executed the plans, then there would be no issues’ 

to the much more reflective recognition that roles are becoming blurred and a new, hybrid, Business Development function is emerging.

Additionally, it was felt that much depended on the industry being considered and how much the sales person developed a bespoke proposition jointly with the customer, or whether it was a commodity or product in B2C segments which were highly transactional. In the latter the role of marketing remained traditional.

The emergency of digital platforms was seen as critical in affecting both the roles of sales and marketing. For sales particularly in prospecting for new customers and researching the decision-making units, and for marketing harnessing the myriad opportunities for engagement that the developing digital platforms offer.

One thing came out loud and clear – both sales people and marketing people need to ensure their skills are up to date and they are open minded to new challenges and opportunities that present themselves.

This is also true as many companies need to look further afield for their new customers. Companies need to ensure they have a qualified ‘presence’ to new sales opportunities, either with direct sales efforts or by developing broader channels of distribution that will call for a number of new skills beyond just personal selling and developing national collateral for the marketing group.

So, is there hope that a truce can be called in the sales and marketing relationship? Yes, I think it can, with broader sales education, including an understanding of all the company operations and better engagement within the business. For marketing perhaps a hint of humility and acceptance that the nature of business and customer demand has become more immediate and ‘tactical’ and that ‘one size fits all’ segmentation misses the need for propositional individualisation.

Finally, developing the business is on the same agenda. Taking this broader view a convergence of the old structures will be encouraged. 

Sales and Marketing need to work together*

To find out more about how Sales & Marketing should be working as a strong integrated unit why not look into studying an ISMM Qualification in Sales & Marketing and speak to one of our qualification advisers today. If you would like to share your views on the conflict between Sales & Marketing you can get in touch with David why not connect on LinkedIn?

*image taken from this blog by Tibbr - It made our Sales & Marketing Manager chuckle so we had to use it!