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Sales departments tend to believe that marketers are out of touch with what’s really going on in the marketplace. Marketing people, in turn, believe the sales force is myopic – too focused on individual customer experiences, insufficiently aware of the larger market, and blind to the future. In short, each group undervalues the other’s contributions. Both stumble (and organizational performance suffers) when they are out of sync. Yet, few firms seem to make serious overtures toward analyzing and enhancing the relationship between these two critical functions. As the economy slows and c-suite executives search for ways to move the bottom line without increasing budget, optimization of existing operations and maximizing resources becomes a critical priority.

While traditionally, the pressure to move the bottom line growth fell on the shoulders of the sales team – now attention has turned to marketing’s role in the process, and the CMO has been called in front of the board to justify spend in relation to lead flow, lead conversion, revenues generated and/or the simple ROI of programs. Some of the world’s largest and most respected corporations acknowledge a major disconnect between what they know they should be doing and what they are actually doing in terms of enhancing their go-to-market processes. What’s more, respondents give themselves decidedly low marks when assessing their existing processes, as a previous study of the CMO Council indicates.

Hang on … in other words this means: senior professionals see that they are stuck pretty much in internal disputes despite of redirecting their attention and energy more onto the outside world in order to secure revenues and attract customers? So the 2 parties are just stuck in between … while they acknowledge that the primary benefits of a more effective and fully integrated sales and marketing model would include e.g. synchronized go-to-market campaigns, consistent and unified messaging, more strategically focused and empowered sales teams and improved customer acquisition and retention … they are not able to overcome this internal barrier. Each side commonly blames the other for incompetence.

The root-cause is based – at the end of the day – upon a couple of pretty simple disconnects:

  • Marketing and sales typically operate on different timeframes. Sales typically works on a 30- to 90-day timeline and measures goals quarterly. Marketing, by contrast, works on a 12- to 24-month cycle and measures accomplishments only annually or when a project is completed.
  • From the sales perspective, the customer journey is based on desire and action; from the marketing perspective, the journey is focused more on awareness and interest.
  • Following all studies, the traditional corporate culture mindset creates another divide: while sales is “results driven” in terms of revenue-closing, marketing embraces a more “creative” flair. Sales people are living by closing deals and get their instant gratification with signed contracts. Period. Nothing else matters for them. Marketing managers are mostly devoted to programs and long-term brand building … more sort of indirect revenue generation.
  • No integrated process across marketing and sales … the bigger the organisations, the more these 2 functions are driven into a competitive mode – chasing for budgets and reputation as being the dominant driver of all GoToMarket activities and revenue generation. In particular, roles and responsibilities are pretty often not clear: who is the driver and owner of all customer insights? Who defines the GoToMarket strategy?
  • Marketing and sales personalities are normally different in nature and socialisation – while marketing people are mostly analytical, data oriented and project focused, sales people in contrast are skilled relationship builders with customers, focusing on closing a deal;
  • Different and not comparable metrics also deepen the divide and separation. While marketing relies on higher-level measures and metrics, sales bases success on shorter term performance-based metrics, namely closed deals and revenue. In our discussions with CMOs we found that matter prevalent across different industries, except for the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry, where marketing is also measured directly on sold units and revenues.
  • Another obstacle and key divergence between the disciplines is the overall approach and strategy: while marketing is fuelled by key strategic messages, while sales adopts a tactical, execution-based approach.
  • o Marketing departments think that the sales force is too focused on individual customer experiences, while dropping the overall GotoMarket perspective and tries to release products whose features have a broad appeal; Sales on the other side tends to believe that marketing is out of touch with what is really going on with customers;
  • Also .. we normally find in a similar way this same issue between the line-of-business and the IT department: these two functions simply don’t even share the same vocabulary. Sales, for example, typically views a lead as someone who has expressed interest in a particular product, while marketing often views a lead as someone who has downloaded a white paper from a Web site. Marketing sees collateral materials as graphically attractive background material; sales sees collateral material as advertising, pure and simple. Different semantics and meanings – different communication orbits.

While criticism and blame goes back and forth, the all-important customer – the ultimate target for all efforts – gets lost in the shuffle. Instead of being the corporate equivalent of a happy marriage and discuss on how best to manage the Total Customer Experience across all touch points with the firm, the situation mostly is somewhat different. Following discussions with the CMO Community and Sales Managers over the last year, a solution seems (in theory) pretty simple … it only needs …

  • … an aligned and integrated planning – with aligned metrics and activities across marketing and sales;
  • … an aligned process across the 2 functional areas – e.g. from planning to execution – including also partners and the different sales channels;
  • … an aligned cooperation model between Marketing and Sales along the entire pre-sales and sales cycle – with aligned metrics on how to measure the success;
  • … aid from an integrated CRM tool with a real time view on all customer interactions across all different interaction channels;
  • … establish a systematic and permanent KPI reporting across all channels and all market-impacting units.

The misalignment due to different functional cultures – resulting in a lack of respect for each other’s abilities, different measurement metrics and different goals can be overcome. The issue cannot be solved by just “getting along” or “spending more time together”. The solution can only be found in a combination of the establishment of an end-to-end corporate process itself (a functional economic solution), supplemented by a systematic change management as the cultural solution. Only by winning the hearts and minds across marketing and sales for addressing the market in the best way, the war between the functions can be brought to an end.

My thanks go to my colleague Dietmar Bohn, Head of Product Management CRM Sales for his valuable contributions to that blog … a best practice for an efficient marketing & sales cooperation!

This blogs series “Marketing 2.0” addresses topics that have come into the forefront of importance for marketing and must be tackled immediately… stay tuned for the next blog!

Further interesting readings:

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