Power Lunch: the Sales vs. Marketing Showdown

In almost every part of the globe, large and small companies often struggle with making the relationship between sales and marketing departments work. It is ironic, but true, that even though both sales and marketing are jointly responsible for securing new customers, growing a firm’s existing customer base, and improving the overall company revenue and profitability; they do not work well with each other. We often observe that this inter-functional relationship is problematic and fraught with misunderstanding, distrust, and conflict.

I have been studying the dynamic between sales and marketing in companies for the past seven years. Over these years, I have interviewed hundreds of practitioners in companies of various sizes, operating in a wide variety of industries across the globe. My recently published book, “Improving Sales and Marketing Collaboration: A Step by Step Guide” (Business Expert Press, 2014; co-authored with Prof. Wim Biemans, University of Groningen) captures many of the insights I have gathered through my research over these years. The book uses a managerial perspective to present the complexity of sales-marketing interfaces in B2B companies, illustrated by numerous examples and quotes from practitioners.

I recently had the opportunity to present the major insights from this book with an audience of business professionals, including current and past UST students over a Power Lunch organized by the Opus College of Business. I shared with the audience the highlights from the book and what my major takeaways have been in this area. Specifically, I discussed issues such as (a) what the nature of the problem between sales and marketing is, (b) what the root causes of these problems are and how these problems manifest on a day-to-day basis, (c) how companies’ sales and profitability is hurt when sales and marketing do not play nice, and (d) what the best ways to address these challenges are.

The session was very interactive in that the audience members interjected to ask questions, offer an opinion, or share a personal experience. The nature of the conversation, the questions I received, as well as the overall engagement from the audience reinforced my belief that this is a live issue that almost all companies deal with—some companies deal with proactively, some react when the problems begin to go out of hand, and some simply tend to ignore the problem and let it brew for a long time.

As I told the audience during the lunch session, no matter where you are at in dealing with this issue, it is important to note that there is a solution to this problem. Dealing with the complex and multi-faceted problems between sales and marketing requires a systemic and a systematic approach.

Avinash Malshe Ph.D. is an associate professor of marketing and is the inaugural recipient of the Susan E. Heckler Research Excellence Award within the Opus College of Business.