November 1, 2017 Katharine Opie

Do you really need an integrated sales and marketing function?

Climbing a Mountain

Way back in 2006, 11 whole years ago, eeekkk! Kotler, one of the worlds most renowned academics in the marketing field got together with Rackham and Krishnaswamy to explore the relationships between sales & marketing.

After concluding that the two functions fought like the Montagues and the Capulets, a framework defined four different types of relationships between sales & marketing. We interpret these four levels of interconnectivity to give you the pros and cons of the fully integrated and the independently defined.

American Football in the snow

Sales & Marketing have separate roles.

An undefined relationship is one whereby sales and marketing act independently. Each team tends to be pre-occupied with their own roles, and they rarely get together.

Sales and marketing don’t know what each other are up to and rarely venture into each other’s territory. On the odd occasion where meetings do occur, they tend to be for conflict resolution as opposed to strategising.

Where this works

It’s difficult to see how this kind of relationship can work in any business environment. However, this setup works for small businesses where there are more informal relationships between team members; this will likely reduce the chances of heavy conflict meetings.

This also works for companies where marketing is more of a sales support function; there needs to be little communication for areas such as lead take over, direct messaging and so on.

Where this doesn’t work

This doesn’t work in larger organisations where there are more team members in each function.
There is a risk of duplication of work or a potential for tasks to be missed if there is a significant lack of communication between the functions.

In larger organisations budgets and resources tend to be more structured, this can hurt an undefined relationship, causing a fight for resources/ budget.

Two hands shaking

Clear rules are in place.

The defined relationship is one up from the undefined. Here, while the functions still operate as two separate entities but there are more ground rules in place.

Each function is more aware of each other’s roles but fails to understand the complexities fully. There are precise boundaries between the functions on when to pass over leads, but conflicts tend to arise when these borders are crossed.
Meetings are generally held as a pro-active way of avoiding conflict.

Where this works

This works with businesses who have a clear and simple product or service offering that doesn’t deviate from the set boundaries. Examples are companies who deal in commodities where the sales and marketing functions are very traditional.

Where this doesn’t work

In companies where the service/ product offering is complex; businesses in technology, professional services will need a more integrated approach, as sales will require supporting marketing materials.

Meeting between two people

Working together with common values

Sales and marketing functions that become to be more aligned tend to be more flexible with their interactions. There is common terminology between the functions which creates more effective meetings.

Meetings between ‘aligned’ functions are strategy based, with a focus on planning and training.
The aligned approach leans toward marketing taking a strategic, long-term business approach, while sales take a more tactical/ practical approach, which complements each other well.

Where this works

This works for businesses in a fast-moving market, the collaboration between sales and marketing in this instance allows companies to move quickly. This again works well for companies with more complex products/ services or where marketers need large volumes of market intelligence to strategise (sales can offer this through their interactions with current and potential customers).

Where this doesn’t work

This doesn’t work in businesses where there is a ‘blame game’ culture. The blurred lines between the functions allow team members to point fingers if targets are down. Kotler, Rackham, and Krishnaswamy suggest having separate reporting set up should businesses with the ‘blame game’ mentality look to implement a more ‘aligned’ team.

Team Collaboration

Total integration between sales & marketing

Sales and marketing functions who adopt a fully integrated approach share their systems and their rewards. Marketers also focus on key account management, helping take the prospect over the line. Sales disclose core market intelligence and shape NPD (new product development).

Meetings have the long-term in mind, using the feedback of sales to shape the company’s direction.

Where does this work

This type of integration works within businesses who offer high-end professional services, with a core few clients. The focus is as much on customer retention as it is new business, meaning the sales and marketing functions have strong relationships with each account.

Where this doesn’t work

This fails in business with large volumes of sales; it leads to the ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ issue. Sales and marketing will overcomplicate the sales process which can lead to inefficiencies in the sales funnel.

Kotler, Rackham, and Krishnaswamy wrote some great academic literature that still resonates with businesses today. Their framework allows companies to assess the need for sales and marketing integration. Despite many calls for a fully integrated approach, companies need to take a step back and evaluate their proposition and adopt a tactic that suits their business. Majority of the information for this post was taken from this paper, take a look for more info 


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