Will Sales and Marketing Become One in 2009?


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2009 is not going to be a pretty year. In fact it could be a year in which many organizations actually do less with less, not more with less. As resources shrink it’s certainly not an environment in which CEO’s are going to be tolerant of turf battles. But will it be the year sales and marketing become one? For the last few years many organizations have invested in customer hearing-aid technology. That is, data warehousing, CRM and BI applications to help them better hear, understand and even predict the “voice of the customer.” More recently, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, just to name a few, have been cast as new customer “listening posts” that hold great potential to enhance customer interactions through more focused relevancy. But can these technologies alone really unite sales and marketing in a way that will improve the customer experience and grow profits?

In Robert J. Herbold’s book “The Fiefdom Syndrome” the author addresses the turf battles that often undermine company strategies; and your marketing and sales organizations, as well as your customer-focused strategy are not exempt from those battles. The author points out that down deep humans really don’t like to share, and that fiefdoms tend to hoard and hide their information in order to reflect the view that puts them in the best light. Some might suggest that appointing a new C-level executive (Chief Customer Officer) devoted to customer strategy across all divisions will help fix the problem. Sorry, I don’t think so. In my opinion the major challenge for 2009 is not about physically merging functional areas on the organizational chart. It’s about developing corporate leaders who can build and maintain a culture of unity and trust. Why? Because in 2009 the majority of your employees are going to be concerned with just keeping their paychecks, and you are going to have to find the means to unify everyone – from those who are still true believers in your business vision and goals to those who are merely hanging on.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Hi Alan,
    I actually hope Sales and Marketing never merge into the one entity or concept. I think the friction between the competing priorities is a great source of innovation and derring-do. Is anyone really or totally confident that a collaborative entity would be better than what we have at the moment?

    Looking at your comments about unity and trust, I think one way this could be achieved is to leave the competing disciplines alone but remove the major source of friction – who owns what data. If the organisation was to pull the data management side of the business into a specialist team that controls the tsunami of data that we’re all confronted with it can then feed out structured relevant data to the various stakeholders.

    I agree with your comments about the social networking sites being new listening posts but feel we are a long way from seeing this executed properly due in no small part to many of the large CRM vendors (notably Salesforce.com and Oracle) muddying the waters and confusing customers as to why they should do this rather than giving them a clear reason why the data is relevant.

    Mark Parker
    Smart Selling

  2. Hi Alan: The title of your blog got me thinking! All organizations have specialized component parts, so feifdoms seem an inevitable byproduct. The resulting problems can be particularly difficult between sales and marketing–two teams that must work closely and often have blurry boundaries.

    Although I haven’t read Mr. Herbold’s book, it seems that providing effective leadership and creating a common vision so disparate teams can collaborate in a meaningful way would be preferable to simply collapsing departmental boundaries and expecting everyone to play nicely in one big sandbox.

    Feifdoms have been present in every company I’ve worked with. The successful companies have leaders who understand how competitive drive and collaborative skills can be leveraged to achieve the company’s strategy. It’s a fine line–too much internal competition saps an organization’s energy and prevents knowledge sharing, and too much collaboration stifles agility.


  3. Thanks for the comments and observations. I did play with the title of this blog to leave the meaning a little vague. Become One – as in consolidate … Or, Become One – as in unify.

    Let’s imagine an organization that fully understands the needs and desires of its target market, and that the marketing mix is combined in a way that fully supports the overall business strategy. In other words, manufacturing (R&D), product management, product marketing, advertising & public relations, sales, service, finance and logistics have all pulled together to provide perfect alignment. Was that hard to imagine? Many (most?) organizations are still working in highly matrixed environments that yield loosely knit strategies at best. Don’t get me wrong, matrixed environments are not going to go away. Particularly in large organizations where you need specialists because the scope of many functional areas – like sales & marketing – are just too big for one person. Yet, the fact remains that alignment breakdowns between these functional areas continues to put business strategies (and customer experience models) at risk. Now, add in the current economic climate and the impact that is having on your sales and marketing employees and you can see why “unity and trust” through credible leadership will be key this year.

    James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner wrote a pretty good book (“Credibilty … How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It”) on the subject.

    Alan See

    LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/alansee
    Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/AlanSee

  4. Hi Alan,

    A very thoughtful post. As per normal.

    I do see some evidence of sales and marketing increasingly being merged into a single group under a single C-level executive. My belief and my experience is that sales and marketing are more similar than they are different and that bringing them together into a single group offers big organisational benefits.

    Like all things, the devil is in the details. Sales and marketing groups that are just rolled together without much thought often leads to two different sub-cultures within the same merged group. Sales and marketing end up merged in name, but not merged in nature.

    One way to increase post-merger integration that I have found very effective in my own organisation development work is to carry out a social network analysis to identify key individuals who either are already helping to broker the merger of the two culture, or others who should be helped to do some brokering of their own. SNA is quite easy to do using surveys and the results of the analysis is easy to apply organisationally. The results of SNA-driven integration ore often nothing short of amazing.

    Take a look at Rob Cross’ website if you want examples of how merger-integration has been successfully driven using SNA.

    Even if you haven’t merged sales and marketing together into a single group, you can still use SNA to understand how to drive more effective collaboration across the organisation.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator

    PS. I agree with you that the Chief Customer Officer is a red herring in the majority of cases. Installing a new CCO to drive collaboration is unlikely to be effective unless they have a deep understanding of the existing organisational networks, the different sub-cultures across the organisation, and have sufficient insight and authority to drive real collaboration forward. It makes you wonder whether the whole CCO thing is just another part of the US business press’ obsession with ‘leadership’, at the expense of building high-performance work organisations.

  5. …especially in bigger companies where specialization is critical. Specialist people often need specialist managers, and there is a world of difference between what marketing and sales do.

    But I think Alan is right if “become one” means working more closely together. As I agree with Graham that simply smashing together groups (literally becoming “one” organization) won’t help.

    Besides, aren’t sales and marketing already part of “one” organization — the enterprise? And if so, what is the CEO or other senior executive doing to ensure that marketing and sales are an effective team?

    The silver lining in the recession may be that it will spur warring factions to lay down their arms and figure out how to survive together. Sales needs support from marketing, and without sales people selling stuff, there won’t be any money for marketing programs.

    Of course, the alternative to cooperation and collaboration is to “become one” with layoffs and unemployment. Some managers will defend their turf until the turf is gone. This is a time for CEOs to step up.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom


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