marketing and sales…how we all can get along

Posted on Feb 28, 2014 in Blog | No Comments

I think part of our jobs (in any field) is to work with folks in other disciplines to help them understand how we fit into the business puzzle. What does this mean exactly? Marketing is often undercut as a “nice to have” but not a “business critical” capability. What hasn’t helped this perception is the consistent friction between marketing and sales/business development-who, instead of joining forces (which would be smart) to discredit naysayers or fix any problems, tend to turn on each other. I’d argue that without marketing and sales working together, you will not have business!

There’s always been a challenging relationship between marketing and sales folks. Marketing people often complain about sales not executing the marketing strategy consistently (or at all),  and sales often complains that they aren’t receiving the proper marketing support to help them sell the brand. There is a basic misunderstanding of responsibilities, and when left to their own accord (and stubborn marketing leads who refuse to cooperate) sales people will do whatever is necessary to just “get it done”-which can mean anything-including printing something that looks terrible and sounds worse, on the office Xerox and handing it to the customer. Yes, I’ve had that happen, much to my dismay. To finally get rid of this friction, I think we all need to understand what it is the goal of both organizations, and how we can all work together to reach it. Because the overarching goal needs to be INCREASE REVENUE.  Because everyone should be bringing their “A” game to this goal. I don’t care what business you’re in, you cannot tell me that your goal differs increasing revenue. It may (and should) be more specific, but that is what business is based on.

Let’s begin by saying the marketing organization has many responsibilities. Beyond the norm (branding, messaging, content, etc etc), they usually manage all external communications vehicles, and sometimes all internal communications vehicles as well. This is a lot of responsibility, because much of this needs to be refreshed regularly. So when you sales people are wondering what the heck marketing people do all day, take a minute and think about the weight of having to refresh content regularly. Go on, imagine it. Write a different 3 page paper every day. How about 5 of them? Not as easy as it sounds when you think about it, right? Now, if your marketing team isn’t doing that, there is another problem. However, the goals of this group, above and beyond high level branding goals (yes, consistency in branding, messaging etc has to stay top of mind) is SUPPORT YOUR SALES TEAMS. Whhhhhhaaaat?!

Yes, I said it.

Look, I’m not one to mince words-where marketing people often fall down on the job is here. Sales people are ego driven, “needed it last week” maniacs. You would be one too if you were consistently given huge unattainable numbers, told that you were responsible for the health and welfare of the company and on the road a good deal of time. I think in order to get along with anyone and truly understand them you need to take a minute and see where they are coming from. That type of existence cannot be easy. The ego comes from actual achievement (although not always). It is the classic hunter mentality. They are the brawn of the operation.

Where I think we come together to succeed is that to your brawn sales team, marketing people are the brains (or tool makers if you like that better). This is not to say that marketing is “smarter” than sales-so check your irritation my sales friends! It’s about the responsibility load. Marketing should provide the tools to let your sales people hunt. If you do not provide your sales people the tools they are asking for, whether that be brochures or micro sites or research or lead gen, they WILL DO IT THEMSELVES. And inevitably it will be done poorly and outside of the voice you have agreed to in the branding arena.

What has worked for me is having regular meetings with sales people (I personally prefer a small group or individual meetings so everyone feels like they have been heard), and responding as much as possible to their needs. Believe it, they have come to me with some good ideas. They are on the front lines and see a ton of stuff that we as marketers may not see for a while. That said, sales people need to TRUST that marketing has a complete picture of the brand and where it needs to go. They need to understand that the brand voice needs to be driven by that structured messaging platform, as opposed to random messaging they feel may be a fit that day. Stop working off your own scripts please!!!

With a little effort and education, marketing and sales can function as the team we are meant to be instead of enemies. It will benefit everyone, and lead to increased revenue we can measure from marketing efforts as well as sales.