The Relationship Between Sales and Marketing

Sales efforts influence and are influenced by decisions taken on the ingredients of a company's marketing mix, which in turn affect its overall marketing efforts. It is essential, therefore the sales and marketing be fully integrated.

The most notable difference between pre and the post-marketing oriented company is the fact that sales are later seen to be a part of the activity of marketing function. In the marketing-oriented company, the marketing function takes on a much wider controlling and coordinating role across the range company activities.

The facet of marketing orientation is often misunderstood by those in sales, and a great deal of resentment is often engendered between sales and marketing. Such resentment is often due to insensitive and undiplomatic management when making the change necessary to reorient a company. Selling is only a part of the total marketing program of a company and this total effort should be coordinated by the marketing function. The marketing concept, however, does not imply that sales activities are any less important, or that marketing executives should hold the most senior positions in a company.

Selling and sales management are now concerned with the analysis of customer's needs and wants and, through the company's total marketing efforts, with the provision of benefits to satisfy these needs and wants.

Example of possible organizational implications of adopting the marketing concept is shown below: which shows the organization charts of a sales-oriented company and a marketing-oriented company.

Sales-Oriented Company Organizational Chart
Marketing-Oriented Company Organizational Chart
As with all parts of the marketing mix, the personal selling function is not a stand-alone element, but one that must be considered in the light of overall marketing strategy. At the product level, two major marketing considerations are the choice of the target market and the creation of a differential advantage. Both of these decisions impact on personal selling.

Target Market Choice

The definition of a target market has clear implications for sales management because of its relationship with target accounts. Once the target market has been defined (e.g. Organizations in a particular industry over a certain size), sales management can translate that specification into individual accounts to target. Salesforce resources can then be deployed to maximum effect.

Differential Advantage

The creation of a differential advantage is the starting point of successful marketing strategy, but this needs to be communicated to the salesforce and embedded in a sales plan that ensures they can articulate it convincingly to customers. There are two common dangers:
  • The salesforce undermines differential advantage by repeatedly giving in to customer demands for price concessions.
  • The feature that underlie the differential advantage are communicated, but customer benefit are neglected.

Customer benefits need to be communicated in terms that are meaningful to customers. This means, that advantages such as higher productivity may require translation into cash savings or higher revenue for financially minded customers.

The second way in which marketing strategy affects the personal selling function is through strategic objectives. Each objective - build, hold, harvest, and divest has implications for sales objective and strategy. Linking business of product area strategic objectives with functional area strategies is essential for the efficient allocation of resources and effective implementation in the marketplace.

Marketing Strategy and Sales Management

Selling objectives and strategies are derived from marketing strategy decisions and should be consistent with other elements of the marketing mix. Indeed, marketing strategy will determine if there's a need for a salesforce at all, or whether the selling role can be better accomplished using some other medium such as direct mail. Objectives define what the selling function is expected to achieve. Objectives are typically defined in the following below:
  • Sales volume, e.g. 5% growth in sales volume
  • Market share, e.g. 2% increase in market share
  • Profitability, e.g. maintenance of gross profit margin
  • Service levels
  • Salesforce costs, e.g. 5% reduction in expenses

Salesforce strategy defines how those objectives will be achieved and the following may be considered:

  • Call rates
  • Percentage of calls on existing versus potential accounts
  • Discount policy (the extent to which reductions from price list)
  • Percentage of resources targeted at new versus existing products
  • Percentage of resources targeted at selling versus providing after-sales service
  • Percentage of resources targeted at field selling versus telemarketing
  • Percentage of resources targeted at the different type of customer (e.g. High versus low potential)
  • Improving customer and market feedback from the salesforce
  • Improving customer relationships

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