Sales Vs. Marketing

(This post originally appeared on my previous blog, “Release.”)

Ali vs. Frazier. Magic vs. Bird. King Kong vs. Godzilla. Cool. Sales vs. marketing. Not cool. Still, this internal conflict persists in many companies. Philip Kotler, one of the giants of marketing, co-wrote “Ending The War Between Sales and Marketing,” an excellent overview on creating cultural and operational harmony between the groups.

Having worked both sides of the sales/marketing fence, I know the perennial complaints… “Marketing doesn’t give us stuff we can use” … “Sales just likes to ‘wing’ it.” … “You spend a ton of money on fancy marketing that nobody cares about.” … “Sales is just looking for someone to blame when they can’t close.”

Kotler and his co-writers, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy, speak wisely on the need to define roles between sales and marketing, moving toward the ideals of alignment and integration. Dialog and cooperation are the watchwords. Unfortunately, as Kotler, Rackhame and Krishnaswamy point out, many companies struggle with any form of interdepartmental coordination (you can say “synergy” until you turn blue). Under these circumstances, even the proximate functions of sales and marketing are likely to remain in their proverbial silos.

Early in my marketing career, I heard a definition that resonated: “Marketing’s job is to put prospects as deep into the sales pipeline as possible.” To the salesman in me, that meant qualified prospects, aware of the product and the value proposition, whose objections have been reduced due to information and impressions already received.

Gleaning from the observations of Kotler et al. and my own experiences, here are some steps to synchronize sales and marketing:

  • Get field reports from sales. What’s working? What’s not? What’s the competition doing? What are customers saying? Make sure sales has supporting evidence.
  • Involve sales in the strategic marketing process (see above). This minimizes surprises and resistance when the strategy becomes tactics and the tactics become deliverables.
  • Prep sales in message delivery. Review active marketing messages with salespeople to make sure these themes reappear in sales presentations (or are not contradicted).
  • Create a strong sales support function. Let sales know that marketing has its back for customized communications as needed.

Sales and marketing must be united since they are two elements of a single process: identifying prospects and converting them into satisfied customers. Their disconnect is ridiculous, destructive, and all-too-common. Open the peace talks now. Have a senior exec (C-suite if possible) take ownership of the new cooperation between sales and marketing. Leave the rivalries for sporting events and monster movies.

About Jason William Karpf

Author, Professor, Nonprofit Pro, Four-Time Jeopardy Champ
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