Growth Insights for CEOs

Sales and Marketing: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Posted by The Chief Outsider

How many times have we all heard about the discord between the Sales and Marketing organizations? This discord intensifies based upon whether you work in a Sales or Marketing driven culture. A CEO recently asked me why these two organizations don’t work well together, and how he can improve their overall relationships, and more importantly their individual and collective effectiveness.

I had to take a moment to process this inquiry as I have personally experienced the strained relationships. Some of my favorite questions that I have heard from my team and Sales brethren have been: “What do they do all day?” “They do a lot of stuff, but aren’t accountable for business goals?” or, “They just don’t listen, or follow-up on things.”


So after some thought, I told this CEO that while different in approach, we are all working toward the same thing, in effect, a customer-driven culture. An organization shouldn’t support, let alone tolerate, an “us vs. them” dialogue between these organizations. It is good to have healthy tension between Sales and Marketing to stimulate different thought but shouldn’t go over-the-line into an unproductive state. Many times the conflict arises due to lack of role clarity during the process (see customer acquisition section as an example).

Bringing It Down to Brass Tacks:

1) Market Opportunity:  It is the responsibility of Sales to capitalize on growing today’s market share, capturing as much business as makes sense for the organization and customers. They undertake needs assessment to ascertain the customers’ current issues and determine how the current product portfolio can solve these problems. They also take the lead in negotiating specific client pricing based upon a broad pricing strategy.

Marketing is also responsible for growing market share, however, focused on a longer-term horizon – identifying key windows of opportunity, including broader trends across customer groups, competitive threats, industry opportunities etc. (with input from the rest of the organization, of course). The result of these analyses may result in differentiated servicing by customer groups, new products and programs, revised pricing strategies, new channel opportunities or even positioning modification of the current portfolio.

2) Customer Acquisition: Depending upon the size of the target customer, Sales or Marketing will take the lead, but for today’s discussion, let’s presume that Sales is responsible for closing new business with an individual customer.  

However, we need to take a step back in the process, where identification of prospects occurs.

  • Sales and Marketing work together to develop a set of criteria to qualify prospects.
  • Marketing will undertake a number of initiatives (direct, tele, digital, social, etc.) to bring awareness of company brand and portfolio, garner interest and pre-qualify targeted leads.
  • Sales will meet with pre-qualified leads to sell current company offerings.  Opportunities will be developed if Sales considers them to be viable prospects, and they will continue to develop a relationship, present proposal, negotiate terms, close deals and work with functional colleagues to implement new business, as new customers are signed.
  • For non-responders, Marketing will conduct multi-touch nurturing campaigns to drive additional qualified leads to Sales.
  • Marketing will perform analyses on won/lost business at a portfolio, regional, industry, segment level to identify trends in order to identify areas of improvement and risk.

3) Product/Service Offering:  Sales is at the forefront in dealing with today’s customers in knowing what will/will not meet today’s customers needs. They are responsible for selling today’s products in order to meet current needs and generate revenue and margin to meet current P&L requirements. In addition, they are also responsible for providing feedback to Marketing for any perceived gaps communicated by customers in order to determine product enhancements or new product offerings for the NPD pipeline.

Marketing needs to be forward-looking -- unearthing customer pain-points and industry trends so that the company can be at the forefront of solving customer issues.   Input should be multi-faceted (Sales, customer research, industry data, adjacent market trends, other functional areas, etc.). Marketing also needs to take the lead in crafting clear, concise and compelling positioning messaging that demonstrates tangible value to individual customer segment groups.

4) Customer Retention: This may be one of the simpler areas to address. Sales (and in some organizations, Account Management) has direct responsibility for ensuring customer retention, satisfaction and renewal, especially in a B2B organization. They work to ensure that they are providing on-going business reviews that demonstrate the value delivered throughout the course of the term of the agreement and ensure that any customer service issues are resolved in a timely manner.

Marketing takes the lead in providing content in the form of business intelligence, e.g. data, programs, and services. Delivery (either Sales/Account Management or other channels, e.g. digital etc.) will be based upon customer segment/value. 

In addition, Marketing should be providing Sales with key management information about the customer in advance of customer renewal so Sales can be well prepared for renewal discussions about whether the client is performing as expected based upon contract terms, what the customer value to the company and other pertinent information.

So, back to the questions posed by the CEO – “Why cannot Sales and Marketing get along, and how do I improve the individual and collective efficacy?” The reality is that both organizations want the same thing. They need each other to drive revenue, customer satisfaction and profitability in the near and long-term.  

Some recipes for success include goal alignment at all levels of the Sales and Marketing organizations that tie key metrics and initiatives as well as facilitating organized programs for employees to move through the organization.

These Job rotational programs for high potential employees, allow them to take on successful roles in other functional areas (i.e. walk in someone else’s shoes), in order for them to be considered for the next level. The programs often prove to be an invaluable option for employees to gain new skills,and the overall organization.

So, how does it work in your organization?

Topics: Alignment, Customer Satisfaction, Sales and Marketing Integration