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A match made in heaven?

When the CIM mooted the benefits of fusing sales and marketing at the end of last year, it sparked hot debate. Opponents said that the two functions require such fundamentally different approaches that a fusion would be irrational and unworkable.

Fast forward to April when a report issued by Forrester suggested that sales and marketing should operate in partnership. The report advocates working together to develop go-to-market strategies from scratch. 

There certainly seems to be a groundswell of opinion that the two should become one.

What do you think - should B2B sales and marketing departments fuse? And would it make a difference if they did?

For my part, I think many B2B brands would benefit from better collaboration between sales and marketing teams. But simply fusing the two departments would be unlikely to achieve this.

If pressed, many B2B leaders will admit that their divisions are just that: divided. They operate in isolation. It’s not just internal disciplines like sales and marketing that fall into the trap. It is also true at a broader level, especially in larger organisations. Product divisions are a case in point – it’s not unusual for different product teams to operate completely independently of each other. Yet, from the customers’ perspective at least, the brand is one entity.

The crux of the issue is that brands need to find ways to operate more holistically to ensure they deliver the best possible customer experience. And a big part of that involves listening to what customers want, then lining the business up to deliver it.

It sounds simple, but there can be a lot of internal barriers that make it difficult to achieve.

Many of the problems are rooted in cultural issues. Each department is different, its roles and objectives are different and in general they employ very different types of people. They are each focused on delivering a return on investment, but their targets (whilst aligned) are diverse.

The debate surrounding whether sales and marketing should merge is irrelevant, because it wouldn’t necessarily deal with these cultural issues at the deepest level.

Instead, B2B leaders might consider how to stimulate and manage a cultural shift that breaks down internal siloes for once and for all. A good starting point would be creating opportunities for the teams to get together and learn more about each other’s work – a little more understanding (and respect) could go a long way.

Marketing and sales need to operate interdependently. Yes, that might mean collaborating on go-to-market strategies. But more importantly, it should involve actively engaging and listening to customers – then ensuring this knowledge is shared and acted on by the right people in the right way.

Businesses that can get their sales and marketing activity pulling wholeheartedly in the same direction are well placed to survive and thrive. But the departments don’t need to be lumped together to achieve this.