The age old chasm between sales and marketing

When I first started out on my search for a daily crust, I worked through the entire gambit of sales jobs, from B2B, B2C and direct tele-sales.   Tele-sales is often confused with tele-marketing;  the latter is when the caller is more engaged in spreading the company word or doing market research,  whereas tele-sales has always been about closing  a sale.  I was sometimes partly, sometimes fully, commission based which focuses you hard on that deal and that deal alone.

As I tele-sold my way through never ending lists of names, I had little understanding of what the word marketing meant, leave alone its departmental function.  Had I done so, I might well have queried the quality of the leads I was given.  My ignorance saved me from indulging in the proverbial inter-departmental blame game, which has gone on since both were incepted.

Sales habitually blames marketing for both a lack of leads or their unqualified, low state.

Marketers say sales don’t bother to follow up what they are given.  Sales complain of the late arrival or poor quality of sales support materials and packs.  Marketers will say that sales people’s only job is to close a sale and half of them can’t do that properly.  Sales people believe marketers play around on social media all day.

I garnered a subconscious understanding of some of marketing’s job when I started making and selling sandwiches round offices.  It was a fairly novel concept back then. Fce to face, it was easy to talk to the customers, ask or requests and favourites and adapt the menu accordingly to suit demand.

But I still thought in sales terms of individual customers, whereas marketers think of the customers in terms of market segments for which they design brilliant strategies that sales people will subsequently ignore, claiming marketing have no concept of the real world and real customers.

With both feet planted firmly in the sales camp, it is not that surprising that when scaling up businesses later, I tended to focus on my sales department.  The sandwich and other micro business awareness had made me automatically focus on providing what solved customers’ needs and problems.  Only during the scaling up,  did I add marketers to my team, but looking back I can see I recruited with sales hat firmly on, aiming only to get an extra support team for sales that would also do our social media.

This conception of marketing as one of a support system rather than a key driver often comes from the business owner.  Marketers are allowed to provide sales materials for activations, visuals and support emails.  They are not seen as part of the function of moving already warm leads further down the pipeline, or improving customer retention.

I often changed my policy on tying marketers in or excluding them from sales bonuses.

Part of me felt that good marketers should have an impact on sales and therefore should be rewarded, but the sales person in me still felt that real rewards lay with those who closed deals.  Marketing is often excluded from financial rewards of sales which in itself puts the two on different footing.  It also means sales people tend to have no interest in anything that does not impact immediately on the revenue stream.

Smarketing, a process of integrating the two, was first aired in a report by the Aberdeen group back in 2010.  They found that when this is done successfully, revenue grows up to 20%.  We also know that lack of cohesion not only affects revenue but the morale of the entire company.

Various things can contribute to better integration.  Time spent by members of each department within the other is a good place to start.   Using a CRM system with a strong marketing function that the marketers have to use on a daily basis helps demystify the extensive terminology both areas use.   In addition, marketers will be at home extracting data from a joint system and therefore take on board feedback from current customers, which could have otherwise been perceived as sales criticism.  Putting some system of joint financial rewards will always result in greater levels of co-operation, though personally I believe that the natural sales psyche will always flourish best with an additional, closing reward.  Equally, if rewards are at least part based in profitability, not only is it good for the overall bottom line but it also encourages sales to understand marketing’s pricing constraints.

All this can be done, but you will always be left with two groups of very different personality types who will by their very natures tend to rub each other up the wrong way.  As a leader, the best you can hope for is to encourage a mutual respect that ends in them working cohesively to create customer value and getting customer results.

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