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It’s time for an end to sales and marketing departments

Many marketing directors are probably facing the same two key challenges right now that one of our clients articulated recently:


  1. How do I get sales people to write good content for social media purposes?
  2. How do I set up a lead nurturing system so sales people can spend valuable time on the best opportunities?


Viewed from the perspective of ‘traditional’ organisation, point one is asking sales to do the work of marketing and the second is asking marketing to do the work of sales.

As the ‘funnel’ concept in sales has become blurry, (e.g. who is really responsible for lead generation now?) and ownership of each stage is debatable, (e.g. should marketing produce tailored content for each prospect to help improve close rates?) then the whole concept of what is sales’ responsibility and what is marketing’s responsibility is up for grabs.

Which poses a wider question: Are these departmental boundaries justified anymore? If we were setting up all organisations today from zero, would we actually want two separate departments?

The reality is for most organisations that the answer is no, they should be the same team. Maybe they would be called the “business development team” or “customer management team”.

And if ideally we don’t want two departments, what should organisations do that already have two, and feel the same crossovers and conflicts described by our client.


Towards a better ‘business development’ team

Here is our advice for how to reinvent organisational structures in the light of this new reality.

1. Build very strong insights into your customer’s ‘influence journey’

Either by asking or by workshopping, map out the typical journey customers go through to buy from you, and importantly, where they go looking for solutions. Holistic thinking is important here: Social media, journals, conferences, networks, professional organisations can all be ‘hunting grounds’ for finding new customers.
We deliberately use the phrase ‘influence journey’ here to define where it’s possible to influence our chances of success in winning customers.

2. Make a mirrored version of how you can attract interest and drive engagement

This work used to be called mapping a sales process, however, we must think more broadly now, recognising that customers can enter and exit ‘our process’ from multiple sources, and the job of the ‘business development’ team is to have all these influence points covered.
Doing win / loss reviews and inventorising sales best practices helps here. Once customers are showing a little interest and reciprocity in actions, we are normally in a strong position to lead their experience so we increase our chances of success. Organisations can often have good data from CRM to show which actions we take have the most impact.

3. Create a ‘to-do list’ based on steps one and two

Once it becomes clear when and how you must influence, we can be objective in defining the ‘work to be done’. For example, we may need to create regular blogs for a trade website to drive inbound marketing. We might need to help front line customer staff have active and excellent Linked-in profiles to build their professional reputation.
The to do list will include a mix of activities related to inbound and outbound marketing. Try to avoid early turf wars by insisting on a ‘helicopter view’ of the situation. At this stage, the only focus is how to woo prospects and develop them into loyal, satisfied and profitable customers.

4. Brainstorm various options for team design

Once we know what has to be done, then we can start to think about how to build a team to accomplish it. What are the key roles? What skills do they need? Who from the team is best qualified to do them? In reality, most organisations will have to transition through a project type approach initially. For example, some staff previously from sales could have targets adjusted to get involved in content production. Marketing staff could nurture leads to discover what is most effective.

5. Agree SLAs and project timescales for the team

Holding each other accountable for the work on the to-do list is the only way to find out what works and what does not. We work in an environment of constant learning with business development, and regular team reviews to give feedback on the approach is essential to change course intelligently.
SLAs help to make it clear who does what and measure implementation. For example, a SLA could be to produce one original blog per month for a target market. Or generate a certain number of new prospect contacts per month.
The key principle here is that the journey from unknown prospect to loyal customer belongs to no-one and everyone: Every touch point opportunity can be managed well or badly, and by systematically improving all touch points, we are more likely to secure new opportunities.


Kotler et al.’s landmark paper “Ending the war between sales and marketing” written in 2006 still has a lot of relevance: If we do nothing else, making sales and marketing activities highly integrated is essential today. Why not go one stage further and merge the two departments? War is a bit harder when you’re on the same team!


Need help with strategizing your sales and marketing activities / integration? Get in touch