Remember your 4th-grade Science class when you studied the human brain? It has two sides: the right promotes creativity while the left offers logic. Billions of connecting neurons keep the two sides working together. Likewise, the modern org chart has two distinct sides: Marketing, which targets customers, and Sales, which closes them. Unfortunately, the two groups don’t often work in concert. In fact, a report by software group Marketo showed global companies lose more than $1 trillion every year due to infighting or broken processes between Marketing and Sales.
All stereotypes contain at least a little truth – and it’s true that some marketing types are nerdy tacticians armed with spreadsheets, while some sales pros are outgoing risk-takers with little love for processes or accountability. The marketing group has a wealth of research, demographics, and analytics. The sales team has face-to-face interaction with prospects and first-hand customer insights. Because they have different roles and different personalities there’s bound to be miscommunication and misunderstanding between Marketing and Sales, even when relationships are good. And when relationships are bad it can literally paralyze a company.
But the most common relationship between Marketing and Sales is neither good nor bad – it’s non-existent. Ask yourself a simple question: Do your Marketing and Sales teams ever interact? Not your managers, the teams. In most organizations the Marketing group works in one location while Sales professionals are in the field, closer to customers, and rarely if ever do the twain meet – not because of any animosity or ill will, but simply because of the logistics involved. Building relationships is the first and most critical step toward improvement.
Improve communication – by force, if necessary. In a perfect world you could wave a magic wand and combine Marketing and Sales into a lean and ultra-focused team with a single reporting structure. And if money were no object, you could appoint a high-level liaison officer to better coordinate the group’s activities. But you can still improve communication between groups without blowing up the department by offering chances for the groups to interact – and forcing the interactions, if necessary.
For instance, invite members of the Marketing group to go along on sales calls. Invite Sales members to attend agency meetings. Regular social interactions can also break down walls and silos when they’re created intentionally. For instance, don’t allow everyone to meet and break off into cliques; instead, assign seats ahead of time, placing Marketing, Sales, and administrative people together. Challenge them to work together to solve a problem. Whether the problem is work-related or not isn’t important – you simply need to get them working together.
Ultimately you’ll want to allow or require members of Marketing and Sales to meet together face-to-face and create a single comprehensive plan as opposed to separate plans. The time, money, and planning you invest can drive better-aligned plans, more-coordinated efforts, higher overall results, and improved job satisfaction scores.
Identify the common good. Marketing and Sales both want to improve market share and increase revenue – they just go about it from different ends of the purchase funnel. So if you want to improve communication, trust, and efficiency between the two groups, you may have to change the way you measure success. Look for synergies. For example, consider the old-fashioned sales lead. The Marketo study found that Sales reps ignored 80% of the marketing leads that were given to them, believing most to be unqualified. Moreover, the reps felt their Marketing counterparts didn’t fully understand the real value and differentiators of the products, which reduced the impact of their messaging efforts.
There is no easy fix for this, of course. But you could start by appointing a team comprised of Marketing and Sales members – the ones in the trenches, not in the corner offices – and challenge them to review and improve the processes and develop a shared performance metric, such as number of sales leads explored. Eventually you might consider job-sharing and job-swapping opportunities, moving folks from one department to another for an extended period of time to immerse them in the duties and challenges of a different part of your organization.
Sync your assets. The top argument among married couples today involves money, and in committed organizational relationships, it’s often the same argument. Marketing mangers want a bigger slice of the budget to improve their promotional pieces or reach an untapped niche market; Sales managers want more money to hire more professionals or training. In a world of limited resources, this often leads to gridlock.
But more often than not the real issue is misunderstanding, not money. When there are no facts available, rumor will serve as dialogue. If one group doesn’t know what the others’ budget is, they’ll make an assumption that it’s significantly higher than it really is – and that it’s probably being wasted. Let your teams peek under the curtain – or better yet, rip down the curtain and share the budgets for both groups – and half of the argument goes away immediately. And if you share WHY the groups are funded the way they are, you can address the other half. Sales likely won’t know that the costs of your annual TV campaign are significantly higher in an election year unless you tell them; Marketing won’t fully understand how a new competitor’s pricing strategy is affecting your incentives budget unless they see it firsthand from the salesperson’s perspective.
If you want to really shake things up, take the SWAT team that you formed to write a comprehensive marketing/sales plan and let them take a crack at divvying up a potential marketing/sales budget. If nothing else, it will give everyone a more comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities across the full purchase funnel.
In summary, the relationship between marketing and sales doesn’t have to be adversarial or indifferent. In the end, the question isn’t whether Marketing knows customer better than Sales – it’s who knows the customer differently at any given point, and how can we use this expertise to achieve a common goal. If this question you’d like to explore further, I’d love to have a conversation.