Through twenty-odd years in high-tech marketing, I’ve come to appreciate the healthy tension that can and should exist between sales and marketing. Sales professionals are to be admired and respected. After all, they’re responsible for the revenue that makes everything else possible. They’re actually out there, every day, on the front lines, battling the competitors, hand-holding (and sometimes battling) the customers, and, in many situations, making up for all the product’s deficiencies. And as often as not, sales can bring back reasonably good product ideas, reasonably good marketing ideas, and reasonably good feed-back on what works and what doesn’t. Marketing is also to be admired and respected. It’s marketing, after all, that’s looking out for what the product needs to be not just now, but in the future. It’s marketing that’s watching out for what the competitors are doing, and where the market’s going. It’s marketing that’s making sure that all those prospects are aware of the company and its products. It’s marketing that’s providing sales with the ammunition they need to go out and sell.
So why does the relationship between sales and marketing have to be so antagonistic? Why can’t we all just get along?
I’ve come to the conclusion that the root of the problem is as fundamental as the differences between the sexes. Sure, we all share the same DNA, but when it comes right down to it, Sales and Marketing view the world, and each other, differently. It just comes down to the sheer fact that Marketing is from Venus, and Sales is from Mars.
Perhaps the key to understanding the great divide that exists between sales and marketing is trying to understand how each group’s perception of themselves might be at odds with how the other group views them.
If you’re in sales and marketing, does any of the following sound familiar? (Sorry the format isn't clearer, but I can't figure out how to get a table in here.)
What Sales Is Saying:
- We are the mighty, mighty warriors
- We’re out there fighting day to day
- We keep this place afloat
- We’ll do whatever it takes
- We earned our way to Winners’ Circle
- We can’t sell this product unless we get some new features
- We get nothing from marketing; we generate all of our own leads
- The leads we get from marketing suck
- We’re extremely appreciative when someone helps us out when we’re under the gun
- We’re the only ones around here with any sense of urgency
- Nobody respects us;they think we’re just a bunch of mercenaries
- Sales is brutally hard
What Marketing's Thinking:
- You’re way too aggressive
- Swagger on
- You make 4 times what we do (you don't see a Rolex on my wrist, do you?)
- Sleaze balls
- Spoiled, pampered babies; it's not enough you make all that money, you need stuff, too?
- Tomorrow, it’ll be something else you can't sell without
- Your idea of a lead is us telling you to go to the 13th floor reception at the First National Bank and pick up a signed contract
- If the leads we give you are so dreadful, then why do you keep asking us for more?
- Thanks for the flowers, but how come you don’t recognize me on the elevator a day later
- Does everything have to be last minute with you guys?
- With our marketing, my parakeet could sell this product
And then, of course, there's Marketing's self-perception - and Sales' take on that.
What Marketing's Saying:
- We keep asking for feedback, but all we get from sales is complaints
- We found that customer for you
- We think long-term and strategic
- You’ve got to sell the products we have
- We’re the creative force in this company
- We work hard all year long and nobody appreciates us
- We need planning and lead-time
- In this environment, it’s hard to grab - let alone keep - customer attention
- Nobody respects us; they think we’re just a bunch of lightweights
- Marketing is really complex and challenging
What Sales is Thinking:
- You either ignore what we say or you get all defensive
- He’s my brother-in-law
- You have no grip on reality
- With this crap, we have to sell futures
- Marketing’s all fluff. And can we have logo golf balls this year?
- Why are you being so sensitive, didn’t we just send you flowers?
- No sense of urgency around here
- Grab their attention? How about trying to sell to them
- We wouldn’t say lightweight exactly…
- Marketing? I could do it blindfolded
Yes, I’m sure that somewhere out there, there’s some Elysian Field where Sales and Marketing May-pole dance and bask in each others' glow. But I’ve never managed to find one. We’re not going to resolve the battle between Sales and Marketing – after all, it’s almost as old as the battle between the sexes. But it does help to stop for a minute every once in a while and get in the other guy’s head, to acknowledge that we’re all in this together, and to recognize that you really can’t have one without the other. I know that all the Marketing folks reading this agree with everything I’ve said. I can almost see their heads nodding. As for the Sales folks - naaaaah, they didn’t read this far. They don’t have time for any of this tripe.