Brand guardians can bridge great divide

Brands can use the tension that often exists between sales and marketing professionals to strengthen both functions by aligning each department’s objectives and sharing targets and knowledge.


Sales people are very different to marketers, according to Marketing Week’s Secret Marketer. “They are motivated by cases sold rather than measures of brand equity and most are addicted to the crack cocaine that is otherwise known as price promoting,” he wrote recently when he eloquently summed up the difference in outlook between the two disciplines.

The relationship between sales and marketing is often fractious. While both are ultimately trying to sell a product, the strategies they employ can differ.

Miles Lewis, senior vice-president of international sales at Last FM, says: “The marketing and sales departments are at different stages of the buying decision funnel. Marketing is upstream and sales is downstream, but fundamentally they are the same function. You’re trying to sell products.”

Sometimes tasked with meeting a series of short-term targets, sales departments want to sell as much as they can, as fast as they can and often adopt strategies such as discounting and price promotions to do so. But marketers know that building brand equity by restricting supply, for example, will make for better long-term sales and product success.

“Marketers are thinkers and strategists, they are more creative, whereas sales is a very hard-hitting, fast moving and fairly aggressive environment,” says Pitney Bowes tactical marketing director Phil Hutchison, who moved to his current position at the office supplier from a sales role. “Within marketing you need to look more long term. In the sales arena, you’re always dealing pretty much in the short term, having to hit run rates.”

But there must be a joint outlook, according to Paul Ludlow, UK director at Princess Cruises. It is paramount that the marketing and sales departments work well together to make sure the experience is as good as possible for the consumer and ultimately provides a healthy bottom line for the brand, he says.

“Consumers should have a consistent view of the brand, whether it is based on price-led advertising or brand-led advertising,” says Ludlow, who was recently promoted from senior sales manager to his newly created role, which puts him in charge of marketing, sales and customer services for the brand.

How to create cohesion between sales and marketing teams

  • Ensure each team’s objectives are aligned
  • Review the progress of campaigns and their revenue performance
  • Communicate regularly and don’t move to market without input from the other team
  • Move staff between teams so that knowledge is transferred

Despite the importance of synergy between these functions, many businesses are not aligning their marketing and sales teams’ activities as well as they could, according to new research by performance management company Eloqua.

The study reveals that only 48% of marketing and sales teams share performance objectives and only 42% of marketers know what their three highest and three lowest performing campaigns were last year.

Hutchison at Pitney Bowes explains how he is bringing the two teams together. “I’ve aligned the channel managers within UK marketing to the budgets of the sales arena. Each sales channel has a marketing manager and each marketing manager is aligned to the revenue, productivity and efficiency targets of the sales channel,” he says.

Hutchison claims this has contributed to double-digit growth within the company’s telephone account management team, but if aligning marketing and sales produces better results then why is it not done in every company? The problem lies in the difference in strategy between the two departments.

Some companies have opted for combined senior sales and marketing roles, in an attempt to bridge the gap between teams

Sales teams may say that if a brand cuts back trade spend or tries to put product prices up, retailers may delist them. Marketing teams argue that the price promotion tactics used by their counterparts in sales devalue the brand and ultimately lead to poorer brand performance.

“Only marketers know that some sales are bad for business. They cost you money. They spread you too thin. They result in inappropriate segments trashing your brand. They are inconsistent with your positioning,” says Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson. “When was the last time you walked away from a sale or worked hard to exclude some consumers from your brand? If you can’t give an example I am afraid you are not really a marketer, you actually work in sales.”

Ritson cites Apple as a brand that has restricted supply and initially used premium prices to excellent effect when it launched its iPhone 4. With premium prices to maximise profit and communicate exclusivity and by restricting the supplies of the new phones to retailers, it drove thousands of customers in store, ensuring word of mouth from those who did manage to get one before they sold out.

“If marketers want their brand to have equity they must avoid the perception that it is available in unlimited amounts to everyone – no matter how many units they actually sell. Apple sold 1 million iPhones on launch day but, thanks to its limited supply strategy, each consumer who got their hands on one felt like they had obtained something precious and rare. Contrast that with brands such as Cadbury and Nestlé, which regularly allow WH Smith to destroy the equity of their biggest chocolate brands through over-promotion of the products at their point of sale,” Ritson claims.

Sometimes tasked with meeting a series of short-term targets, sales departments want to sell as much as they can, as fast as they can and often adopt strategies such as discounting and price promotions to do so

However, Lewis at Last FM argues that this strategy cannot work for all brands. “It’s worked for Apple, but Apple has managed to control pricing. You can’t get a cheap Apple product.

Fundamentally, an Apple iPhone does everything any smartphone will do. It’s just the tactile quality of the interface and the brand positioning has created this desire for the product.

“You can’t do that with Domestos. You’re never going to do it for FMCG. Why would you? Your company has also got to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re Nokia and you do that, it’s not going to work.”

So, how can companies balance the strengths of the two teams’ strategies to best effect? Communication is key. “Our two separate teams have a weekly meeting, but the most important thing is that neither team can move to market without the other team knowing what they’re doing,” explains Lewis at Last FM.

When Last FM launched visuals for its online radio, it became apparent that the station could run pre-roll advertisements following discussions with the commercial team about how this would work.

The product and marketing team had decided they wanted to build it from a product perspective, but had they done so without liaising with sales, they would have built it without the functionality of pre-rolls and denied themselves a new source of revenue.

Despite the importance of synergy between these functions, many businesses are not aligning their marketing and sales teams’ activities as well as they could

Some companies have opted for combined senior sales and marketing roles, in an attempt to bridge the gap between teams. “If there’s a disconnect between marketing and sales, then your company can never thrive. You’ve got to have someone who has a hand in what’s happening in the marketing team and what’s happening in sales. If you don’t, it’s not joined up. We’ve all experienced companies that aren’t joined up. It’s a bad consumer experience and if it’s a bad consumer experience, eventually things start to go downhill,” says Lewis.

This, however, can create a tug of war situation for the individual. “I can imagine it being a very difficult job because the marketing department can always pick fault in sales and vice-versa,” says Hutchison at Pitney Bowes.

And Ritson argues that this would mean neither job is done properly. “If marketing was the same as sales, we would have called it sales. There is a reason we use a different word. Marketing is a completely separate discipline and, in many cases, a good marketer will do everything in their power to actually prevent a sale if it’s not in the long-term interests of the brand. How could a sales and marketing executive possibly handle that challenge?”

However, personnel moving between teams will allow knowledge to transfer to the benefit of both sides. “Having been a sales person, a sales manager, a regional sales director, I understand how sales people react, how they think and what they want to see from a marketing department. It was easy for me to come into the marketing department and help them to understand how sales people think. Currently, I’m the only marketer at Pitney Bowes that’s ever worked in sales, so it was a good link,” says Hutchison.

The tension between these two departments will always exist, but giving them shared targets, aligning strategy, ensuring constant communication and paving the way for the transfer of knowledge and skills will help sales and marketing teams work better together and to greater effect.

Latest from Marketing Week

Influencers, consultancies and the recruitment crisis: The key topics of conversation at Cannes Lions

cannes lions

Cannes Lions 2018: Marketers turned out in force to advertising’s biggest annual event. But away from the usual talk of purpose and creativity, some big issues such as the recruitment crisis, how advertising responds to the #MeToo movement and cleaning up the influencer marketing space were discussed.


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here