In our recent articles on marketing and sales alignment, we’ve primarily focused on co-defining levels of leads for the two groups, and encouraging cooperation between them throughout the sales process. It’s kind of like two members of a superhero group like the Fantastic Four: they both bring considerable yet different powers to the table. In isolation or in opposition their powers are limited, but in alignment and cooperation, those powers are combined and therefore maximized.
Beyond the hot topic of lead management, however, there are can be other areas of friction, non-cooperation, and conflict which hobble company progress toward market share and profit. A number of these were pointed out in a recent—and excellent—article in Harvard Business Review entitled Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing.
Cultural Differences Between Marketing and Sales
Marketing and Sales have considerably different approaches to what they do, and both can be critical of the other for these differences. Marketing staff is generally situated behind desks, carefully examining and analyzing market trends and campaign statistics. Sales, on the other hand, is out and about actively engaging with potential buyers and customers. The two departments are set in the different stages of the sales process, even though there is a significant overlap between them.
It often falls on Marketing to set suggested retail or list prices. Marketing, to some degree tasked with achieving revenue goals, would like to see products or services sold as close to the suggested retail price as possible, which of course means a decent profit margin and brings the company closer to the sales target. Marketing wants to see sales reps “sell the price” as part of selling the product.
Sales, on the other hand, is after closes. Often closes are assisted by sales-rep-negotiated discounts, which of course means a narrower profit margin. This also means that instead of Marketing’s dictate to “sell the price,” Sales is more prone to “sell through the price”—meaning the discounted price is part of the reason the buyer finally goes for the purchase. Marketing becomes upset because they are usually not part of such negotiations—a sales manager or VP sales will deal directly with the company’s CFO.
Another source of friction between Marketing and Sales can be that of budget: to accomplish their individual goals, each must obtain a certain portion. Sales will argue that large sums spent on Marketing campaigns—especially when they include pricey items such as television advertising—would be better spent enabling the sales force through additional and higher-quality reps.
Sales often ends up getting a bigger budget because it is perceived that they have more of a tangible impact; marketing’s impact is more in the future and won’t be immediately felt.
Ad Campaign Verbiage
It is up to Marketing, of course, to create the advertising that promotes a company’s products and services; such advertising based on Marketing’s broad studies of the market. Sales are in today’s business world often excluded from early stages of the buyers’ journey and will often complain that the advertising misses the mark, and these complaints stem from the fact that sales reps are constantly in contact with the company’s buying public.
There is a similar situation with regard to product development. In many companies, this causes friction between Marketing and Sales – Marketing is heavily involved in product development, and Sales is not. Marketing is usually concerned that the product needs to contain features that have broad appeal, based on their research. Sales will often protest that the product does not contain the features, functionality or even style that prospects and customers actually want—again based on a day-to-day conversation with buyers.
The question then becomes: if a company is experiencing so many points of discord between Sales and Marketing alignment, how then should this breach be mended? We will explore solutions to each of these factors in our very next article on this subject.
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