Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

Sales and marketing: two great teams that should work together

Remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter commercials from the ’80s? Two strangers are walking, one eating a chocolate bar, the other spooning out peanut butter. Engrossed in their snacks they collide. One person exclaims, “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” and the other replies, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” They sample the mixture and we hear the slogan, “Two great tastes that taste great together.”

In the same vein, sales and marketing are two great departments that should work together.

The Dynamics

In small businesses, the marketing and sales tasks are often done by the same department, or by one person. In larger corporations, these two teams are more distinctive, with different goals and often at odds. The marketing side thinks that salespeople don’t know how to take advantage of the advertising, spend too much time focusing on individual accounts, and can’t see the big picture. The sales team thinks the marketing side spends too much money on research and advertising and not enough on sales incentives and improving relationships. Should one group tackle both tasks? Or should these two teams work together? With such differences, and so much at stake, it would seem that a fast and furious “No!” would be the correct answer to both questions.


Sales and marketing are often separate divisions within an organization, and when they do work together, they don’t always get along. Should they? Sales and marketing teams do have something in common: the buyer. Marketing studies the buyer and determines the advertising medium and message. Salespeople have one-on-one interactions with the buyer. The buyer provides revenue, and increased revenue is the foundation of business growth. Sales and marketing are like chocolate and peanut butter. Different, yet surprisingly delicious when properly blended together.

The Recipe

In many companies, particularly small ones, the sales team is asked to prospect, conduct business development, and do the marketing. That process may work for a short time with a fast-growing start-up, but maintaining that structure for the long haul will ultimately stifle sales growth. Small sales departments need the support of marketing insight, and if a full-time marketing partner is not viable for your budget, invest in an outside source on a per project basis. If salespeople develop the positioning, create sales tools, and track down qualified leads, they will have less time to work directly with prospects and customers. So while working together is ideal, it is better for marketing tasks to remain with marketing so the salespeople can focus on closing.

Why the blend instead of two distinct “flavors’”? Well, marketing defines the sales prospect, and those sales prospects are potential customers. Sales professionals understand those customers. It’s ridiculous not to have a dialogue between these two teams. The sales department can use data from marketing to determine how customers want to buy. Marketing can use feedback from sales to identify new target markets and ways to modify their message. This symbiotic relationship helps define market segmentation, product requirements, and revenue opportunities. It also leads to happier patrons. And even though a partnership is desirable, burdening sales with marketing responsibilities, or allowing marketing to direct sales, is a mistake.

The bottom line? We are all salespeople. We are all marketers. And chocolate combined with peanut butter can make millions!

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which helps small businesses identify, qualify, develop, and close targeted sales leads, and helps organizations find more value in existing relationships. She can be reached at

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