Sales and Marketing: The Odd Couple


Since this is an article for marketers, we can all agree: Salespeople don’t get it. And if I were writing this for a salesperson, I’d be inclined to say marketers don’t produce enough good quality leads. It’s common for organizations to have this rivalry between marketing and sales. But while it’s a common issue, it’s also one that should be resolved. Sales and marketing are like peanut butter and jelly: They’re best when they’re together.

Opposites Attract

Most organizations manage, pay and measure success entirely differently for sales teams than for marketing. Marketing is usually managed and compensated in a long-term fashion. They have months to generate results from a campaign. Sales teams work in the short term, with smaller time frames allotted (often by fiscal quarters) to accomplish their goals. They don’t have the luxury of time; they want to go after the warmest available lead that will help them meet their quota faster.

For sales, it all comes down to the number of deals they close. That’s the only number that matters to their success, regardless of whether it takes 10 phone calls or one in-person pitch. Marketing doesn’t have the same definitive numerical goals as sales. Companies often determine the success of marketing by sheer quantity of activities without measuring the impact of those activities on revenue growth (although that will change in the next few years as marketing initiatives become increasingly measureable). Which is unfortunate for marketers, because some of the best marketing programs I’ve seen throughout my career have greatly impacted a company’s bottom line. These key differences put the departments at odds with one another.

Couples Therapy

Although these departments are very different, they do have one common goal: to contribute to revenue growth. They may take completely different paths to get there, but ultimately they’re striving for the same thing, and they’re in the unique position to work together to achieve that goal. I know … easier said than done. To get started on your journey, I outlined three steps that will dramatically help with the sales and marketing alignment process.

  1. Start Talking — Marketers, the first step to understanding sales is to have a conversation with the sales team. Ask them where they plan on getting their revenue from in order to achieve their goals. The answer may surprise you.A few years ago, I worked with a technology company to align their sales and marketing teams. After talking to the CMO and head of sales, I realized marketing was focused on a completely different industry from where sales was spending its time. And sales needed marketing’s help. They had ventured into a new market with no content or collateral to support their efforts in the space. Marketing was able to switch resources to support the current sales audience, but without that simple conversation, marketing’s initiatives would have been useless to sales.
  2. Create a Common Language — After both teams agree on where to allocate time, budgets and resources, they need to speak the same language. This is the ideal time to introduce the demand waterfall, a methodology that takes the marketing and sales pipelines and combines them into a singular process. This unification gives the departments a common playing field and forces conversations about key handoff points. Both teams can identify when it makes sense to hand off a lead from one department to the other, and which parts of the process require sales and marketing to work together. This ensures all leads are well cared-for, with no leads left behind in the revenue pipeline.
  3. Discuss Your Role — Marketers need to realize that the buying cycle is different today. Although sales may not like to admit it, they do need help (see the example from tip No. 1). Marketing now has an expanded role, not only helping salespeople define their buyers, but also providing them with the content and materials needed to have the right conversation with their prospects.

It may seem daunting to begin the alignment process, but uniting this unlikely pair will ultimately accelerate your company’s revenue growth.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where we spend a day in the life of a sales rep!