The relationship between sales and marketing serves as one of the main sources of conflict for the modern day organisation. Yet it also offers one of the biggest opportunities for organisational growth in today’s environment.
Sales and marketing in large firms often operate as separate divisions, performing different functions with little collaboration. This tends to result in each department developing separate objectives, cultures and perceptions.
This can have a detrimental impact on a firm. Differences in objectives, cultures and perceptions often lead to managers focusing on their departments becoming individually successful. In turn, this can lead to missed sales and promotional opportunities and hinder customer relationships.
Concerns have led many to call for greater integration between sales and marketing departments. Some have even called for the two to be merged into one division. But the very nature of the work and personalities involved in each department makes this highly problematic.
Sales professionals tend to work in a face-to-face environment with customers, at a distance from the firm’s central location. Pressured by short-term targets, they are highly driven and pragmatic individuals. Sales people often perceive marketing people as immune from the pressure of sales targets and customer complaints, and think that they should provide better messaging, faster product development and better commission structures.
Meanwhile, marketing professionals tend to work at the central office. Driven by longer-term objectives, they take a more strategic and project-oriented perspective of the need to deliver growth. Marketing people often see sales as just one strand of the more complex ‘marketing mix’. They often perceive sales people as lacking a broad understanding of the macro dynamics of demand and supply. To many marketing professionals, sales people only care about their own customers and are willing to sacrifice the brand’s image to meet short-term targets.
These fundamental differences render a complete merger or integration of the sales and marketing functions inappropriate for many firms. But to kick-start growth, most firms should – at the very least – seek to improve the relationship between the two departments.
The benefits of greater collaboration and communication…
Although it is necessary for sales and marketing to carry out different activities that are performed by different individuals, greater collaboration and communication should lead to sustainable benefits through collective goals, a greater mutual understanding, better sharing of information, and better (and faster) decision-making by the respective management teams. The benefits include operational efficiencies, improved customer relationships and reduced organisational conflict.
Making this happen requires either mature leaders at the top of each department, or a strong MD or CEO that is willing to lay it on the line and force both divisions to work in partnership.
But it is important that firms do not go ‘too far’. If greater collaboration and communication is too frequent and forced, the quality of ideas and information exchanged between sales and marketing is likely to suffer. This might actually serve to accentuate the differences in culture and perceptions between the two departments, in turn, hindering customer relationships and increasing organisational conflict.
It is also important to consider that both sales and marketing should maintain key relationships with other departments, such as the finance and production departments, if they are to fulfil customer needs. Greater collaboration between sales and marketing should therefore not come at the expense of other interdepartmental relationships across the firm.
In summary, sales and marketing departments need to work together to kick-start growth. Greater collaboration between the departments should lead to a collective set of goals, better sharing of information and more effective decision making which, in turn, should improve operational efficiencies while reducing organisational conflict.
Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase