The Relationship between Marketing and Sales

As an organization matures, the roles of various groups develop and evolve over time. Cultural and economic strains will affect the company’s culture and cross-team relationships, especially the relationship between Sales and Marketing.

It is common to hear that Marketing and Sales often do not communicate, under-perform and over-complain; however, as these two groups mature, their functions can grow to become more aligned and integrated. The alignment takes work, strategic focus, and proactive systematic cooperation.

An article Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing published by Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham, and Suj Krishnaswamy, defines four types of relationships between Sales and Marketing that change and develop as the company matures.

The first type is the “undefined relationship”, where each group has grown independently and has been focused on it’s own role and set of tasks. The two groups, Sales and Marketing, are working in silos and unless issues arise, contact is limited and often driven and devoted to conflict resolution.

The second type of relationship is the “defined relationship”, where the two groups set up processes and rules that act as fences ensuring each groups knows the tasks and roles of one another. In this relationship, the two teams focus on their own tasks; however, they do build a reflective relationship, where they have a common language and work together at large events, conferences, trade shows, and customer events.

The third type of relationship is the “aligned relationship”, where the two groups have distinct boundaries; however, these boundaries are flexible and the two groups have joint contributions with planning and training. The Sales group understands common terminologies that the marketing team specializes in and marketers confer and play a role in transactions for large accounts.

The fourth type of relationship is the “integrated relationship”, where the boundaries and roles of Sales and Marketing become blurred and to some extent irrelevant. The two groups establish structures, systems, and rewards, understanding the other group’s role deeply and integrating their roles strategically. Both the Marketing and Sales groups focus on strategy by developing and implementing measurable metrics that they can share and implement into the organization. The two groups develop a sense of culture and grow together.

A study conducted by Paolo and Gabriele, (2007) found that an organization’s long-term strategic orientation, effective Marketing–Sales relationship, and customer-oriented salespeople are all attributes that positively affect superior customer value creation and organizational performance.

While communication can be costly for both groups through time investment on both side and decision delays, having a process that enables disciplined communication can create opportunities and move the team away from conversations devoted to conflict resolutions. One of the takeaways from the Harvard Business Review article is to appoint a person from the Marketing team to act as a liaison between the two groups. The liaison must be a person that both groups trust. This person can help resolve conflict, and share or enable knowledge sharing.

Relationship building is a complex process and can be hurdled through the various boundaries and limitations within the organization such as resource limitation, size of the team and how far apart the teams are spread. Without integration of the two teams Marketing and Sales, revenue generation, strategic functions and customer value generation will all depreciate as the organization grows.

As a Product Manager take the first step to improve the communication within your marketing and sales teams. This will improve, enrich and ultimately enable your team to build a better product with rich customer value. Lack of alignment and culture collision will affect your product’s performance and ultimately your company’s success.


Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing

Guenzi, Paolo and Troilo, Gabriele, (2007), The joint contribution of marketing and sales to the creation of superior customer value, Journal of Business Research, 60, issue 2, p. 98-107.

Photo Credit: 

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash


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