Why Can’t Marketing and Sales Just Get Along?

by Jennifer Beever, Marketing Consultant
Copyright New Incite, All Rights Reserved

I’m often asked the question, “What’s the difference between sales and marketing?” The answer is simple. Marketing makes the phone ring or otherwise generates leads, and salespeople are the foot soldiers that initiate, process, and close deals, turning the leads into customers. Given the close association the two functions have (one gets the leads and one closes them), I’m constantly surprised at how at odds these two departments are in many companies.

In large corporations, geography and organization structure are sometimes to blame. Marketing is often a centralized function at headquarters, and sales is decentralized across many locations. In these cases, marketing and sales at least have an excuse to be at odds – they’re sometimes thousands of mile apart. But even worse is the smaller company where both marketing and sales share the same roof, yet they don’t communicate or work together.

In situations where marketing and sales don’t work together, sales are usually down, which puts pressure on both departments. Marketing may be creative, but it isn’t effective. Sales moral is low. There is tremendous frustration on the part of salespeople. Some enterprising salespeople and managers will go “underground” and do their own marketing to generate leads. At companies where sales and marketing don’t work together, customer satisfaction and retention is often low as well.

Why the split between sales and marketing? It’s mostly tradition: traditional departments operate in silos, with each performing their function but not interacting with others. On one hand, too many marketing departments believe they need to operate autonomously, without input from sales. On the other hand, too many salespeople take a “maverick” approach, and so don’t give marketing credit for their role in generating leads and never communicate their needs to marketing.

There are other reasons for sales and marketing not working together. Marketing is often given “creative leeway” in its activities: it focuses on creativity and winning awards rather than meeting business objectives. New marketing executives who come from the outside strive to leave their mark on the company and make changes to existing marketing programs. Many times marketing executives’ compensation is not tied to sales objectives.

In many companies where marketing and sales aren’t successful, both departments (indeed all company departments) lack a clear understanding of their core competencies and competitive advantage. For example, marketing may be promoting a product based on a price advantage, while at the same time sales is promoting the same product based on quality. Neither wins because they present mixed messages to the marketplace.

It is at this level – the point of defining the core competency and competitive advantages – that companies must take the first step in unifying sales and marketing. These messages are often the result of strategic planning at the company, but they have to be communicated to all employees. A place to start is to ask each person in the sales and marketing departments to write down the three top competitive advantages that their customers should know them for. If less than 75% of the answers match, a “shared mindset” does not exist and the company must work to communicate the right competitive advantages to all employees.

Management at the company must be committed to maintaining this shared mindset by educating new employees, conducting review sessions with existing employees, and reinforcing a communicative network rather than a “silo” organization.

Information from marketing can drive strategy sessions and fuel review meetings. But marketing is also responsible for executing the communication of that strategy through both internal and external marketing activities. Therefore, marketing must be a flexible, capable, creative, and fast-to-respond service organization within the company.

The next step is to break down the barriers between sales and marketing. The two groups should have common goals and frequent meetings at which to share information. Marketing’s success and compensation plan must be tied in part to achieving sales goals in order for the two groups to work in concert. Sales must perform at its best and carry out the agreed-upon strategy that is now marketing’s bread and butter. Marketing should go on sales calls with salespeople, and salespeople should take part in marketing meetings.

Removing the independent, non-communicating “silos” is critical to business success today. In sales and marketing, usually the first channel through which a company’s image and brand is communicated, it is especially critical. When sales and marketing work together to meet business objectives and revenue quotas, sales revenues increase, marketing programs are more successful, internal moral improves, and customer satisfaction and retention increase.

Author Jennifer Beever is a marketing consultant and founder of New Incite Marketing Analysis and Design. New Incite is the outsource marketing resource for growing businesses. The company provides marketing planning, implementation, results tracking and organizational development services for its clients. Contact Jennifer at 818-347-4248 or by email.

This article may be reprinted with permission of the author. Please contact Jennifer Beever at 818-347-4248 or by email for permission. Proper acknowledgement of the author, including name, company, and contact information, must be made with use.

{ 1 trackback }

B2B Marketers – Has Your Online Content Been Copied?
June 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm