Cooperation or Conflict? The Nature of the Collaboration of Marketing and Sales Organizational Units

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Research purpose. The marketing and sales activity of a company can involve synergy, and coordinated operations can contribute to the success of the enterprise. However, the operations of the former departments often rely on individual successes, which boost conflicts of interest and hinder collaboration. The main aim of the research described in this paper is to explore the areas and focal points of collaboration and conflict in order to highlight the tools that can contribute to enhancing alignment and effectiveness. A further goal is to examine the relationship between marketing and sales and their appraisal of each other.

Design/Methodology/Approach. The empirical research applied three qualitative focus group interviews among marketing and sales employees in different positions at multinational enterprises. Results are analyzed using grounded theory methodology.

Findings. The research highlights the process interfaces between marketing and sales activities and results in the identification of the competence and attitude gaps in their cooperation. Marketing is an entire corporate function, although without knowledge of customers and markets and experience of sales it is unable to foster the innovation processes which, along with cost and time management, result in “efficient and effective corporate operations” as the core category of grounded theory. The outcomes presented here are novel in relation to how they highlight that collaboration should be grounded on clearly defined corporate targets and the engagement of employees with these, as well as supportive and reinforcing manager–subordinate relationships. However, the prioritization and appraisal of the departments of organizational units appears to be dependent on the position and information coverage of employees. Having more information increases the latter’s ability to better evaluate other fields of business. In addition to these issues, the explored discrepancies refer mainly to the information transfer process, suggesting that the external and internal accessibility and availability of information to departments is crucial. Information that is accompanied by accurate predictions about market demand and local needs adjustment enables successful innovation and helps create marketable, innovative, well-differentiated, high-quality, valuable products, the availability of (and customer responses to) which is required for the successful performance of a company. The former may be delivered through the contribution of both organizational units. Building and reinforcing human relationships can facilitate these processes.

Originality/Value/Practical implications. In comparison to other research on this topic, the present study applies focus group interviews as a novel method to create a deeper and more thorough picture of the related processes. The model which emerges from the analysis of results highlights problems with practical management that can contribute to the development of a more efficient management system. Employees can be trained to decrease the identified discrepancies, while rewarding positive attitudes to collaboration contributes to their alignment.

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