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Read the latest installment of Tom Harvey’s Quarterly Contrarian email. This month Tom discusses the roles of sales and marketing within a company. Can the two departments work together or are they destined to be at odds. Why do 72% of sales people think they’re using the right sales tools, but 61% of marketers disagree? Tom, as always, has a unique perspective based upon his many years of experience and always provides something for all of us to learn.

Sales And Marketing: What’s A Healthy Tension Between The Two?

Sales and marketing want the same thing: better business results for the company. I think the difference often lies in how to get there. A little healthy tension between the two groups’ views isn’t a bad thing. But based on my experience leading a growing startup, I also think that harmony between them — while challenging to achieve, for the reasons outlined in the rest of this article — is really important to attaining solid business results.

For two terms that get put together nearly as often as love and marriage or peanut butter and jelly, sales and marketing don’t seem to have enjoyed the smoothest of relationships over the years. While some companies have found harmony between the two, interaction between these two teams at other companies has been characterized as everything from a rocky relationship to outright war.

What’s up with that?

I believe if we can get at the heart of some of the common disagreements between sales and marketing, we can find ways to bring them together. The result can be an alliance that’s far greater than the sum of its parts. One source has calculated that aligning sales and marketing could boost revenue by more than 200%.

Here are a few areas where sales and marketing typically don’t see eye to eye, and some suggestions for bringing their perspectives into closer alignment for the greater good of the company.

“Is that a lead?”

We can probably all agree that when it comes to leads, it’s marketing’s job to generate them and sales’ job to turn them into customers. The problem comes when the two can’t agree on what constitutes a lead.

You may have seen it happen yourself. Marketing sends leads to sales, but sales doesn’t view them valid leads, gets tired of combing through them and ends up resorting to cold calling.

One eminently sensible suggestion for starting to resolve this age-old conflict is to have an explicit definition of leads that both sides abide by. Hubspot has even gone so far as to recommend explicit service level agreements — SLAs — between marketing and sales.

The battle over collateral
I’ve watched marketing get agitated when after developing a nice new sales brochure, sales immediately turns around and creates its own version — or insists on using a brochure from last year.

You’ve probably witnessed this kind of disconnect yourself; the difference in perception between marketing and sales about what kind of sales tools are effective and what kind aren’t is an ongoing problem. The results of a survey by KnowledgeTree lay it out in pretty stark terms:

• 87% of marketers surveyed think they’re providing the right sales tools, but only 66% of sales people agree.
• 72% of sales people surveyed think they’re using the right sales tools, but 61% of marketers disagree.
• 0% of salespeople surveyed are strongly satisfied with the tools provided by marketing to close the deal.

Which side is right? It doesn’t really matter. It seems to me the real issue is that the two don’t have a shared perspective of what’s working. And as long as they stay that way, there’s going to be wasted money and time on ineffective use of collateral.

To bridge the gap, let’s start by recognizing that in this, as in many areas of disagreement between sales and marketing, poor communication is the core problem. You can’t go wrong by facilitating more open communication between the two — or by using integrated marketing tools that make each side’s efforts more transparent to the other.

Settling differences with data
Sometimes, the disconnect between sales and marketing just comes down to simply having very different views of how things work. And when either team starts to rely on those views, rather than on real data, to judge marketing or sales effectiveness that can be a problem.

That’s when Hoovers advises to end differences with hard evidence, by using a “data-first approach.” What worked? What didn’t? What do the numbers tell you? McKinsey has found that companies that make data central to their marketing and sales decisions improve the marketing return on investment (MROI) by 15-20%.

Despite their differences, I truly believe that sales and marketing — like love and marriage, or peanut butter and jelly — really do belong together. It’s just a matter of getting past the differences to reach that common goal of a better outcome for the business as a whole. H.O. Maycotte
QC EDITOR Tom Harvey teaches at The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, where he developed the Entrepreneurial Marketing Curriculum. For ten years he was CEO of a multinational insurance & risk management organization. He started his sales and marketing career with Xerox and later joined the venture arm of a technology development firm where he worked with more than twenty emerging companies. He has been CEO of five companies including two start-ups and a JV with a Fortune 100 company. He received a BA from Georgetown and, after serving as an artillery officer, an MBA. Harvey is an advisor to a few Ohio companies. (614) 309-8757