If you want to understand why Sales and Marketing can sometimes conflict, check out the movie version of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Blake, the character played by Alec Baldwin, represents the company’s management and its marketing department. He abuses the sales team and shows them a packet of hot Glengarry leads, neatly tied with a ribbon. Then he says he’ll only give them to the two top salesmen – the other two will be fired.
Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin play the competing salesmen, who spend the rest of the movie bitterly complaining about how unfairly the company treats them and plotting ways to get their hands on the Glengarry leads.
Of course it’s all depicted with cinematic excess, but the story captures the gist of the situation: Marketing thinks it’s doing a fabulous job and blames the sales force for not bringing in new business. At the same time, Sales thinks that Marketing consists of arrogant desk jockeys who don’t appreciate the specialized skills needed to make sales.
These different world-views are the result of the basic fact that Sales and Marketing play fundamentally different roles in developing, maintaining, and growing a company’s customer base. To succeed, it’s vitally important for you, as a business owner, to understand these differences and work to create alignment between both teams.
Although they work closely together, Marketing and Sales are different disciplines. Marketing focuses on broad demographic and market trends, trying to position the company for the future. Sales focuses on the present, but often relies on tactics that worked in the recent past to make the next sale.
Marketing studies customer behavior and the competition in order to plan strategically for the future. Specific initiatives include advertising and branding to raise awareness and pave the way for the initial sales approach. Product management tries to identify the right products and services, with the right features at the right price. Marketing also initiates the ongoing process of lead generation which identifies new prospects and creates content that Sales can use for engagement.
Because of their direct contact with individual prospects and customers, the sales force is a unique resource. Their market intelligence complements the general demographic data that Marketing generates. By working closely together, Sales can help make sure that Marketing is targeting the people with the right job descriptions – sometimes called personas – when they create sales materials. Feedback about competitors, reasons for lost sales, and quality of sales materials can make a big difference in the success of the combined Marketing/Sales effort.
It takes active involvement by management to create better alignment between Marketing and Sales. Your strategy could be as simple as clearly defining roles and responsibilities, or as complex as building a fully integrated joint effort where both teams report to the same individual. Not every company has the same needs, so be sure to do your research before committing to a major restructuring effort.