The three key linkages: Improving the connections between marketing and sales

Ralph A. Oliva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose - In reviewing a spectrum of practice across the 60 member firms of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, those exhibiting an effective and efficient connection between marketing and sales appear to have three "key linkages" in common: linkages in language, linkages in organization, and linkage in systems. This paper seeks to outline these linkages, and explore how they might be strengthened in business-to-business firms. Design/methodology/approach - This is a viewpoint paper, developed by the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, after a full day-and-a-half meeting of ISBM member firms discussing marketing and sales linkage, expanded with additional qualitative observations of marketing/sales linkage across a selection of the ISBM membership base of 60 firms. Findings - The study finds that effectiveness of the linkage between marketing and sales requires strong communication. Often one sees marketing and sales professionals talking past one another - they are not aligned on the definition of key terms, concepts, the nature of their practice. Firms which pay attention to training and alignment on language achieve better results. Common definitions of key terms and attention to communications issues are key in developing a more effective linkage between marketing and sales. Organizational approaches which favor "mixing" marketing and sales, joint meetings and contact, joint sales calls, and a reduction of the boundaries between marketing and sales seem to produce more favorable results. Finally, firms that have thought through, mapped, and show artifacts of a "demand generation process" where the role of marketing and sales are clearly defined, and how one feeds the other is charted clearly, appear to get much better results. Research limitations/implications - A better understanding - and further research - of the dimensionality of the connection between marketing and sales, how marketing/sales linkages work, antecedents and consequences of strong linkages, and other approaches which produce better results are clearly indicated. Practical implications - The "Three Linkages" approach points to practical and actionable approaches for managers in strengthening the effectiveness of their marketing and sales teams, such as: train the teams together to create agreement and clearer understanding of language; map the demand generation process and work as a team to understand, streamline, and strengthen it better ; pay careful attention to "handoffs"; and avoid siloed structures where marketing and sales only interact occasionally: implement joint selling calls, and organization structures which foster connection. Originality/value - Although much discussion goes on with regard to marketing and sales effectiveness, the three dimensionalities of language, organization, and process surfaces as an approach to better understanding how the marketing and sales teams may be better aligned to produce stronger business results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-398
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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