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Why Sales and Marketing Need to Work Together

23 Jun 2022

“I know my customer and I don’t see the need to bring an agency in.”

This is an actual quote from a client about the reaction their sales organization may have to the work we are going to share in an upcoming meeting. Throughout my career, I’ve heard these sentiments voiced to me in some way, shape, or form. 

Other comments in this vein that I’ve come across, which you may have also heard, include: 

  • Marketing doesn’t really know what’s going on in my market 
  • Marketing doesn’t pay attention to my customer – they just create s**t and force it down my (and my customer’s) throat
  • While I get beaten u -by my customer every day, all that I see Marketing do is host fun events and create pretty brochures
  • Sales is the one group that’s actually building this brand

For those who’ve worked with me over the years, I’m the marketer who’d rather spend time on the road, meeting with customers, observing the market. I always tried to show Sales that I wanted to understand, to learn, and to partner with them to grow their business, which would always help me grow my brand. 

Sometimes, that still didn’t work. Sometimes, Sales still viewed me with suspicion (or at times, with outright contempt). In those situations, I had a simple reply: 

“If Sales knew everything about their customer, then why isn’t Brand X the number one brand in the category?”

Some may call this savage. Others would say it’s brutally honest. Either way, it speaks to the old-school belief that Sales and Marketing need to have an adversarial relationship. 

I firmly believe this to be false. 

I’ve worked at organizations that were Sales-led. At one company, by on-boarding meeting with the General Manager of the division devolved into a two-hour argument about whether or not marketing was even necessary when expanding the brand into a new category – something that I was hired to do for that company. The “discussion” ended its us agreeing to disagree, but we never got along during my tenure at that organization. 

I’ve also worked at companies where the marketers routinely looked down at Sales, believing that having the perfect brand plan was fundamentally better than the perfect in-market execution. At those companies, a rotation in Sales or in Trade Marketing was viewed as a career-limiting move. 

I believe we need to change our Paradigm:

Instead of Marketing and Sales fighting each other like they’re in a boxing match, we should think of Marketing and Sales as brewing in a relay race. 

What does this mean? 

Go back to your four P’s: product, placement, pricing, and promotion. These are all things that a brand has full control over. However, not one function has total control over each of them. 

Think about it: 

  • Product – This is typically Marketing-driven, as they take consumer, market, and customer insights and translate them into products that their brand can sell. Sales has input, but what’s launched is ultimately a Marketing call. 
  • Placement – This is typically Sales-led. They’re customer-facing, working with distributors, wholesales, and retailers trying to get more points of distribution, more merchandising. Does Marketing support this? Absolutely, yes. But Sales is ultimately on the hook for this one. 
  • Pricing – This is a complicated one, as the retailer / dealer ultimately sets the price that the consumer / shopper pays. That being said, Sales typically leads this, as they work with their customers on setting everyday, promoted, and non-promoted pricing. Can Marketing provide input? Absolutely. But the final decision usually rests with the one that owns the P&L. 
  • Promotion – This is all Marekgin-driven. Whether it’s advertising, consumer activation, or shopper marketing, this is clearly in Marketing’s purview to lead. 

You might be saying, “well that’s the case in a consumer packaged goods context, but what about B2B (or other verticals where the path to purchase is more complicated and convoluted)?” My response is simple: Marketing and Sales each have unique and complementary roles to play. A typical use case is as follows: 

  • Marketing – Generates and nurtures leads, converting them into Sales prospects. They use branding, marketing automation, advertising and media, and other tools in the marketing mix to enable this conversion. 
  • Sales – Nurtures and converts prospects into customers. They use multiple meetings, proposals, events, and the overall relationship to drive this conversion. 

In both cases, Marketing and Sales complement one another, like runners in a relay race. And with tools like Salesforce and other CRM platforms, the way to maximize their utility, in many respects, rests on the fundamental notion of Marketing and Sales working together. 

Think about it: your brand might get a new lead at a trade show. That lead gets entered into a CRM system like Salesforce. Drip campaigns, retargeting ads, and other media start to populate that person’s inbox and web experience with relevant content. If handled right, the lead says they want to meet with Sales. The “baton” is passed to them and meetings occur to discuss potential opportunities. Ultimately, a proposal is developed, submitted, and agreed to. Throughout this process, personalized drip campaigns and ads are “aired” based on the prospect’s interactions with the brand, which are all tracked and measured in their CRM system. 

Sales and Marketing are equal partners – and should be treated as such. More than ever, brands need to start thinking and acting this way if they want to grow and thrive. Many companies have started to pivot to this philosophy, which we’ve seen to be a competitive advantage. We’ve also seen companies that refuse to invest in these capabilities and have seen them start to fall behind, especially in a world where digital and virtual are the norm, not the exception. 

What type of relationship would you rather have between Sales and Marketing? One that’s collaborative, positive, and aligned to the same goal or one that’s constantly adversarial and tense? I don’t know about you, but life’s way too short – I’ll always stick to alignment, collaboration, and positivity. 

In my experience, in the Built World, sales frequently is in charge. Marketing is viewed as a necessary expense rather than a respected partner who can help sales be even more successful. 

In this situation, marketing functions as an art studio or creative resource that does what sales tells them to do. 

This “sales knows best” approach may have worked in the past. It no longer works as your competitors are becoming better marketers. The old way is also less effective in reaching your customers. 

Three Ways Sales Led Companies Can Improve Your Marketing. 

  1. Stop telling your marketing department what to do. Instead, tell them your problem or what you are trying to accomplish and ask them to develop a recommendation. 
  2. Put them in touch with customers so they develop a better understanding of who they are. 
  3. If your agency just does what they are told and doesn’t add value by bringing you better solutions, replace them.