The line between marketing and sales should be erased if companies are going to succeed in this hyper-competitive marketplace. When George Wethersby was the CEO of the American Management Association he said “The boundary between Sales and Marketing is becoming so blurred that the distinction is no longer helpful.” In the old days marketing defined value and sales communicated the value to the customers. But today with more sophisticated customers and more competition, the ability for a company’s products and services to alone create customer value is very limited. Increasingly a company’s differentiator is not its product but in how they sell it. According to a recent Booz Allen Hamilton study, 85% of brand loyalty is created at the point of sales contact and after; only 15% is generated by up-front promotions and the quality of the product itself.

So where does this leave the sales and marketing groups? If we examine some of the leading thinking in the area of creating customer value, we find that sales and marketing groups can both play a valuable role in helping companies’ actually create and deliver value to their customers. According to Evan Hirsh, author of the book Channel Champions, the effectiveness of your sales channels is the key to success. “From these channels flow customer satisfaction, market share, revenue gains and profitability,” he writes. How can marketing help these sales channels become more effective? One example is the type of market research that companies conduct. Marketing should shift their focus from the product to the customer. Instead of asking “what do you think of this product benefit?” ask about key customer issues this product solves. Ask questions that determine how these issues impact their job and what the risks of failing to address these issues are. Then explore which issues they want to solve first and why they chose this priority. Finally marketing should determine what the value to solving these issues is and how the customer defines successful resolution of their issues. This research will not only help the sales channels it will help marketing develop more effective demand creation and product development initiatives. When marketing conducts this type of research it is the start of value creation for both their internal and external customers.

Marketing is directly contributing to the effectiveness of the sales channels, and the sales force is in a better position to create and deliver customer value. This is when the line between marketing and sales begins to blur, and real value is created for customers before, during and after the sale.