Sales and Marketing: The Odd Couple

Valentine’s Day got me thinking about partnerships. I read online that nearly 50% of marriages are doomed to fail. The biggest reason cited? Simply ‘drifting apart’.

For that reason, a rift has opened up in our industry. Two of the business world’s most perfectly matched suitors are gradually diverging; and it is creating a vacuum that could break business if it goes unchecked. I’m talking, of course, about Sales & Marketing.

Cupid’s broken arrow

Wax lyrical with any serious businessperson and I promise you they’ll agree that Sales and Marketing are peas in a pod. Delve a little deeper and ask them how closely related their Sales and Marketing functions are in practice and you may see a slight blush appear.

The person you’re talking to probably believed from the very bottom of their heart that they had successfully integrated the two. They probably sat down and wrote an in-depth plan when the company was formed or when it last expanded. What they  probably didn’t notice (until you forced them think about it) was that due to internal processes, the need for user-friendly workspaces and ever-increasing targets, the previously perfect union was dissolving into 2 separate entities; each with different mind-sets, different focal points, and therefore unaligned outputs.

Time for a little introspect

Think about your offices. Where are your salespeople? In a bustling room where voices are booming and personalities are vivacious and bold, no doubt. Where are the Marketing team? In a separate space where techies and designers are ‘plugged in’ to Spotify and personalities, while confidently creative, are also cautiously meticulous.

These somewhat antagonistic cultures have evolved for good reason. Salespeople create a lot of noise, whereas marketers often seek peace-and-quiet to crunch a database or mull over some copy. Salespeople generally set short-term goals for their output whereas marketers focus on long-game objectives  The mistake people make however is attributing this evolution (or should I say devolution) to Sales and Marketing somehow being fundamentally different.

Technically one is about raising awareness, starting conversations and delivering leads whereas the other is about taking leads and closing them to get the all-important sale, so I can see how confusion might arise. But ultimately, like a plug and an electrical socket, Sales and Marketing are two halves of a single mechanism.

Symbiosis in sales and marketing

It’s all done for the same end-goal: At the end of the day you’re trying to get sustainable revenue. Communications and shared vision between Sales and Marketing teams play a vital role in achieving that goal. So, while a salesperson’s remit and responsibilities may be different from a marketer’s, neither can achieve real success without the other.

Sales without marketing…

First of all, let’s imagine Sales in a world without Marketing. Firstly, who will the salesperson call? Sure, they can find their own leads. Seems a shame to have a good salesperson inefficiently trawling the internet with a scattergun approach to lead-generation though. A marketer would deliver pre-qualified leads from campaigns, improving the overall efficiency of the sales team.

But that’s a moot point anyway. Without marketing expertise in your business, most sales pitches will quickly fall flat.  With no website for prospects to refer to and no engaging brand to add trust and express value, prospects will simply feel underwhelmed. In a competitive scenario, that’s basically game over.

Marketing without sales…

Now let’s imagine Marketing in a world without Sales. Even if a few customers pro-actively refer their friends and family to you, you’re not likely to have paying customers fall into your lap. Besides, your competitors certainly won’t be leaving it to chance.

When a consumer first sees your product ‘on the shelf’ or on your website, the initial 3–7 second consideration is known as the First Moment of Truth, or FMOT (eff-mot), and it is believed to be when all of the advertising seen by that customer (and the marketing that lead up to it) either does or doesn’t pay off. A strong sales close from a one-on-one brand ambassador can be the key to capitalisation.

Marketing without Sales also presents a rather paradoxical hypocrisy; actively engaging with groups of customers in ‘dialogue’, but not having personal conversations with anyone on an individual basis! Recent stats say that 70% of all questions asked to brands on social media are being ignored. If I had to bet, I’d say the Marketing teams for those brands executed a perfect social media campaign, getting lots of customers engaged (i.e. followers, likes, +1s)… but by failing to deliver the resulting data to the sales and customer service teams, their initial success became their downfall.

Targets, targets, targets…

Over the last decade I’ve worked in a global marketing agency, an advertising firm, a boutique design company, a specialist digital agency and even client-side; working with household-name brands, small to medium-sized businesses and start-ups; on marketing projects as well as direct sales campaigns. One thing has struck me as a reliable truth throughout… there is a huge amount of pressure to get a lot done perfectly, but budgets are tight and time-frames are narrow.

Marketing is more technical, analytics is more advanced, design is more strategic and sales funnels are more data driven than ever. Each of us in the industry is forced to become more and more specialised. In many cases, Marketing teams are so pushed for time that they can only think about their own ‘brand engagement’ metrics as opposed to actual revenue; whereas salespeople have such big revenue targets dangling over their heads that they are too involved in the ‘immediate sale’ to think about 12 and 24 month strategies.

Stoking the fires of love

Here are 5 tips for an efficient partnership in your Sales & Marketing function:

1. Assign responsibilities. Firstly, assigning tasks avoids the ‘someone else will do it’ mentality. Secondly, it ensures that there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen, throwing your experts off-kilter.

2. Factor in responsibility ‘creep’. The Sales & Marketing function is bigger than the sum of its parts. Think very hard about where the Financial Director, the MD or anyone else might need to get involved, pre-empt those occasions and make sure everybody knows their boundaries and your minimum expectations from them.

3. Educate your staff outside of their specific role. Your SEO guru tweaks copy on your website, so they should understand your brand and also how a sales pitch works. Your marketing and branding teams should understand the capabilities of SEO and the data requirements of the sales team. Your salespeople should understand why the brand works too so they can engage with more prospects. Make sure each person in Sales and Marketing understands where their input came from and what happens with their output.

4. Set targets that allow for ‘big-picture’ thinking. If all your Sales team care about is hitting a revenue target at the end of every month, they won’t be thinking about progress towards long-term goals like brand awareness. If your Marketing team only care about getting more and more retweets, shares and signups every month, they probably won’t be thinking about sales conversions. The irony is, of course, that the Sales team always want to speak to people with more brand awareness and the Marketing team want bigger budgets to play with. By setting function-wide targets (and educating across disciplines as described above) you can ensure that everyone’s eyes are on the goal.

5. Have regular meetings together. A monthly strategy meeting where Sales and Marketing teams get together can be invaluable. Use this time to share feedback and anecdotal evidence. Clearly identify issues and goals and assign shared targets.


You may have noticed, I’ve been rather pragmatic in this article: In truth, most people in the industry have a certain mix of skills from each discipline or at least a basic understanding of both. However, very few people are experts at both, so Sales and Marketing teams must unite.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

If you feel your sales and marketing function could be more unified, more effective or more efficient, talk to our experts for advice.

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