Sales and marketing need to be better aligned but not fused

Marketing and sales should share strategic objectives and KPIs but there is much to be said for them operating as two departments.

Russell Parsons

Marketing Week sister title Econsultancy published a fantastic report last week entitled “The Convergence of Marketing and Sales”, supported by a seminar and series of roundtables I helped moderate. The report discusses what you’d imagine from that title – the economic, cultural and behavioural forces bringing the two closer together.

It concludes the accepted wisdom that marketers focus on product development, pricing strategy, brand awareness and engagement while sales are concerned with persuasion and closure only is outdated.

Various arguments are made to explain the thinking. The proliferation of easily available content marketing and self-directed online search is driving more purchase decision-making, it is argued  – IE marketers and their agency partners are doing the job that might have previously thought to be the domain of a salesforce. Elsewhere the report says the alignment of tech and data means the single 360-degree view of the customer is closer than ever while data has allowed for the sort of one to one conversations that might have previously been had between prospects and sales. Behind all of this is the all-powerful customer who cares about having a seamless experience and not how an organisation is structured.

The blurring of the lines at point of execution is illustrated in a recent article about MasterCard, which is putting more money into real time promotions, creating a team to spot revenue-generating opportunities. Historically, its global CMO Raja Rajamannar explains, it invested too much money in “warm, fuzzy” advertising that “built the brand but not the business”

The payment services company’s declaration that it wants marketing to be a revenue generator illustrates perfectly the blurring of the lines, at point of execution anyway, between the two departments. Mars’ move earlier this year  to bring sales and marketing under the stewardship of one individual is another designed to bring marketing communications and sales closer together. There’s definitely something in the air. A blessed union, however, is not imminent and nor should it for all. Mark Ritson argued earlier this year the strategic challenge of increasing sales has not changed, only the tactics to execute the strategy have, meaning the traditional sales funnel is as valuable as ever. I do not disagree. However, if you couple the increasing pressure on costs from macro economic factors with changes in customer behaviour and expectations, the need to align KPIs, strategy, structure and culture is greater than ever.

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