Business guru and well-known provocateur Tom Peters once addressed a crowd of over 400 sales and marketing executives saying;
I hate sports analogies. They’re just a bunch of male macho…
Yet, in the world of sales and marketing, sports analogies seem to be used a lot.
Phrases like, “the ball’s in their court” or “it’s going down to the wire” are often used.
“Dropping the ball” and “achieving slam dunks” are also talked about. The problem is that none of these terms are helpful in explaining the core differences between the disciplines of sales and marketing.
Also, the competitive element of sport is also misplaced when it fosters negative practices or poor communication within a business.
The world of theatre provides a better example
To properly understand the difference between sales and marketing, another analogy seems more suitable. That of musical theatre. Salespeople are the performers. Marketing folks are the set designers, the producers, and choreographers.
Marketing puts the show together. Sales then takes-up the reins and earns the applause. A simple and harmonious way of working. Or so it would appear.
The sales and marketing relationship
While the goal of the sales and marketing functions are similar (boost company revenue), they are often at odds with each other as to how to go about achieving it.
Would it be surprising to know that a staggering 76 percent of marketers are overlooking the importance of sales enablement?
Put differently, a mere 24 percent of marketing specialists have an agreement with sales on defining lead responsibilities. This is according to Hubspot’s Fifth Annual Review of Inbound Marketing Trends and Tactics.
There is a big difference of opinion
In a survey of nearly 1,000 sales and marketing specialists here in the United States, roughly two-thirds of salespeople believe marketers are wasting time on fancy events and branding activities when they would be better served focusing on tactics that directly impact the sales pipeline.
Similarly, the majority of marketing pros consider salespeople boastful showmen. Hmmm.
This tangible sort of tension — or, often, blatant disregard for one another — leads to the many sports analogies assigned to the industry.
Collaboration, not competition is the way to progress
Of course, the working relationship should read more like a creative collaboration than a competition.
Marketing and sales teams do everything possible to connect with the prospect’s story. They intertwine knowledge of the prospect’s needs and then work collaboratively to resolve them.
I believe this relationship is long overdue for an overhaul. Why? Because companies that manage to strengthen the ties between the two departments reap substantial rewards.
Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment enjoy a 20 percent annual growth rate. Companies that struggle with this alignment, however, face a 4 percent decline in revenue. In other words, seamless integration means more than mere kumbayah; it means money.
Additionally, studies show that a failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies may cost B2B companies 10 percent or more of revenue annually.
Recognising the sales and marketing difference delivers harmony and results
As already mentioned, there is a shared goal that binds sales and marketing forces. However, we know the goal can be obscured in the day to day workings of a business.
That’s why I believe it becomes ever more important to recognize the real difference between these key functions.
This difference boils down to their respective roles in the sales pipeline. This simple but important difference of rolls is often overlooked.
Marketing does everything possible to reach and persuade prospective customers. Sales does everything possible to close the sale and garner a signed contract or cheque.
Back to the theatre
To return to the world of theatre analogy…
Marketing is involved in the behind-the-scenes stagehand work. Skills and tactics like viral marketing, branding, relationship marketing, advertising, and direct mail campaigning. And yes, booking exhibitions and events.
The actors, are those of you in Sales. You deliver the lines that have been crafted for you when you hold one-to-one meetings, make cold calls, or network. And when you play your part on exhibition stands.
A harmonious production
A musical production takes different characters with contrasting viewpoints and intentions. It plays the conflicting goals of its characters off one another and then later, throws them all together for a giant choreographed conglomeration of singing and dancing.
The end result is a crescendo of harmonious voices and synchronized spinning and twirling. A performance the producers and cast hope will be worthy of an encore.
To understand the parts that each ‘character’ (aka department) plays in the musical, it helps to examine how each come to the stage.
As described recently in a Forbes magazine article;
As long as you are selling to homo-sapiens, the fundamental motivations to buy and the skills to obtain purchase commitments will remain the same. People may go about selecting a consultant, a cloud-based storage system or a box of cereal in a different set of steps, but people buy emotionally and justify their decisions intellectually.
Put another way, the tactics that sales teams use to convert leads into sales remain consistent year after year. But, the tactics that marketing teams use must change and evolve annually.
In 2005, marketing was defined as a one-way communication intended to bring about interest in a product or service, and selling was a two-way communication designed to enable the prospect to do 70 percent of the talking.
In 2018, such a definition seems antiquated.
Advancements in technology ensure that marketing is now a two-way street. In striking contrast to the recent past, marketing can now be an exchange and one in which the prospective buyer does the majority of talking. Tech-savvy businesses like Amazon have realised this for some time and have built business models to handle and benefit from this dialogue.
Bridging the sales and marketing divide
Not to underplay the very real emotions that collide when sales and marketing departments discuss one another, the way to mend such relationships and get them working in harmony can be revealed by many a Kindergarten teacher. Play nice, play together, and engage in routines that promote both. There are thus distinct steps that can be taken to create a more positive synergy between sales and marketing departments. These include:
Recognizing what the other needs:
When surveyed, sales identified the following desires from marketing:
- Better quality leads (54 percent)
- More leads (44 percent)
- Competitive information and intelligence (39 percent)
- Brand awareness (37 percent)
In the same survey, marketing identified the following needs from sales:
- More effective lead follow-up (34 percent)
- Consistent use of systems, such as Customer Relationship Management software (32 percent)
- Feedback on marketing efforts and campaigns (15 percent)
- Consistent use of messaging and tools provided by marketing (13 percent)
Engaging in face time
Note that this isn’t some hidden reference to Apple’s FaceTime. Instead, it refers to that old-fashioned form of dialogue involving people looking at one another and communicating.
To clarify, it also doesn’t mean that the VP of marketing sits down with the VP of sales to have a conversation. It means that several people from the marketing team sit down with several people from the sales team and hash things out. It also means bringing data to the table to support criticism and encourage celebrations. HubSpot recommends weekly meetings that last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Those who sit together tend to bond together—and the same principle applies to the workplace. Rather than encouraging a siloed approach to the workplace, mix it up. Place every sales team member next to a marketing person, and vice versa. When they understand what the other person is dealing with, it helps them become more effective at their own jobs.
While sales and marketing each present unique contributions to the musical performance that is the sales funnel, both teams are necessary for a successful production. Though sales approaches tend to remain the same over the years, and marketing tactics frequently change, their commonality rests in a shared desire to increase and improve company revenue and results.
About the Author
Daniel Sincavage is a Co-Founder of Tenfold a business specialising in customer engagement software. Dan serves as Tenfold’s Chief Strategy Officer. In this role, he oversees Tenfold’s sales organization; manages strategic partner relationships and he works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with Tenfold’s platform.
Daniel can be contacted via LinkedIn.