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The impact of the Marketing/Sales relationship and effect on Business
Article · June 2019
1 author:
Christopher Steger
Saint Leo University
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The impact of the Marketing/Sales relationship and effect on Business performance
Christopher R. Steger
Saint Leo University
MBA 525
Dr. Diane Monahan
June 16, 2019
Graduate Studies in Business Academic Honesty Statement
My signature entered below constitutes my pledge that all of the writing is my own work, with the exception of those portions which are properly
documented. I understand and accept the following definition of plagiarism:
1. Plagiarism includes the literal repetition without acknowledgment of the writings of another author. All significant phrases, clauses, or
passages in this paper which have been taken directly from source material have been enclosed in quotation marks and acknowledged in the text
itself as well as in the Reference Page. 2. Plagiarism includes borrowing another’s ideas and representing them as my own. 3. To paraphrase the
thoughts of another writer without acknowledgment is to plagiarize. 4. Plagiarism also includes inadequate paraphrasing. Paraphrased passages
(those put into my own words) have been properly acknowledged in the text and in the references. 5. Plagiarism includes using another person or
organization to prepare this paper and then submitting it as my own work. 6. Plagiarism includes resubmitting previous work, in whole or in part,
for a current assignment without written consent of the current instructor.
Saint Leo University’s Core Value of Integrity requires that students pledge to be honest, just, and consistent in word and deed. I fully understand
what plagiarism is, and I further understand that if plagiarism is detected in my paper, my professor will follow the procedures on academic
dishonesty set forth by Saint Leo University, the Donald R. Tapia School of Business and the G
Christopher R. Steger
Signed Electronically: Christopher R. Steger on 6/16/2019
The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between the sales and marketing
function while attempting to measure the impact of this relationship on overall sales
performance. The overall goal of the following paper is to examine the functions of both the
marketing and sales position and understand whether collaboration between the two departments
has led to increased business performance and specifically, sales results. In addition, this paper
reviews both selling and sales management articles that have been published throughout the
period of 1998-2019 covering marketing and business articles that have been peer reviewed.
The following review of literature will start with an overview of the topic at hand
including the relationship between marketing and sales professionals and whether or not the
collaboration between the two departments has led to increased sales performance. We will then
take a look at the different sources of work including those that define the marketing and sales
roles, and then compare and contrast the different methods for curing any disconnect that might
exist between sales and marketing. Finally, we will compare and contrast the main points of
these scholarly peer reviewed works to help draw conclusions as to which pieces of literature had
the most convincing argument and overall the most significant contribution to the comprehension
and development of their respective areas of research.
The reason for completing the review of literature on the topic at hand is because I
believe that being a ten-year veteran in the sales world has opened my eyes to a disconnect
between marketing and sales departments in many organizations. I believe that without team
cohesiveness, sales performance will diminish and create tension among the teams. The purpose
of this paper is to truly take a closer look at the question at hand regarding the relationship
between marketing and sales and the impact that relationship has on overall sales performance
and provide an analysis of the findings from the reviewed articles.
“Sales and marketing are meant to be part of the same function, but there has been a
growing realization that this relationship is not always operating as efficiently as it should.”
(Meunier, K. L., & Piercy, N. F. 2010) It is apparent in the context of the business environment
that the two primary revenue driven functions within a specific company are the sales and
marketing teams. Based on this relationship, “sales and marketing should be working together to
create and execute successful marketing strategies.” (Malshe & Sohi, 2009) This idea has been
affirmed by several scholars who encourage sales teams to be in marketing strategy
development, and that both departments coordinate strategic activities to foster, deliver, and
communicate an overall greater customer experience. (Slater & Olsen 2001)
While much of the scholarly reviews recommends the theoretical framework above,
evidence from the literature suggests that in most cases the sales function is not a part of the
strategy making process. (Martin, 2019) As such, in many organizations, the strategy creation is
left up to the marketing function without input from the sales team; we learn that the sales team
become formally presented with these new strategies developed by marketing only when the
marketing team decides to do so. (Kotler, 2006) When the sales team is finally in receipt of these
implementation plans for the selected strategy by marketing, the sales team does not agree and
support the strategy “because they feel these strategies are inappropriate, ineffective, irrelevant,
or disconnected from reality.” (Aberdeen Group, 2002).
After carefully studying the literature there are limited studies in regard to the roles that
marketing, and sales functions play in order to make sales strategies ultimately successful, thus
leading to increased sales performance. In addition, the literature definitely stresses the
importance of a joint relationship between sales and marketing in regard to strategy creation and
implementation but no academic study has taken a deep dive to understand how this joint venture
would actually work. There is a scarce amount of resources which contain a guiding theoretical
framework for this type of study which outline specifically how strategy making between sales
and marketing occurs, and then answers the question of what makes this process more effective.
Since sales and marketing are the primary revenue generators for a specific organization, the
following study will examine this question at hand and determine whether developing the
relationship successfully will lead to better sales performance for the organization as a whole.
The following literature review will be outlined in the following manner. The first obstacle
is to identify any major issues in the sales and marketing relationship. Next, we will examine and
identify any drivers of sales and marketing integration. Finally, we will conclude by
understanding the suggestive framework for improving the relationship between sales and
marketing and how that relationship will impact sales performance.
Improving the relationship between sales and marketing
To understand whether an actual problem exists between sales and marketing we must
first understand and define the two roles. Salespeople are individuals who sell goods or services
to other entities (B2B) or to consumers (B2C). On the other hand, marketing refers to activities
undertaken by individuals to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. As you can
see the two are aligned closely. “Scholars have highlighted major differences between sales and
marketing by citing cultural differences, inter-functional conflict, and the differences in thought
worlds and perspectives about the marketplace.” (Malshe, A., & Sohi, R. S., 2009). Furthermore,
we learn that “while the extant sales-marketing interface research highlights the need for these
two functions to work closely with one another to facilitate the strategy creation and its
execution, it also acknowledges that many times, these two functions do not share a great
rapport.” (Malshe, A., & Sohi, R. S., 2009) Researchers have looked into market orientation and
marketing R&D has shown that “effective internal collaboration brings organizational benefits in
terms of improve business performance and customer satisfaction. (Kohli & Jaworski, 1999)
Personally, I know that once there is a disconnect between marketing and sales business
performance will suffer and that is why much of the literature suggests that an improved
relationship between marketing and sales will lead to a better employee culture and ultimately
better sales performance.
Sales and Marketing Conflict- The Major Causes
According to Dr. Mahdani, “sales is interpersonal, push driven, more tactical, and has a
short-term focus while marketing is analytical, pull driven, more strategic and has a long-term
focus.” (Madhani, P. M. 2016) As such, he was able to identify four main components that lead
to conflict between sales and marketing.
A) Separate Identity
While sales and marketing can be considered to undertake the same job functions,
in the actual business environment they are trained and managed much differently.
(Olson 2001). Sales and Marketing have historically been structured as separate and
distinct departments with independent goals and separate management. Furthermore,
Workman tells us, “Although their may be advantages in locating sales and marketing
in close proximity, in many organizations sales and marketing are separated,
sometimes geographically.” (Workman 1999) To sum it up, sales and marketing
integration is considered one of the biggest corporate problems for companies to
handle. Salespeople complain that marketing is trying to steal their thunder and cause
problems in closing their deals while on the other side, marketing complains about
sales people portraying the wrong brand message to customers and also gripe about
the lack of feedback that they receive from the sales team. As you can see, “many
organizations do not have a clear idea how sales and marketing should interact and
relate.” (Krol, 2003) Finally, Rouzies tells us that “problems arise with the sales and
marketing interface when large, separate departments become independent silos that
do not operate well together.” (Rouzies, 2005) In conclusion, both sales and
marketing have such a combative relationship due to a major disconnect that is
exacerbated by lack of trust and respect between the two teams.
B.) Time-Frame Conflicts
In reviewing the research literature, one of the recurring themes as to why conflict
arises between sales and marketing comes down to differences as to when goals are
set, resources are allocated, and performance evaluations are completed. Based on
this principle it is clear to see why such differences
“translate into conflicting priorities and inconsistent activities because sales
primarily focus on relationships, tactical and short term objectives such as revenue
targets while marketing are highly analytical, data oriented, long-term focused and
believe in building a competitive advantage for the future and hence mainly adopts a
strategic, long term perspective such as brand building.” (Montgomery & Webster,
Finally, several of the research articles have made the point to highlight the
obstacles created by the short-term mindset of sales goals conflicting with the long
term mind set of marketing.
C.) Flow of Communication
For cross functional cohesiveness to be effective between marketing and sales
business units of the organization they must be able to communicate and interact. This is
required so that work can be shared and exchanged along with resources and other
assistance. According to Moorman, sales people will often complain about information
being available in a timely manner from marketing while the marketing team state that
the information they have spent valuable time in compiling is not being utilized by sales.
(Moorman, 2007) As such, to increase the directional flow of information and
communication among the different business units, specifically, marketing and sales, the
research recommends having more focused meetings and documented information
exchanges between the two departments.
Specific problems that occur amongst the relationship between sales and
marketing results from a perception that sales representatives are not following up on
leads given by the marketing team, including lack of lead integrity and efficiency. Dr.
Madhani makes a different opinion on how to combat this issue but his approach is
conflicting to those stated by other researchers. He states, “both sales and marketing
benefit from closed loop communication flow and feedback mechanism. Marketing will
be able to update its database and statuses and will be able to assess the effectiveness of
its marketing programs, clearing identifying those that work and that that don’t.”
(Madhani, 2016) While this is a great idea in principle, I think that its unrealistic to
expect that sales will improve efficiency through closed loop communication to pick out
those sales people who are not using their leads etc. I believe this will only bring about
more conflict.
D.) Goal Differences
Dr. Madhani continues his assessment of the issue by highlighting the significance of
goal differences in relation to sales effectiveness and the overall marketing relationship.
He states that these goal differences cause a huge lack of trust, conflict, and it creates
hostility and conflict between sales and marketing. As an account executive responsible
for sales quotas, I know that we tend to think always in terms of sales numbers rather
than profits as Dr. Madhani points out in his article. Being in sales all my career, I know
that we always aim to boost our sales and carry our quota commitments in order to
develop commissions and bonus income. Much of the research alludes to the fact that the
salesperson will always push the product with the best incentives for him or her
personally. While I understand this can be true in many circumstances, it will ultimately
cause the salesperson problems in the end because a good sales person advocates for his
client and provides the best solution for the current situation and not because it will pay a
higher commission. On the opposite side of the spectrum, marketing teams plan sales
volume around profits. As you can see differences in these four main areas of focus for
the specific business units plays a huge role in the conflict between the sales and
marketing relationship.The research also provides that the importance of goal differences,
which come from the direction of senior management has been studied by several
authorities on the subject.
Sales and Marketing Interface
One academic study followed the marketing strategy making process in real time.
“Specifically, it suggested that Marketing Strategy Making within the sales-marketing
interface consists of three stages: (a) Groundwork, (b) Transfer, and (c) Follow-up”.
(Malshe, A., & Sohi, R. S., 2009) In this study members from both business units felt that
for effective strategy making to be successful, it had to happen during the conception of
the strategy, where both the sales and marketing teams could attend either formal or
informal meetings regarding the current marketplace conditions and upcoming strategies
including doing most of the footwork. However, diverging from the Kotler article that
discusses the handoff strategy between the two teams, the Malshe study found “that the
transfer stage, during which sales and marketing functions formally come together and
marketing hands the strategy over to sales, constitutes just one stage in this process.”
(Malshe, A., & Sohi, R. S., 2009) Finally, the Malshe study states that the data obtained
indicates that follow-up which is the final stage in the suggested process, “consists of
both marketing and sales functions following-up on the activities they agreed upon during
the transfer stage and making necessary changes to the strategy.”(Malshe, A., & Sohi, R.
S., 2009)
Achieving Sales and Marketing Integration:
The literature suggests several mechanisms to end the ongoing war between sales and
marketing through the following functions, (1) create shared responsibilities, (2) create a liaison
position that bridges the gap between sales and marketing, (3) change the organizational strategy
from being aligned to being integrated, and (4) set clear definitions of the roles and
responsibilities in the marketing and sales funnel. (Dawes, 2006)
1.) Create Shared Responsibilities
As the sales and marketing functions become better aligned, Kotler reminds us
that it is important to develop opportunities for the marketing and sales teams to work
together. This can be done through shared projects, goal creation, customer account
strategies etc. Ultimately, this will create cohesiveness and familiarity with the
other’s way of thinking and approaches to handling certain tasks. Specific to the
marketing channel, brand managers should occasionally attend sales pitch meetings
with the salesperson inside the customer setting. The literature suggests this can be
particularly helpful because the marketing function can get involved in helping to
develop other solutions that the salesperson might not have thought about to help
meet the customers needs. Furthermore, it is advised that this be done early in the
sales process to be most effective. Marketing needs to get involved early in the game
with helping to develop alternate solutions for the client and it is imperative for them
to sit in on the important account development planning meetings.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the sales function needs to be involved in
helping to develop marketing plans and should be present for product planning
sessions with marketing. Kotler further recommends that “they should preview ad and
sales-promotion campaigns and they should share their deep knowledge about
customers’ purchasing habits.” (Kotler, 2007) Mutually, marketers and salespeople
should sit down together and create an agenda for increasing business with the most
lucrative accounts in each business vertical. Finally, Kotler recommends that
Marketing and Sales attend conferences together to help build the team comradery.
2.) Creation of a Liaison Position between Sales and Marketing
For this to be successful, the literature recommends that the liaison must be
someone that both groups trust. The primary responsibility of this person would be to
resolve conflicts and create a tactical flow of information between the two groups.
However, the literature carefully reminds us that micromanagement should not be any
part of the liaison’s responsibilities. In Dr. Madhi’s study, a marketing respondent
explained the liaison role as “a person who lives with the sales force. He goes to the
staff meetings, he goes to the client meetings, and he goes to the client strategy
meetings. He doesn’t develop product; he comes back and says, ‘Here’s what this
market needs. Here’s what’s emerging,’ and then he works hand in hand with the
salesperson and the key customer to develop products.” (Madhi, 2016)
3.) Change the organizational strategy from being aligned to being integrated
The research shows that organizations will function with great fluidity when sales
and marketing functions are aligned. When the specific organization has a quick sales
cycle, this is especially imperative that the two are aligned because this type of
environment does not foster a strong culture of shared responsibility. The literature
further recommends “integrating such straightforward activities as planning, target
setting, customer assessment, and value-proposition development”. (Kotler, 2007)
Integration is essential because when the sales and marketing functions have
different ideas about the same customer, the overall integration strategy creation is
weakened. As such, all “key information should be synchronized between sales and
marketing by making information systems fully automated so that it will be accessible
by both teams.” (Madhi, 2016) Finally, the literature found that where companies
already had placed the importance om shared responsibility and organizational
planning; that were tied to specific goal-oriented metrics it directly correlated to
better results and increased cross functional relationships. Therefore, an organization
should move from having an aligned type of relationship to one that is integrated.
4.) Set clear definitions of the roles and responsibilities in the marketing and sales
In most organizations, sales and marketing handle responsibilities that eventually lead
customers toward making a purchase. After the purchase, retention efforts must be made
as well. This is referred to as managing the “funnel.” (Hosford, 2006) The marketing
responsibilities for managing the funnel or pipeline is usually confined to the first few
steps including, building increased brand awareness, performance, marketing plan
creation, and lead generation. Next, the sales team must execute on the marketing plan set
forth by the marketing function and follow up on the leads generated. This is a simple
division of the labor divide and it keeps marketing from putting their nose in the
individual salespersons opportunities by providing marketing with a more strategic
function. However, the literature cautions that this sequence may bring about serious
consequences if not done correctly. If the deal ends up going south, sales can make the
excuse that the marketing plan was not strong enough and then marketing will come back
and state that the salesperson did not work the lead hard enough or with a tactical
strategy. This is where senior management needs to step in and set clear metrics, goals
and expectations. (Iglesias, 2011)
Sales and Marketing Relationship regarding increased performance:
According to Homburg and Jensen (2007), they found that “differences between sales
and marketing perceptions of performance may be a cause of dissatisfaction in the interface.”
(Homburg and Jensen, 2007). The literature further points out that the efficacy of the relationship
between managers of these departments depends on team performance and results, and in the end
will dictate how the working relationship between the two managers will be. Recent studies have
made a point to show that a lack of cooperation between sales and marketing. Specifically,
Homburg and Jensen observed that “goal differences may be a source of interdepartmental
friction” (Kenneth Le Meunier‐Fitz-Hugh, Nigel F. Piercy, 2010), and that previous research has
attributed this issue to the responsibility of senior management.
Research context and literature review
Upon reviewing some of the earlier qualitative work into the relationship between sales
and marketing it is noted that that evidence pointed towards a poor working relationship and that
more research was to be conducted. In 2000, a conceptual work “which identified that the sales
and marketing interface is characterized by negative outcomes and conflict.” (Dewsnap, B. and
Jobber, D. 2000). According to DeConinck, when specifically identifying the role of salespeople,
stated, “due to their boundary spanning roles, salespeople are more likely to be out of sight and
away from direct supervision.” (DeConinck, J. B. 2011). This is one possible explanation for the
evidence that concluded a poor working relationship between the two teams. However, on the
other hand the research has shown the opposite to be true, “teamwork is important in selling
organizations for the reason that salespeople depend on their colleagues, service support staff,
and other to accomplish selling-related tasks and increase productivity.” (Itani 2019)
Findings and Management Considerations:
After studying the literature, I have been able to pinpoint several ways to improve the
relationship between sales and marketing that will ultimately lead to better performance. First, all
the literature suggests that a focus on improving collaboration between the two business units is
a must to improve relations and it is critical to business performance. Several themes presented
themselves among the different pieces of literature and they pointed to a lack of discipline by the
senior managers of these departments.
There are three main principles that the literature advises be applied to managerial practice.
First, the results of the various studies show that “identical thought worlds in marketing and sales
are not desirable”. (Homburg, C. and Jensen, O.,2007) These findings go against the normal
approach that managers take where they try to bring the two departments together for formal
meetings to discuss differences and get on the same page. Second, the literature advises that
management should not try and force the harmony between the marketing and sales departments.
The issue becomes “what is good for the quality of cooperation between marketing and sales is
not necessarily good for the market performance of the business unit.” (Homburg, C. and Jensen,
O.,2007) The results of several studies inspire that organizations to create an internal role that
plays devil’s advocate between the two business units. This will in turn ensure that the most
relevant information and that most arguments are a result of market related decisions. (Homburg,
C. and Jensen, O.,2007) The third point from the analysis of the Homburg study demonstrates
what we mentioned prior, “that different goal orientations and different time orientations of
marketing and sales are bad for the cooperation quality between marketing and sales but are
good for the market performance of the business unit. Homburg continues to advise that either
the sales team or the marketing team should be the experts of the product issues within the
organization, and the sales team should be the expert with regards to the customer relationship of
the organization. Similarly, either marketing or sales should own the responsibilities of the longterm dimension of the firm, and the other business unit should own the responsibilities of the
short-term dimension of the organization. The authors of the Homburg study state, “in this sense,
our study confirms “not to eliminate differences” and to distinguish the functional roles of
marketing and sales”. (Itati, 2019). Fourth, the Homburg study, “suggests that differences
between marketing and sales in regard to interpersonal skills and product knowledge are
detrimental to both cooperation quality and market performance”. Therefore, when it comes to
interpersonal skills, Donath’s (1999) bold statement on the problem and solution to get
marketing and sales “on the same wavelength” is supported by the findings of the Homburg
As a career salesperson I have witnessed the struggle between the two departments to
capitalize on sales opportunity as a direct result of cohesiveness between marketing and sales.
“Research into market orientation, and marketing and research and development (R&D), has
shown that effective internal collaboration brings organization benefits in terms of improved
business performance and customer satisfaction.” (Kohli & Jaworski, 1998) While the literature
touches on the strategic ways that an organization can create the cohesiveness between sales and
marketing that ultimately leads to better sales performance, it does not specifically quantify sales
performance after strategy implementation. However, the importance learned is that marketing
and sales play one of the most important roles within an organization. As previously mentioned,
they are directly responsible for revenue generation. As such, organizations should utilize the
strategies set forth in the following paper to tackle and existing marketing/sales issues that are
negatively effecting performance.
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