Sales v. Marketing: shall we start talking❓

Last week my good friend Dr. Janet Curran shared this valuable read in her blog that I share below. It clearly illustrates the challenges faced in major sales organisations these days.

But have a go an make your own judgement:

Sales v. Marketing: shall we start talking?

By Dr. Janet Curran

Poles apart?

Sales and Marketing both communicate with customers, but don’t always talk to each other.

A Marketing team were telling me recently how little they spoke to Sales. They were also complaining that Sales didn’t use the information that they provided. Especially information on what companies were visiting the website. When I talked to Sales, they told me that the information was useless. They only receive the company name. Marketing can’t tell them the name of the person who visited the site. But Sales can’t do much without a contact name.

So Marketing think they are sending useful information to Sales. However, Sales do not see it as useful at all. Both sides are frustrated.

But they still don’t talk to each other to understand what Marketing could provide that Sales would find REALLY useful.

Like actors in a play

Sales and Marketing are different in outlook and temperament. But you find very different people within Marketing and Sales as well. My colleague Dr Simon Kelly at Sheffield Hallam University describes Sales and Marketing people as actors in a play. Each actor has their own identity and distinct mindset. Dr Kelly calls these “thought worlds”. For example, Sales tend to focus on deals. Marketing think more broadly and strategically. They also differ in whether they are more product-centric or customer-centric.  So not all Sales and Marketing people have the same outlook and behaviour. The picture is more complicated than that.

Identifying what works

People with different outlooks can still communicate effectively. Last year, Huthwaite International, Sheffield Hallam University and Shake Marketing ran a survey on sales and marketing integration. From the results we identified Sales and Marketing teams who were performing above sales target. We then compared their answers with the answers from Sales and Marketing teams who were performing at or below target.

The two main differences in the answers were to do with:

1) the relationship between Sales and Marketing

2) how they shared information and intelligence.

Let’s look at these in more detail.

The importance of respect and responsibility

First of all, effective Sales and Marketing teams respected one another. Respect is essential if people with different perspectives are going to work together. It is particularly important if you want to challenge some one else’s point of view. If you also show them respect, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Secondly, the better teams took responsibility for mistakes WITHOUT blaming each other. This means that they can learn effectively.

When things go wrong the key question to ask is: what did I do to contribute to the problem? And what can I do differently next time?

Influencing upwards and working together

The better teams were significantly more likely to work together to present plans to the senior leadership team. They were influencing upwards, as well as working together. But they were NOT more likely to have shared goals.

So it’s the process of creating the goals that is important, rather than the goals themselves. Co-creation means that people are more likely to buy in to the goals and plans.

The better teams also shared a common language. They were an integrated team with clear roles and responsibilities. So they could utilise their differences effectively.

Providing insights

In this survey the higher-performing Marketing teams provided useful insights. Sales used these insights to demonstrate thought leadership with customers.  This supports The Challenger Sale approach, which recommends that Marketing provides insights to Sales.

Sales can then use these insights to become Challengers.

Sharing information

The higher-performing teams collated and shared information. They were more likely to do win/loss analyses. They also worked together to define customer segment buying behaviour. So effective Marketing departments collect intelligence from the sales process.

This contrasts with many Marketing departments, who only send information to Sales. They never ask for anything back in return.

Ultimately, it seems that sales will increase if Sales and Marketing talk to each other. Yes, they have different views of the world. But they can use these differences to co-create effective messages that really resonate with the customers.


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