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  • Marketing & Sales: Frienemies Forever!

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    Marketing & Sales: How They’re Different & Why They May Conflict

    As the owner of a small but growing business, you may have pondered the Glengarry Glen Ross example and asked yourself, “What’s all the fuss about leads?”

    Maybe you’re the head of a professional accounting practice and your firm works mostly on referrals from colleagues in the legal or insurance professions. Perhaps you’re a consultant and you directly contact businesses within your industry. Or possibly you do work from leads, but you buy them from an outside marketing company and turn them over to a single person within your firm who handles all of your Marketing and Sales functions.

    No matter how you prospect for new business, reading this article can help you better understand the specific roles of Sales and Marketing. It will also help you plan ahead for when your business grows to the point that you will need both Sales and Marketing professionals.

    Why Sales May Have a Chip on Its Shoulder
    If you’ve ever tried it, you know that Sales is a tough job. You have to be always on and you can’t let rejection slow you down. Professional salespeople may not have MBAs like many of their colleagues in Marketing. But they pride themselves in their ability to establish rapport with people and to think on their feet: These are skills that can’t be taught.

    Sales people tend to focus on the prospects that are right in front of them, and base their tactics on whatever worked in their last successful sale. Their chief complaints about Marketing are that they are out of touch with customers. Specifically, that Marketing is pricing the product too high; designing the product with the wrong features; creating marketing materials without bothering to learn the right language to talk to prospects; and wasting huge amounts of money on advertising, which could be better spent on Sales.

    Does this discussion sometimes get heated? Just check out the title of this article in Inc. “Why Sales Hates Marketing: 9 Reasons.” It bears the subhead, “Hint: The sales team is probably right.” And the solution, according to author Geoffrey James, is usually along the lines of “Have the marketers make sales calls—or field inside sales calls—so they can see how hard it is.” You can’t get much more direct than that.

    Marketing’s Perspective
    Marketing’s attitude tends to be a bit less visceral. They tend to see Sales as talented and energetic: essential, but also extremely entitled. A Marketer will tell you that salespeople get fixated on whatever worked during their last successful sale and then demand marketing materials that replicate that specific tactic. In contrast, Marketing looks to the future, not the present or immediate past. Marketers study the company’s prospects in terms of groups or demographics, not as individual customers. They watch both the competition and the buying public, and they try to position the company and its products or services where the market will be over the next business cycle rather than where it is right now.

    Marketing will further argue that pricing should be based on what’s best for the company as determined by its long-term business strategy—not just to make product easy to sell. And, behind closed doors, you may hear resentment of salespeople’s compensation that’s based on commissions. If this creates a significant disparity, Marketing may argue that, since they had a role in creating the sales opportunities, shouldn’t they share in the upside?

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    • For a good overview of the basic activities of Sales and Marketing, take a look at this article from the SBA. And follow this link for a more detailed discussion of how Sales’ focus on the present complements Marketing’s future orientation.
    • If you’d like to hear an authentic argument between Sales and Marketing, go to the comments following the Inc. article cited above. Sales and Marketing professionals weigh in with their candid perspectives on the topic. One nice surprise is that many of them say that they have not experienced these types of conflicts at places where they worked.