The Sales and Marketing Great Divide

Sales and Marketing are two departments that are supposed to go hand in hand, right?  They should work together to define strategy, identify any target potential clients and execute on plans together.  Well that is not always the case in businesses.  We find that many times, sales and marketing (if marketing exists in the company) operates in silos.  Sales thinks that marketing is just supposed to generate leads but all the leads they get are crappy.   Marketing believes that they do a good job creating leads, but they don’t know if sales is even following up on them because they receive no feedback.   One recent article we read estimated that 80% of leads are typically lost or ignored.  In a business climate where competition is always increasing and growth is essential, this hardly seems like a winning formula.  The amount of money and time wasted on marketing efforts that produce poor results is staggering.

Now let’s pause for a moment to even discuss what “marketing” is for a company.  Some companies have a marketing department while others have a marketing person and others yet don’t have anything – it’s up to the sales person to do their own marketing.  For the purposes of this article, we will classify marketing as the following:

  • Developing Branding/Image/Awareness/Messaging
  • Lead/Demand generation
  • Marketing Communications
  • Market Analysis
  • Tools/collateral to aid in the sales process

In each of these buckets, it is critical that sales and marketing are on the same page.  When they are not, the target market gets confused, the wrong prospects are targeted, leads are not good and sales don’t go up.   Let’s look at each of these a little closer to see where misalignment happens:

Messaging – I can’t tell you how many times I visit a company’s website and learn all about the value-add that they bring to their clients and how they are different from their competitors.  Hours went into developing this messaging and words were chosen very carefully based on research and analysis.  Then I talk to the sales people and they say things to prospects like “We can match or beat anybody’s price out there.”    Not only is that a disconnect that potentially can lead to lost dollars, but it creates a conflict in the prospect’s mind about who the company really is.

Leads – marketing generates hundreds of leads for the sales team through social media, trade shows and email campaigns.  They “check the box” because they met their goal for leads.  The sales team puts little stock in the leads they get because very few of them even fit the types of prospects they would typically chase.  The leads become something they follow up on if and when they have extra time (which is never).   By the way, they never have told marketing that they think the leads are bad.

Tools/Collateral – marketing spends weeks putting together materials for the sales team that incorporate consistent branding and tell a story about who the company is.  Sales ignores the materials because they are too generic and don’t fit how the sales person presents the solutions to prospects.  So, they create their own presentations and tools which look shoddy and don’t incorporate brand guidelines.

Are you starting to get the picture?  These examples happen more often than they don’t happen.  But why?  The answer is simple – they don’t work off the same plan and they don’t communicate with each other.  Sales and Marketing should be each other’s best friends.  They need each other and when they work well together, they can make a big difference.  But when they don’t, it can be a disaster.  So how do you bridge this huge divide?   We break it down into three steps:

Create an annual plan – this should be done TOGETHER with sales and marketing.  Analyze the past year and what went well or didn’t go well.  Decide where you will focus your efforts and set “joint goals.”  Rather than marketing having a goal of xx leads per month and sales having $xx per month, set a goal of xx qualified leads per month and agree on what “qualified” means.   Agree on how you will track progress against those goals.

  • Evaluate the tools/collateral – I encourage sales leaders/sales team to walk through their standard process/presentation with their marketing counterpart.  I did this once at a previous job and my marketing peer was astounded/appalled at how I presented things.   They were astounded at how our team was messaging and differentiating with clients (which was based on our field experience and different than marketing’s thoughts), and appalled by how poor our presentations looked.  Within a week we had much better tools and presentations based on what we needed.
  • Execute and communicate – execute your plans/strategies and make sure the sales and marketing leaders get together quarterly at a minimum (I would suggest monthly) to track progress against your joint goals.  This is a great time to discuss what is working or not working and make adjustments.   As a sales leader, make sure your team is tracking success of marketing efforts (lead source should be a mandatory field in every CRM opportunity) and give feedback from the field.

This should not be a huge, time-consuming process but can make a very big difference on both the top and bottom lines.

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