Sales & Marketing – A Deeply Rooted Rivalry

Sales and marketing working together can create huge growth and prosperity– if they can just put aside their egos and accept the fact that they desperately need each other

No matter the size of your organization, you will inevitably face some significant challenges between two perennial rivals, sales and marketing. The issues run deep, the force pulling the two apart is quite real, and it’s not uncommon to hear language like, “They have no idea what is really going on” or, “These people are seriously idiots”. 

If this sounds familiar, you may like to take a few deep breaths before continuing on.

A Common Language Is Needed

Sales and marketing speak a similar language but the context of our discussions can be vastly different, leading to misunderstanding and frustration. Take for example the term “conversion”. For sales teams, conversions are typically defined as sales whereas for marketers, conversions can mean various things, such as content downloads. It’s easy to see how this can get confusing! Having an open and honest discussion about ownership in the client journey and how both teams will classify each step can be very important if you find yourself tripping over the lingo.

Opting for a common language such as Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) can make all the difference. Just picture the CEO as he/she is trying to decode mixed messages from the SVP and the CMO who have both reported different volumes of “Conversions”. This simple communication issue can cause friction on a daily basis. Speaking in a common language not only prevents this, but provides a signal to those around you that you are all on the same page.

Share The Goals 

Similar to having a common language, agreeing upon common or shared goals is absolutely critical for a business. It ensures the sales and marketing teams are working together, celebrating their success as a group and not working against each other and waiting for the perfect time to bury a knife in each other’s back.

Ultimately the goals must be relevant to the business rather than to a specific business unit. In many cases this boils down to the almighty dollar. Finding that common goal is important, but it’s equally important that the goal is meaningful to both the sales and marketing teams. Keep them as simple as possible. Lean towards something like $20 million in revenue growth by YE versus EBITA of x% + x% melt and MMR growth of 2.25% in EMEA over the next 15 months.

It is important to assign ownership of who will do what– everything from developing awareness, down into the channels. You should even expand this to geographical regions if it makes sense to do so for your business. 

Through an agency lens, we seek to find alignment with our clients around our respective roles and how those pieces connect. Without this, we are doomed to fail.

We recommend building a map of the entire customer journey, assigning divisional ownership to each step of the journey, and communicating this far and wide within your organization. Not only will this create clarity for the respective teams, it will create a sense of ownership and pride.

What gets measured, gets done. This classic quote is brutally true. Working closely with your BI team is a critical step in ensuring that measures are documented and a reporting structure can be developed. Having a common report to bring visibility is foundational, but all too often we get caught in data overload and the work you’ve done to create cohesion between departments evaporates on you.

Someone once said to me, “I need good, dependable, clean data.” Truer words were never spoken and I’ll never forget this adage.

Create Accountability 

Without accountability, there will be chaos.

Across the sales and marketing teams, identifying who owns what is essential. This can include tactical elements but also back office aspects like who is accountable for the evaluation of specific metrics.

There will inevitably be a time when a question will be asked, a moment in which people are tripping over each other as the lines of ownership are unclear. This will not only confuse the situation and potentially present a moment to share incorrect information, it will also create underlying friction. In an environment where there is accountability the respective teams will understand where they need to focus their energy, thus eliminating the “boy scout” mentality that can become toxic to an organization.

Collaboration Is Key

Both sides of the equation have something to offer. Understanding what that is becomes critical and will foster respect amongst counterparts.

Sales – Keyholders to deep engagement and revenue

  • Deep relationships and client engagement
  • Understanding the needs of clients and positioning complex solutions to solve the client challenges
  • The ability to make business happen

 Marketing – Purveyors of scale and the journey.

  • Has an understanding of the client journey, a holistic view into the life-cycle, and a finger on the pulse of the client experience
  • Scales the digital relationship
  • Content and education
  • Partners that support scalability

Establishing a relationship where mutual respect is given is key. You will always lean to the side you find yourself sitting on, which is natural, but having respect for others is vital.

Friction is Visible

Some friction is inevitable. Let’s face it, it’s going to happen. But the important thing is to recognize when it is occurring and not bury your head in your own frustrations and/or focus on your individual goals. Admittedly I’ve done this before myself. Experience has taught me that this is the easy route out that has ultimately hurt me on several occasions in my career.

Having the awareness to spot the friction and call it out is critical for a leader. Being part of the solution is just as important. Don’t just identify that an issue exists then pull the ripcord to parachute away from it. Dig in, have the difficult discussions you need to have, and address the upstream item causing the friction between the teams.

The fallout from failing to do so may not be immediately visible, but over time this will become very evident for your clients (potential, new and old) as their experience will begin to feel disjointed. Always remember (and remind yourself regularly), the lack of confidence that is felt by someone who is caught in the middle is real and will result in them taking their business elsewhere.

Create Connective Tissue

Nothing does more to help establish a relationship across teams than getting people together.

Early in my career, I was managing a regional marketing role and was mandated to be with the sales team on a weekly basis to meet with our customers. The natural reaction was the push back as my mandate was more realistic with a 5-day work week versus four days. As I executed, it became clear that the relationships were deeply mutually beneficial to both sides and helped me obtain deeper clarity into the businesses we worked with and their challenges.

The push can ultimately come from either side, but having a deep connection between the two teams on various levels is essential to establish an environment of trust and respect. At the senior level, I could argue that it is even more important to have a close personal and professional relationship. Undeniably when you have a sales and marketing leader within an organization, everyone is watching your every interaction.

We hope these tips are relevant to your business and provide value in setting a partnership framework for two very critical divisions of any organization.