Why Sales and Marketing Don’t Get Along
Sales teams and marketing teams pursue a common objective: create customer value and drive company results. But sales and marketing don’t always get along. Certainly, all-out war between the two teams drains productivity. Yet having the two teams work in perfect harmony and reach an easy consensus on every decision is a pipedream, and in fact, is not the best answer either.
Some tension between sales and marketing is healthy and productive.
Sales-marketing tension can stem from differences in marketers’ and sellers’ perspectives. Marketers think in terms of aggregate customer segments; sellers think in terms of individual customers. Marketers design strategies; sellers implement tactics. Marketers focus on analysis and process; sellers focus on relationships and results. These diverse perspectives often lead to conflict. For example, marketing says, “We develop thoughtful strategies that can drive sales force success, but most salespeople won’t even take the time to understand them.” Sales says, “Marketers are locked in the ivory tower. Their plans look good on paper, but don’t work with real customers.”
But the tension created by diverse viewpoints also has a positive side. It sparks creativity and ensures that multiple sides of issues are expressed. Sales makes certain that customer needs are addressed and that short-term company revenue goals are achieved; marketing ensures that product and customer segment strategies anticipate the evolution of longer-term customer needs. Sales pushes for competitive pricing; marketing ensures that the company uses discipline in pricing.
Sales-marketing tension can also stem from the co-dependence of the sales and marketing teams. Especially when things don’t go well, situations can quickly turn to finger-pointing. Marketing says “We worked hard and generated good leads for sales, but they didn’t follow up.” Sales says, “Marketing’s leads aren’t worth my time; the last lead they gave us was for a business that shut down two years ago.”
But the mutual dependence of sales and marketing creates a productive sense of urgency and encourages both teams to do their jobs better. Sales insists that marketing provide better leads. Marketing makes sure that sales follows up. Sales helps marketing develop strategies and sales collateral that address customer needs. Marketing urges sales to spend time strategically and implement the marketing plan.
Accomplishing the common objective of creating customer value and driving company results requires competency in a wide range of tasks which fall into three categories.
- Sales tasks. Account management, personal selling, distributor management, merchandising, sales compensation design, and numerous other sales management activities typically fall within the purview of Sales.
- Marketing tasks. Market research, competitive analysis, market segmentation, brand positioning, packaging, and dozens of other market-focused undertakings are usually the responsibility of Marketing.
- Joint Sales/Marketing tasks. Sales strategy formulation, lead generation, sales collateral development, pricing, sales forecasting, and many other tasks frequently require the participation of both Sales and Marketing.
Entire books, journals, business courses, and consulting companies are dedicated to helping marketers and sellers with these tasks. Yet very little is written about how to get sales and marketing to work together to keep all of the tasks aligned around the common objective.
Four strategies help companies accomplish all of this work with a healthy balance of sales-marketing harmony and tension.
- Make sure all sales tasks to get done well. Design a high-impact sales organization, hire sellers with characteristics such as interpersonal ability and results-drive, and develop the competencies sellers need to succeed. Support the sales force with structures, processes, systems, and programs that enable sales success.
- Make sure all marketing tasks get done well. Design a high-impact marketing organization, hire marketers with characteristics such as analytical savvy and strategic thinking ability, and develop the competencies marketers need to succeed. Support the marketing team with structures, processes, systems, and programs that enable marketing success.
- Implement processes and systems that encourage communication and collaboration.Ensure that Sales and Marketing communicate about tasks that the two teams perform independently, and collaborate around tasks that require joint effort.
- Create a culture that facilitates teamwork. Start with strong sales and marketing leaders who, through their words and actions, consistently reinforce a cooperative, customer-focused culture.
by Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer