Sales and Marketing Sibling Rivalry

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

Life would be wonderful if sales and marketing teams could work together happily. Unfortunately that relationship often is fraught with conflict, turf wars and backbiting – more like Survivor than The Waltons. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Steve Percoco, president of the 250-member New England Technology Sales, Marketing and Business Development Executives Association (NETSEA). It is possible, says Percoco, to create a cross-departmental relationship that is cooperative and successful. Here are his tips.

Teams that learn together stay together. Sales and marketing organizations are expected to work together and collaborate, but they’re treated as two separate entities, says Percoco. One solution to bring the two together is training. “Train your teams together,” he recommends. When they’re sitting next to each other and learning the same things, it creates a common vocabulary. A common lexicon gives them a way to communicate and align their goals when they’re in the trenches.

Create a marketing-to-sales supply chain. Percoco suggests creating a detailed map of the marketing and sales process, from marketing contacting potential customers to sales closing the deal. The chain should consist of “measurable handoff points with specific line item responsibilities,” explains Percoco. In other words: What is each person in the chain trying to accomplish? What does each handoff to the next link in the chain look like?

Close the loop. Another tip is to make sure there’s a feedback process from sales to marketing. The best organizations, says Percoco, are those that use sales as a resource to determine what is working and what isn’t, in a specific manner. It’s not enough to say: That lead was lousy. Sales needs to provide more comprehensive, constructive criticism so marketing can make adjustments for the future.

Share the pain. One of the best ways for marketing folks to understand what it’s like in the field is to show them. When marketing employees actually get in front of customers and see the challenges that are brought to the sales force, day in and day out, they gain a better understanding of what salespeople must deal with, says Percoco.

Make a commitment to understanding. When there are two separate organizations with different vocabularies, different goals and different projects, “you’ve got this natural barrier,” says Percoco. Commit to bridging the gap. Make an effort to understand where marketing is coming from and what their unique goals and challenges are. While you might not be able to fix everything single-handedly, says Percoco, “you can become an influencer in that process.”

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