Sales vs Marketing - Who should be guiding your decision making?

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

It is a controversial question that most companies avoid addressing. Yet the key to long term sustainability lies in the answer.

Why is it such a hard topic to discuss and why do so many companies allow it to prevent them from achieving their full potential?

In this article we will look at both sides of the equation and then explore how they can be used in harmony.

In the Marketing corner

Marketing is such a broad term that encompasses many disciplines. It is often seen as the softer side of the business. The voice of the brand that tells a story and promotes what products stand for.

There is often a misconception that Marketing is solely needed to "advertise" products and services. This is one element for sure, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes too.

Marketing will set the vision and strategic path of a company. They are responsible for tapping into market demands, trends, and potential new opportunities. They provide clarity around target markets, competitors, CRM, and potential new verticals.

They are also responsible for the management of products and services. This includes the positioning, stock management, messaging, and margin contribution of each offer.

In the sales corner

Sales are under an immense amount of pressure to produce results. Due to the nature of their role, their effectiveness is more visible through their numbers.

As such they are always under scrutiny to achieve targets and drive growth. The tools they use to deliver these results are those provided by Marketing. It is this point of contact that either makes or breaks the relationship.

They have the added pressure of being customer facing. This means they have a front row seat when it comes to customer feedback, frustrations and demands. From price negotiations, converting new users, to managing complaints when things go wrong.

The salesperson is the ambassador of the company's vision to the customer. They are also the target when things do not work. That is one of the key driving factors behind their passion to satisfy their customer needs.

Friction Point

One of the biggest challenges for a Marketing department is to balance the long-term strategic plans with present demands.

When sales are slow, demands for quick fix solutions are quite common. This usually manifests as requests for sales promotions, price changes or "promotional giveaways". Many of which may work in the short term, but to the detriment of the long-term vision.

Sales work to their targets, which are set monthly, quarterly or at best annually. Achieving these monetised targets determines how much they get paid. Failure to convert sales and deliver value to customers does not just impact their earning potential. It has an effect on their reputation with customers, which is fundamentally built on trust.

This drives their frustration if materials do not reflect the reality of the market dynamics. Such as pricing not positioned in relation to market expectations or competition. Materials that are too focused on vision and not practical to win new customers.

Who wins

In the end, there can be no winner.

Sales led companies become too focused on short term gains and the revenue line. Endless Sales promotions and price discounting become the driver to gain new business. This drives price wars with competitors, where the only way forward is down. Eroding margins over time will result in cutbacks. Devaluing the brand and products at the same time.

Marketing led companies run the risk of becoming too aspirational. Focused on long term vision and brand perception with no clear link to reality. Customers may buy into the brand initially but over time this will diminish. If the company does not adapt to market trends and sales feedback it will become irrelevant. In a saturated marketplace with so many other choices, it will soon fade into the background.

How to achieve balance

The relationship between Sales and Marketing should be like a marriage. Built on trust and collaboration. Both have their unique roles and qualities to bring to the table but should be driving for a common goal.

Each one should leverage the strengths of the other to create fertile ground for ideas and plans. Listening to one another for guidance and most importantly feedback! If you have not already done so, walk in the other’s shoes for a day. Spend the day with your counterpart to see the business through their eyes.

This balance must be achieved to guarantee long term sustainability, profitability, and growth.

"The relationship between Sales and Marketing should be a beautiful dance not a tug of war"


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