The ongoing battle between Marketing and Sales

iStock_000016964059SmallI once was asked to co-lead a roundtable of about 20 C-Level execs where the subject was, “Where does ‘Marketing’ end and ‘Sales’ begin?” My co-leader was (and still is) a friend and excellent sales trainer. He went first and nicely presented a traditional “Marketing generates leads and Sales closes them” model. Then it was my turn. Fortunately, most of the initial wrinkled brows soon became nods of affirmation… Followed soon by a return of the wrinkled brows as they realized the new challenges before them.

Let’s begin with definitions. Here is the Oxford definition of marketing:

The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

And from

1. the act of buying or selling in a market. 2. the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.

Sales and the act of selling are marketing functions. There is no point at which marketing ends and sales begins.

Why is this important? Because too many businesses have choked the life-flow of their organizations by allowing this separation. It’s part semantics, part internal butt-covering and part lack of understanding of this important concept. Sales says they are failing for lack of leads. Marketing claims the sales people can’t close a door. Meanwhile, the company suffers because nothing is being sold.

Of course, the company shouldn’t have to “sell” anything.

If the company has a genuine, compelling and attractive competitive advantage, its product should sell itself. It should need Customer Experience Enhancers, not sales people. Obviously for most companies, that cannot happen overnight.

So what needs to happen?

  • Reevaluate the entire team – not just the sales staff. Determine if the people in place are hard-wired for their current roles. You can train skills but you cannot train personality and motivation. Most companies have round pegs that are being asked to fit into square holes. There is a defined process for this analysis that is scientific, methodical, starts in the C-Suite and goes all the way to the intern. Make sure the team is capable of fulfilling their roles and delivering results within the company’s current strategy and that there is a system for maintaining good people in those positions.
  • Revisit, renew or redefine the purpose or “why” of the organization. Does the company actually have a genuine competitive advantage to begin with? What is the vision of the C-Suite? Is the purpose and product aligned with a genuine need in the marketplace that no one else offers, that is relevant, compelling and attracts business? If not, this needs to be addressed before the success transition can be made.
  • Replace your Marketing Director. Unless your Marketing Director has the skills and experience to direct a sales team in addition to marketing communications, PR, advertising, traditional and social media, he or she is not qualified for the job of a real director of marketing.
  • Eliminate the Sales Manager position. Chances are, he or she is someone you promoted out of sales meaning they are no longer generating the revenue they were before. And if you have a qualified Marketing Director, it’s redundant. Once you achieve competitive advantage, you don’t need a sales manager, you need a Customer Experience Manager because your advertising and communications strategy is delivering sales, not leads. It’s delivering people coming to you saying “I need that” instead of you making calls hoping for “Yeah, I’ll listen to your pitch.”

Think about the great compelling brands. They start with “why”, their people are the “how” and those two elements determine the “what.” The “what” is otherwise known as the Brand Experience. There is no competition between marketing and sales because everyone is united in purpose, everyone is involved in delivering the brand experience thus everyone is in “sales” and everyone is too busy filling orders.





  1. PeteR January 20, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    This is very insightful and you are totally right. I was at a conference once and the speaker talked about the stock boys at Whole Foods being totally engaged with the “Why” of the brand. Yes, they see themselves in the role of sales when customers ask about products just like the parking lot attendants are at Disney.

    • Kevin January 21, 2014 at 8:55 am #

      Thanks for your comments and two great examples! Note also how they, like Apple and Starbucks whose teams have similar passion and purpose, never have to compete on price.

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