The sales and marketing divide

The sales and marketing divide is often blamed for poor campaign performance and missed revenue targets. The inability of the two business functions to see eye to eye and work collaboratively can be a paralysing factor for any company. There are many external and internal factors that have an impact on a company’s culture and business practices. Identifying key issues at the source of the problem can be a difficult exercise. By rationalising these issues into two main concepts; perspective and process we can hopefully start to uncover some insights.


An age old mistrust of the marketing function combined with internal political constraints can lead the sales function to believe that “marketing” does not always have their best interest at heart. The sales function often views marketing expenditure as a waste of hard earned revenue, which is ineffective at supporting the individual salesperson. While marketing’s perception is that sales does not always see the big picture or understand the issues of resourcing and multiple commitments.

The marketing function’s business view can be conditioned by high level reporting and a focus on the big picture. Their perspective is often shaped by market segmentation and how the markets are split operationally. It can be very difficult for the marketing function to get reporting at an individual customer level especially in very large markets. While the marketing function is looking at the big picture the sales function’s view is an individual’s perspective. They have a personal relationship with the customer and may have a “what’s in it for me” attitude to your promotional activity.

The campaign

The sales function can often feel unsupported as a result of poorly integrated marketing campaigns. Top-line branding or promotional activity is not always translated effectively into sales collateral. I have seen this in a number of cases within the corporate campaign delivery process. Sales collateral doesn’t win shiny awards, can be a low billable project and is often a low priority on a big agency’s list. When the budget is running dry there is generally little left for menial things like sales collateral.

Even though it is possible for a promotional campaign to be aimed at the level of an individual sales person, it is a very unlikely scenario. As a rule a campaign of this nature requires a supporting revenue model to warrant it.


As much as reporting shapes your operational view, measurement can shape your actions. The sales and marketing functions aren’t necessarily aiming for the same business targets and therefore can have very different agendas. The sales function is focused on their individual revenue numbers and growth of their individual accounts. Sales people are keenly aware of whether they are on target to meet budget numbers and are sometimes less concerned with the collective results.

The marketing function’s focus is on the collective results of a campaign and they are often looking at combined sales results or market trends. After campaign execution they may have even moved straight on to the next campaign, trying to plan for the coming calendar and are preoccupied with short lead times. Some marketing departments can be measured on through-put and have such a full yearly promotional plan that there is literally no time to review the current or previous activity. It’s a case of quantity not quality.

So how can you overcome some of the issues of differing perspectives and business processes that help to polarise the sales and marketing view? Read how to bridge the divide in this article.

NB.  Comments are made from the context of the individual sales person. Even though sales managers and senior sales staff have a market overview it’s still the individual sales person who has the customer interaction and ultimately decides how to apply promotional concepts.