Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sales and marketing: The war must end

Marketing, as a function, is relatively younger in comparison to other functions of the organization. In early 1900, it evolved as an ancillary function to sales in order to help them with literatures, brochures, promotional materials etc. Marketing was a mere extension of sales with a single point objective to sell whatever was produced.

Marketing underwent major transformation in 1950s when it was about relationships and behaviors of buyers and sellers. In 1990s, marketing started embracing the concepts of strategy and evolved further where strategic marketing took shape in the years to come. Today, the core of marketing is about understanding customers, engaging them and creating impeccable brand value; thus urging customers to buy. Intense competition is pushing marketing further to differentiate, get closer to customers, and build strong bonds. Customer intimacy is new buzzword on the horizon.

The concept of selling also underwent changes, but not as acute as that of marketing. It still revolves around the cycle of lead generation to closing the sale; operating mechanisms and selling approach have, obviously, transformed.  All the glitters around selling are more of the result of evolved marketing.

During all these years, somehow, marketers drifted away from their fellow sellers. There’s lot written and being practiced on synergy and alignment between sales and marketing; still, they seems to be at conflicting ends with locked horns. Being donned the hat of both sales and marketing, I have been witness to both sides of the story. I believe, we often tend to ignore the common sense where the remedies are generic and can be applied with some success; although the issues can be starkly different across organizations.

Conflicting views about each other: In simpler terms, both sales and marketing suffers from self indulgence and inflated pride; the he-knows-damn-about-my-function syndrome; red signal for organizations.

Objectives misalignment: Sales have clear objectives of revenue and margins. These are concluding steps in sales funnel. They fail to see the marketing’s objectives in line with theirs; especially when objectives of marketing are placed higher up in the funnel and tend to get hazy till the time actual sale happens. This is the common problem of executives’ shortsightedness.      

Organizational orientation:  The differences are loud when the organizational culture is strongly polar; in either sales oriented or marketing oriented organizations. This polarity generates the acute trouble of silos in which both the functions suffers with tunnel vision within their own, sometimes misaligned, objectives.

Sales and marketing can’t be the same as they perform discreetly different tasks. They must complement each other to get the customers engaged and move up the satisfaction ladder. Customers turning into staunch advocates are the prize equally revered by both, sales and marketing.

Many companies have successfully bridged the gap, some have limited success, and some others are still exploring the perfect recipe of peace and prosperity between sales and marketing. 

As I emphasized above, generic, one-fit-for-all solutions are where companies must make a head start.

Communication: This is at THE CORE of all the immensely successful or miserably failed organizations; the only difference – managing communication well or letting it drift into oblivion. The silos mentality, once crept in, is hard to reverse. Sales and marketing communicating coherently, can be transformed into a great duo.

-Invite marketing in sales meetings and vice versa. Share, deliberate, thrash, accept, and reject ideas, solutions, and plans with utmost honesty between both the teams.

-Share more data and insights with each other; campaigns details, newsletters, customer data, sales pipeline, tactics and strategies etc. Let each team feel the other’s strengths, weaknesses, hurdles, and tweak their plans in order to fill the void.   

-Start a joint bulleting, internal or external. Highlight achievements, the resultant of team work of sales and marketing.

-Communicate with other functions of the organization as a common voice. This will definitely give weight and credibility to both the teams. One voice for common objectives fosters bonding and respect.

-Spend time together in fun picnics, outings, and team gatherings.

-Make the functioning of both the teams as transparent as possible to each other to foster mutual trust and respect.

Role clarity: Define the roles of sales and marketing with crystal clarity. This is the foundation for tomorrow’s success and conflict resolution. Propagate the roles to every member of the teams. Ensure that both the teams understand the mutual goals. In fact senior executives from both the teams must sit together; and mutually device and agree upon each other’s roles.

Objective alignment and understanding: Aligning the objectives of sales and marketing go a long way in restoring peace and lay path to long term prosperity. Many a times, only a shift, a different way of presenting and viewing, works as wonder. 

-Sensitize both the teams about common objectives of revenue enhancement; although they are placed at different stages in the revenue generation funnel.

-Sales numbers are tangible and easily measurable. In the same line, formulate goals of marketing on the basis of outcome; not on the activity. You’ll see the surprised coherence. Campaigns, corporate contracts measured in incremental revenue; advertisements, promotions and exhibitions measured in lead generation (with sales accountable for converting those leads). The list varies from one industry to other, but the basic essence remains the same.

-The performance goals for sales should also be applied to marketing and vice versa; be it sales, margins, market share enhancement, lead conversion, new products revenue etc.  This may need thinking with fresh perspective and getting out of status quo.

-Every goal of sales and marketing should be set keeping in view of customers needs; the greatest link for alignment between the two.

Get along, percolate down: Prejudices and strong opinions, like water, flow down from the top. Action speaks louder than words.

-Appreciate the other team’s efforts, approach, and point of view in your team meetings, casual gatherings, and water cooler talks; even in the absence of any member of the other team. This exhibits and promotes honest and sincere approach towards your counterparts. Believe me; consciously percolating your mind down to your team has magical impact in getting every member on board with understanding and respect for other function. 

Organizational culture: This is more of a collective effort, with executives at the top to set the ball rolling.

-Develop the culture of service and humility towards each other, including your customers. Get your organization out of the marketing-oriented or sales-oriented mould. Sales and marketing working together with objectives of customer service and humility, minus their mutual discords will be a treat to watch and experience.

Broader overview: Encourage both the teams to look beyond functional objectives.

-Focus on broader picture of corporate goals. Of course, functional objectives are subset of corporate goals; but this approach urges them to bury their differences and aim for completely aligned corporate goals.   

I reiterate, the road to solution can be different for different industries and organizations. This depends upon the culture and orientation hard-wired into the DNA of the organization. 

You need higher level of alignment to get sales and marketing teams to work cohesively taking your organization up the success ladder.

In fast changing dynamics, organizations can’t afford the two critical functions at war.

This war must end!!!!

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Hardeep is an entrepreneur, marketer, blogger, an ardent reader and avid writer. He expresses his unbiased views especially on the matters of Business, Tech & Life through this blog. He can be reached at



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