1.3. Sales Is Not a Department, It’s a State of Mind


It’s a deal.

Let’s shake on it.

Sign on the dotted line.

You’ve got the job.

Those are the words that signal success in selling. They seem simple, but according to Gerry Tabio, (2009), bringing a sale to fruition is “not just about celebrating the sale; it’s about celebrating the growth of the customer.” (para 8). The most successful companies work to build and sustain relationships with the customer at every touch point, any way in which the company comes in contact with the customer, and considers selling the job of everyone in the organization. In other words, although there are specific functional departments such as sales, marketing, operations, human resources, finance, and others, everyone in the organization is focused on the customer. This is called a customer-centric organization (Welford, 2009.

It’s all about the Customer

Being customer-centric means insisting on accountability. Although everyone is focused on the customer, every employee is part of a department or function. Each department has goals and accountabilities. In a true customer-centric organization, the departments work together to satisfy the needs of the customer and achieve the financial objectives of the company. Most companies have core functions or departments such as sales, customer service (sometimes it is included as part of the sales department), marketing, operations, finance, human resources, product development, procurement, and supply chain management (also called logistics). Departments such as finance and human resources are called support (or staff) functions since they provide support for those that are on the front lines such as sales and customer service (these departments are also called line functions as they are part of a company’s daily operations) (Staff function, 2020). In a customer-centric organization, the focus on the customer helps prevent organizational “silos” (i.e., when departments work independently of each other and focus only on their individual goals). The sales department is the heartbeat of every company. According to Selling Power Magazine, the manufacturing and service companies listed on its “Power Selling 500 Report” generate $4.9 trillion dollars in sales annually (Selling Power 2020). Yes, trillions. This means that each salesperson supports an average of 12.9 other jobs within the company and that the level of sales that is generated by each salesperson actually pays for the roles in human resources, marketing, operations, and other departments. It makes sense that the salespeople fund the operations of the company. After all, it is a salesperson with whom you interact when you buy a Nissan Cube, lip gloss at Sephora, or an interview suit at Macy’s. The people in the sales department “ring the cash register” (whether the business has a cash register or not). They are responsible and accountable to deliver sales to generate revenue and profit, which are required to operate and to invest in the company.

Is It Sales, or Is It Marketing?

So you might be wondering, if the sales department interacts with customers, what exactly does the marketing department do? That is a great question. Some people use the terms in tandem—sales and marketing—to refer to sales. Some people use the terms interchangeably and refer to marketing as sales. It is no wonder that it confuses so many. According to the American Marketing Association, “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” (AMA , 2009). In other words, it is the role of the marketing department to use the four Ps of the marketing mix (product, place, promotion, and price) to determine the brand message, which is then communicated to customers. Then, the marketing department uses the elements of the promotional mix of advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, interactive marketing, and personal selling to get the word out to customers (Belch & Belch, 2008),. Marketers seek to motivate prospective customers to purchase by driving them to a Web site, store, phone, event, or another related, desired action. Essentially, marketing builds relationships between customers and the brand. When you see an online ad for Best Buy, get a text message about the new release of James Bond on Blu-ray, call the 800 number to check on your Rewards Zone point balance, post a comment on the Best Buy Facebook page, respond to a tweet from Best Buy on Twitter, see a newspaper insert or an ad on television, or read about the opening of a new store near year you, these are all examples of marketing. They are designed to encourage you to engage with the brand and encourage you to take an action—visit the store, go to the Web site, call the 800 number, or tell your friends about the brand. When you go into the store or visit the Web site, the sales department takes over. A salesperson will speak with you (either in person in the store, online with live chat, or by phone) to determine what you need and to help you make the best decision by communicating product information (this printer is wireless), service information (we can deliver that tomorrow), warranty information (it has a 90-day manufacturer warranty), and other pertinent facts. The salesperson extends the relationship that was established with the marketing contacts and makes a personal connection with you. If you have a good experience, your relationship with Best Buy gets even better, and you are more likely to shop there again and tell your friends.

At times, however, sales and marketing do not play well together. When organizations are not customer- centric, the departments may appear to have separate or conflicting goals. Marketing may feel that sales does not follow up on prospective customers, or perhaps sales feels that the marketing efforts are focused on the wrong customers.

Marketing and Sales: How They Work Together. Image Description available
Figure 1.1: Marketing and Sales: How They Work Together [Image Description]

In addition to closing the sale (when the customer purchases the product or service), the salesperson has a very important role in the marketing process. Because the salesperson (in the store, online, or on the phone) is a primary touch point and a personal interaction with the customer, the salesperson is the brand in the eyes of the customer. According to Dr. David A. Shore of Harvard University, “The sales force is the most visible manifestation of the brand. Salespeople need to say with a singular voice, ‘This is who we are, and, by extension, this is who we are not.’ The critical element that power brands have is trust, and a sales force needs to become the trusted advisor to the customer.” (Gschwandtner, 2010).

So now you can see that marketing and sales work hand-in-hand: one develops the brand and the other assumes the image of the brand. Neither works without the other, and the relationship between the functions must be transparent to the customer. There is only one brand in the eyes of the customer, not two departments. When marketing and sales work well together, the customer experience is seamless.

Image Descriptions

Figure 1.1 image description:  The Marketing and Sales: How they work together image describes Marketing and Sales in bullet points with an arrow going in both directions between the two.  Marketing is described as:

  • Uses the four Ps (product, place, promotion, and price) to determine the brand message.
  • Uses the promotional mix (advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, interactive marketing, and personal selling) to communicate the brand message to customers.
  • Motivates customers to take an action, such as going to a store or Web site or calling a phone number
  • Builds ongoing relationships between the brand and customers.
  • Interacts with and gets feedback from sales.
  • Focuses on customer needs.

Sales is described as:

  • Identifies which customers to engage.
  • Interacts one-on-one with customers to identify needs and present solutions or opportunities.
  • Converts interested customers into purchasers.
  • Builds ongoing personal relationship between the brand and the customer.
  • Isa the brand in the eye of the customer.
  • interacts with and gives feedback to marketing.
  • Focuses on customer needs.

[Return to Fig. 1.1]


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The Power of Selling Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Michelle Clement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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