Sales and Marketing: Can't We All Just Get Along?

May 17, 2013 at 7:00 AM

You know the saying “plays well with others”?  Well, a study by the Corporate Executive Board found that Sales and Marketing don’t.  In fact, they say 87% of the terms Marketing and Sales use when describing each other are negative.  You read that right.  Almost 9 out of 10 times, we talk bad about the other guys.  Pretty amazing when you consider we both play for the same team.

Sales and Marketing Collaboration

This finding will surprise exactly no one in corporate America.  Sure, successful Sales and Marketing relationships exist.  But they’re the exception.  So what happens when the head of Sales gets a new Marketing peer?  Will it be a retread of the old relationship?  Or can you get aligned for your mutual benefit? 

Download the Sales and Marketing Relationship Guide here.

This guide will give you a framework for establishing a strong relationship with Marketing.  When a new leader arrives on the scene, everyone takes a cautious approach.  Everyone says all the right things.  But all too often priorities are never aligned.  As a result, revenue (and often your compensation) isn’t maximized.  Everyone is too “professional” to acknowledge this.  Politics and positioning get in the way.  Why not call it out, and become an agent of positive change? 

Last week I was in the car with a very successful Sales VP.  We were on the way to watch a sales presentation.  He started his career in marketing.  I asked him about it.  He said: 

“The only way to be an effective marketer is to get a lot of input from a sales team.  You have to create an environment that solicits feedback and makes salespeople want to engage.  If sales reps are telling you about their sales problems, it’s a good thing.  They’re giving you the tools you need.  All campaigns and credibility pieces should start with a germ of a need from a sales person.  The output will be seen as relevant and helpful instead of missing the mark.” 

Then I asked him about the flip side.  Where did he think Sales needed to improve to bolster the relationship? 

“Sales is running a million miles an hour.  Sometimes they don’t take the time to communicate effectively with Marketing.  Marketing then burns cycles trying to help out.  Sales has to slow down and be more clear – that’s what marketing needs.  Sales has got to communicate better.” 

If you are like many sales SVPs, this is how your conversations with the old marketing leader went: 

Marketing Leader:  We are giving you more leads than ever! 

Sales Leader:  Right.  Awesome.  Last week 4 of the “leads” you sent me were out of business.  One was a guy who is in prison.  Nice job. 

The arrival of a new peer is a perfect opportunity to reset this relationship.  But you have to avoid all the political politeness that passes for real communication.  Instead, direct the conversation to these areas: 

  • How can I force more interaction between Sales and Marketing people? 

It’s easy to stay in your silo.  It’s much harder to get together and build something that benefits all parties.  If you do this, create an agenda!  Don’t delegate it.  Avoid the easy temptation to just “get together and touch base.”  Or as a character from the comic strip Dilbert says, “There is no specific agenda for this meeting. As usual, we'll just make unrelated emotional statements about things which bother us." 

  • How can I create a cadence to better understand our Ideal Customers? 

Sales often thinks Marketing doesn’t understand how the customer buys.  Marketing thinks salespeople don’t understand the customers’ problems.  Unfortunately, everyone is usually right.  You and your new executive peer can do better.  Schedule regular VOC work.  Conduct your Win/Loss/No Decision Reviews (use a third party for this).  Regularly send marketers out into the field with front line sales people. 

  • How can I be sure we both work towards making the number?  

You want your relationship with the new leader to be a force multiplier?  Grade yourselves on some of the same metrics!  Get tightly aligned by aligning your KPIs.  Old school: sales is all about a number.  Marketing’s success is harder to quantify.  New school:  We track these shared metrics we can both affect.  They are leading indicators.  If we get this right, our chances to make the revenue number increase dramatically.  The Sales and Marketing Relationship Guide shows how to set goals against actual performance.  It also allows you to designate each metric as either "managed" or "monitored."  

One final word.  What if you are the VP of both Sales and Marketing?   Easy.  Every single best practice in this post and the tool still applies to you.  A single leader does not preclude divisiveness within the org chart.  If your people are not aligned, their personal agendas will supercede yours.  Maximize the alignment of your team members with the Sales and Marketing Relationship Guide.

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Topics: Sales Leader, VP of Sales Resources, Chief Marketing Officer, CMO, CSO, Chief Sales Officer, sales or marketing

Posted by Mark Synek

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