Business Insights

Business Insights

How the relationship between sales & marketing has changed

 Sales and marketing have always made slightly odd and awkward bedfellows.

Despite their differences, however, the sleeping arrangements were clearly defined: each had their own side and there was no argument over the dividing line. Everyone knew the rules.

Now, however, marketing has started slowly taking more of the duvet and it’s encroaching on sales with each passing night. Why? Not because it wants the whole bed, it’s because the relationship between the two is getting serious, and it needs to get closer.

Before this analogy gets too raunchy, let’s step back a little. The two departments used to be strictly defined: marketing generated leads, sales nurtured those leads and closed deals. The customer’s journey to purchase was simple and the ‘hand-off’ between sales and marketing was clear.

Today, a prospective customer will make a series of interactions with different areas of a business we once knew as ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ - shuttling back and forth between the two. The journey from prospect to customer is now more complex and, as a result, the distinction between the two roles is less defined than ever. This blurring of the lines has implications for the way business owners structure their teams and spend their cash. 

What’s changed?

The roles of sales and marketing now overlap in so many key areas - pricing, promotions and targeting among them - that makes it difficult to define a distinct ‘hand-off’ at all. If we think about the purchase funnel with awareness at the top and loyalty at the bottom, marketing now has a hand in all levels, not just generating leads but helping close deals then nurturing a customer into becoming a loyal one. At the awareness and interest stages, customers often decide to buy before they interact with a sales person at all, and they’re less trustworthy of sales messaging.
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Instead, they trust Google: 67% of customers claim that online reviews influence their purchasing decisions while a survey by Roper Public Affairs found that 80% of business decision-makers said they prefer to get information via articles, not ads.

This is information that the sales team of twenty years ago would deliver either in person or over the phone. Marketing now has to educate and inform customers about products and services through strong, engaging content. It presents experience and insights, through case studies, ebooks, white papers and interviews.

For these to be effective, they have to address the pain points of customers - and this direct relationship with customers is the historical preserve of the sales team. Couple this with increasing use of automation - automated email marketing campaigns edging out cold calling, mailing lists edging out regular contact with a sales rep, and CRM systems monitoring each customer’s place in the purchase funnel from the moment they first contact the business - and it’s no surprise that the traditional role of the salesman is shrinking fast.

Marketing is involved much further down the purchase funnel, and is much more involved in building rapport and relationships with individual customers than ever before. 

What are the implications?

For a business owner, the implications of this change are huge. The most obvious change is in business structure. As the two roles steadily crossover, should they be separate departments at all, or simply one entity pushing in the same direction: a growth team if you like?

Similarly, with marketing doing more of the sales work than ever before, a business owner should question whether having a huge sales force on the road simply is cost effective. Is it still the best use of resource. And what of the role of the sales guys themselves? With marketing building relationships and developing a steady stream of organic, qualified leads to the sales team, their jobs should be easier and conversion rates should be higher.

On the subject of metrics, because effective marketing campaigns can address a greater range of clients or customers than a sales relationship, the overall cost of acquisition should dip, too. Of course, marketing has to be tested - but the same technology which empowers consumers also provides more detailed and powerful data for tracking their behaviour, and thus improving the processes of marketing and sales.

As prospective customers have access to more information about products and services, they are increasingly empowered to make buying decisions for themselves. That information isn’t coming from sales personnel and contact - it’s coming from reviews and reportage that’s influenced and nurtured by marketing, yet outside of its direct control.

So, while it might seem that marketing is trying to to get a better night’s sleep by taking up more of the bed, sales (and business owners) should embrace and encourage marketing in this new space. We’ll all get a better night’s sleep because of it.  

Struggling to streamline your sales and marketing process? Clear your head with our Marketing 360 Healthcheck.  


Image credit - (CC) The New York Playhouse



Marketing Team

Written by Richard Phillips

Richard Phillips is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has 30 years’ experience working in the technology, risk management, and service support sectors; in the UK and globally.

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