Hello Sales, My Name is Marketing

I am not sure when it happened, but a turf war began long ago between sales and marketing.  Unlike an all out “Call of Duty”- style war where the good guys and the bad guys are marked for easy recognition, the smoldering war between sales and marketing happens quietly.  Sometimes you are not even sure that it is happening at all, but the fights over roles, people, budgets and metrics of success is alive and well at many company today.  To help test if this issue is happening at your place of work, here are a few signs that are sure fire indicators:

  1. Sales and marketing do not talk on a regular basis
  2. Sales seems to endlessly complain that marketing is not doing the right stuff
  3. Marketing complains that sales doesn’t read/use the materials that they provide
  4. Sales says that the leads that marketing programs yield are junk
  5. Marketing says that the sales team does not follow-up on leads or provide feedback
  6. Sales guards against marketing having direct contact with customers
  7. Marketing doesn’t make sure that they have direct contact with customers and listens only to sales for all market feedback

Even writing this short list makes my blood pressure rise.  This type of unproductive bickering can go on forever unless the cycle is broken and, especially during a time of economic challenge, the faster this issue is addressed the better off we all will be.  To me, the biggest challenge facing sales and marketing is an unclear set of objectives.  Each function has a completely different set of objectives and once their roles are well understood, both can focus and get down to business.  The surprise to me is how easy it is to understand the unique roles of both of these functions.

Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate each role is to think about the sales funnel.  The funnel is designed to show movement in the market with uninformed suspects moving in to the wide open top of the funnel.  Those that are not qualified are pushed out of the funnel for further development and those that are labeled prospects and are channeled into the narrowing funnel because they now know about a company and its product but are not ready to engage with it.  Those prospects that have a direct need for a company’s products or services are labeled Qualified Prospects and move to the still narrower part of the funnel.  Ultimately these qualified prospects are handed off to sales where it is their job to close all that they can.  Marketing is directly responsible for the first three steps in the funnel – which include market education and conditioning, brand awareness and development, and prospect engagement.  Largely, opening the door for Sales and making it easier to get in front of the customer.   Sales is responsible for the close – which includes objection handling, final pricing, and terms and conditions.

While the roles should be clear, neither should be performed in a vacuum.  For example, if you are in Marketing, you should be working alongside your sales team to understand their ideal customer and the qualifying criteria to change the status of a lead from prospect to qualified prospect.  Sales, it is up to you to work with marketing and alert them when a new competitive challenge arises or consistent feedback can be found from your efforts to close accounts.  It is important to understand that the process works best when marketing and sales work together, share win/loss information, and customer feedback.

With a new appreciation of roles and responsibilities, sales and marketing can collectively set targets and goals that will be meaningful to the organization and its ongoing success.  This will help eliminate low value initiatives for both sides and ensure that little time is wasted on internal battles.  So be prepared to offer an olive branch and watch your organization carefully for signs of discontent.  If your head of sales and head of marketing are having lunch together on a regular basis, then you are probably just fine.

By Dan Hirsh, Partner, Media Solve