Exploring collaboration between sales and marketing

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  • Exploring collaboration betweensales and marketing

    Ken Le Meunier-FitzHughSchool of Management and Organisational Psychology,

    Birkbeck University of London, London, UK, and

    Nigel F. PiercyWarwick Business School, The University of Warwick, Coventry, UK


    Purpose The study seeks to explore the antecedents and implications of collaboration betweensales and marketing and further to identify whether there are benefits in terms of businessperformance of improving collaboration between sales and marketing.

    Design/methodology/approach Three exploratory case studies and a review of the literature areused to examine the antecedents to collaboration between sales and marketing. The case studies allowthis fuzzy and undefined area to be clarified and existing theories to be empirically tested.

    Findings The study identifies that there are three types of factor influencing collaboration betweensales and marketing: integrators, facilitators, and management attitudes towards coordination. Theexploratory case studies establish that senior management plays a pivotal role in creating andimproving collaboration between sales and marketing, and that there is a positive correlation betweencollaboration between sales and marketing, and improved business performance.

    Research limitations/implications The limitations of this study are that it is qualitative innature and the conceptual framework needs be tested through a large-scale survey. In addition, thestudy considers only large UK organisations and, therefore, future research should considerexpanding the study to overseas organisations.

    Practical implications There appears to be an established relationship between the level ofcollaboration between sales and marketing and business performance. Further, the attitude of seniormanagers to improving coordination is critical to influencing collaboration between sales andmarketing.

    Originality/value This study contends that sales and marketing need to collaborate rather thanintegrate and uses exploratory case studies to support the development of the framework.

    Keywords Sales, Marketing, Business performance

    Paper type Research paper

    Significant research efforts have been devoted to considering co-operation andcollaboration between functional departments in organisations, based on the premisethat interdepartmental collaboration is linked to improving business performance.However, relatively little attention has been paid to the interdepartmental relationshipbetween sales and marketing as compared to other functional relationships withmarketing. Kotler et al. (2006, p. 78) state:

    Every company can and should improve the relationship between sales and marketing.

    Yet this interface exhibits one of the most contentious relationships withinorganisations (Dewsnap and Jobber, 2000; Dawes and Massey, 2005), and is one thatis attracting increasing attention from both practitioners and academics (e.g. Athens,2002; Rouzies et al., 2005; Kotler et al., 2006).

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at


    Sales andmarketing


    Received May 2006Accepted August 2006

    European Journal of MarketingVol. 41 No. 7/8, 2007

    pp. 939-955q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

    0309-0566DOI 10.1108/03090560710752465


  • One reason for this lack of attention is that organisations and customers habituallysee sales and marketing as a single function; customers do not usually differentiatebetween sales and marketing departments and consider them to perform a singlepurpose (Cespedes, 1993, 1994; Webster, 1997; Yandle and Blythe, 2000). However, inlarge organisations, sales and marketing are frequently structured as separate anddiscrete departments (Piercy, 1986; Workman et al., 1998) and perform differentfunctions (Shapiro, 2002). The role of sales is to stimulate, rather than satisfy, demandfor products (Weitz and Bradford, 1999, p. 243), while marketing will be structuredaround major customers and markets, not products, and will integrate sales, productstrategy, distribution, and marketing communications competencies and activities(Webster, 1997, p. 64). However, the nature of marketing practice itself varies byorganisation and industry. The type of marketing carried out, and how it is managed,organised and delivered changes as the firm co-evolves with its market place (Murrayand ODriscoll, 2002; Kotler et al., 2006). Prior studies considering the cross-functionalrelationship between sales and marketing have suggested that this interface exhibitsmany negative characteristics (Dewsnap and Jobber, 2000; Dawes and Massey, 2005;Rouzies et al., 2005; Kotler et al., 2006; Piercy, 2006). There is often poor coordinationbetween sales and marketing, particularly in planning and goal setting (Weitz andBradford, 1999; Olson et al., 2001; Rouzies et al., 2005; Piercy, 2006; Kotler et al., 2006).Lorge (1999, p. 27) notes:

    Historically there has been tension between sales and marketing, bred by physical andphilosophical separation and by poor communication.

    This tension in the relationship has created the need to ensure that sales and marketingare able to collaborate to the benefit of the organisation.

    To allow practitioners and academics to identify how the relationship between salesand marketing in large organisations can be improved, it is necessary to identify thefactors that can be utilised to influence this interface. Although there have been anumber of recent papers conceptualising this relationship, they have been based purelyon literature reviews (e.g. Dewsnap and Jobber, 2000; Rouzies et al., 2005). This studywill use exploratory case studies as well as existing literature to investigate the salesand marketing interface, to identify the possible antecedents of collaboration betweensales and marketing, and to develop a framework that can be tested through aquantitative survey. The study will also seek to identify whether effectivecollaboration between sales and marketing can provide benefits to the organisationin terms of improved business performance.

    Conceptual developmentThe term collaboration between sales and marketing has been selected for this studybased in Kahns (1996) work on R&D and marketing, which indicated that thecollaborative elements of integration, e.g. collective goals, mutual understanding,informal activities, shared resources and esprit de corps have a greater impact onperformance than the interaction component of integration (physical activities andcross-functional training). In addition, the term integration indicates a need to createa single function/process and combine the parts into a whole (Oxford University Press,1993). However, combining sales and marketing functions may not be desirable, asthey have necessarily different activities performed by different people who are



  • appropriate for each function (Shapiro, 2002). By contrast, collaboration is defined asworking together (Oxford University Press, 1993) and indicates the need to buildbridges between two culturally different entities with the aims of creatingopportunities for learning and improving functionality to the benefit of businessperformance. The contention is that sales and marketing more often need to collaborateas opposed to integrate.

    A number of writers have explored the interface between sales and marketing andsome have conceptualised the relationship (Cespedes, 1993; Dewsnap and Jobber, 2000;Rouzies et al., 2005; Kotler et al., 2006). These researchers have generally foundevidence to suggest that while sales and marketing are both independent andinterdependent, they are not always seen as working collectively or collaboratively(Rosenbloom and Anderson, 1984; Alldredge et al., 1999; Lorge, 1999; Dawes andMassey, 2005; Kotler et al., 2006). Other writers describe the relationship between salesand marketing as exhibiting a lack of understanding, distrust, poor co-operation andbeing in conflict (Anderson, 1996; Strahle et al., 1996; Dewsnap and Jobber, 2000;Rouzies et al., 2005; Kotler et al., 2006).

    There are a number of reasons cited for the lack of collaboration between sales andmarketing, including different philosophies and backgrounds (e.g. experience andeducation) (Ruekert and Walker, 1987; Cespedes, 1994; Griffin and Hauser, 1996;Shapiro, 2002; Kotler et al., 2006). Salespeople appear to be intuitive, whilst marketingpeople are more creative, and there is evidence to indicate that they are culturallydifferentiated (Cespedes, 1993). Furthermore, sales and marketing may be set differentgoals by senior management, leading to lack of coordination of activities (Strahle et al.,1996; Colletti and Chonko, 1997; Anderson et al., 1999; Olson et al., 2001). Severalwriters have also highlighted the difficulties created by the short-term orientation ofsales goals conflicting with the long-term orientation of marketing (Montgomery andWebster, 1997; Olson et al., 2001). Lack of collaboration may be aggravated by poorcommunications (Anderson, 1996; Strahle et al., 1996; Lorge, 1999; Kotler et al., 2006),and sales and marketing functions may not exchange information effectively toimprove performance. Senior management may not be focused on establishingcoordination between these two areas (Workman et al., 1998; Piercy, 2006). Some salesand marketing departments may experience role ambiguity and a lack ofunderstanding of each others roles (Cespedes, 1993; Kotler et al., 2006). There havealso been examples of sales and marketing teams blaming each other for sales failure(Colletti and Chonko, 1997; Shapiro, 2002).

    Tension may be created between the need to retain the distinctiveness of sales andmarketing (because they perform differentiated