Expert Insights

Sales or marketing? Which is the priority for optimum growth?

With the UK out of recession, many UK businesses are bullish about growth in 2014. But what’s the best way to achieve it? Should your focus be sales or marketing? David Baldwin-Evans, an experienced interim sales and marketing leader, shares his thoughts.

While David believes sales and marketing are inextricably linked, he says that many organisations traditionally keep the two as separate functions: in simplistic terms, one generating leads whilst the other fulfils them.

“By and large, if you’re in a relatively steady state with long sales cycles, your focus should be on sales,” he says. “It’s when you’re steady that you’re at risk of dropping the ball. Working hard to retain current clients or selling within your own customer base has been proven to be much more cost effective than winning new business, and will protect your business from others looking to move in. A good CRM [customer relationship management] system is a must as it will help you maintain those relationships across the two functions and keep you close to the pipeline.”

Secondly, he adds, companies need to take a long, hard look at their sales people. Are they capable of going out there and closing the deals your marketing has set up? “That doesn’t mean you should slash and burn and rebuild the whole function, but you need to think about recruitment in order to have the right blend of people.”

Finally, communication: “Good internal communications ensure the wider organisation understands your objectives and what the sales team is achieving. Everyone else needs to be up to speed because once you’ve won new business you’ll be pulling on resources from those functions to deliver.”

Knowing your market

If you’re a company that needs to explore new avenues to grow, your focus is more likely to be on marketing. Here, David talks about ‘adjacency’ – moving into markets, products and services linked to what you do now. “The more you distance yourself from your core offering, the higher the chances you’ll fail,” he says. For example a steelwork manufacturer could branch out into wider construction services. They already have the expertise and are targeting similar customers. Which leads to David’s second point: picking the right target customers. This is when you need a clear market strategy, understanding of what those customers need and a thought-through proposition. What can you offer them others can’t?

Thirdly, is geography. David says: “Is there an emerging market somewhere you can capitalise on? If you’re moving into an international market, it often makes sense to work with a partner / distributor who knows that country and market already.”

Consider integration

When you’ve decided what you’re going to do, you have to choose who’s going to manage this growth, after all, moving into a new market can be risky. There are three options: internal resource, external expertise or interim management. Do you have the person in house with the time, experience and seniority to drive sales and / or marketing? Or do you use an external organisation, which could be costly and more theory-based? Or do you opt for an interim, who has the experience, can work at board level and dedicate his or her time to the programme?

Regardless of which option you choose, David believe all companies should consider bringing sales and marketing together. “The two functions are much more effective when they’re integrated. They become much more aligned in the eyes of the customer and you can ensure that what potential customers read or hear about you is backed up seamlessly by your sales team.

“With many businesses going for growth this year, there’s a lot to think about. The conditions are better than they’ve been for quite some time, so now’s the time to get your strategy and resources right.” Procrastinate at this stage in the economic cycle and you could well be left behind.


  • Focus on sales when you’re in a steady state: invest in a CRM, the right blend of people and effective internal communications. Protect your current client relationships
  • Focus on marketing when you need new avenues to grow: don’t stray too far from your core offering, choose your customers carefully and consider new geographies
  • Sales and marketing work best when integrated
  • Make brave decisions now, before your competitors

David Baldwin-Evans

David Baldwin-Evans is a board-level interim sales and marketing leader. With vast experience of operating within large, complex organisations across many sectors and geographies, David has a strong record for devising and implementing tactical sales and marketing strategies and delivering sustainable profitable growth.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is an exclusive hybrid interim and change management provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.