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Feature—Why Sales and Marketing Rivalry should be History

October 31, 2014 By Editor


Two of the most important elements of any business are no doubt the sales and the marketing departments. In a professional environment, it is easy to hear those two terms and assume that the objectives of these two areas are already playing out using a set of very strict rules. Many people assume that marketing is solely directed at reaching the widest possible audience in any way possible and operates with a long-term focus in mind. Contrary to that, many people are under the impression that sales operates in an interpersonal nature with a much more short-term focus. It is also not uncommon to hear people describe sales as the “revenue producing” department and marketing as the “cost center.”

Defining ‘Sales’ and ‘Marketing’

In reality, there is no “one size fits all” definition to either the sales or the marketing department. The truth isn’t black and white – it’s actually quite grey. The roles that the sales and marketing departments of your organization will play will depend heavily on how the company chooses to manage and structure them. They are two equally important functions with a relationship that is very necessary towards the long-term success of your business.

A Delicate Relationship

The truth of the matter is that focusing on the relationship between sales and marketing is one of the keys to success on a business level. By properly aligning both departments, you can significantly improve revenue thanks to the streamlining of the path that the customer takes to create a purchase. When both sales and marketing are operating at peak effectiveness, it is easier than ever for customers to buy the products or services that you’re offering. Not only do they know exactly what it is that your business does and how it fits into their lives (which is a message that is commonly defined by the marketing department), but they also know where they need to go to get it (which is the responsibility of sales).

Integration is Challenging

According to information released by the CMO Council, a full 38% of CMOs have indicated that a top priority in the current year involves both integrating and aligning the objectives of sales and marketing much more closely. That number should go a long way towards painting a picture about how important that relationship really is. The relationship between sales and marketing isn’t antagonistic at all – it’s self-fulfilling.

‘Us Versus’ Us”

Despite this, it is still unfortunately common for the two departments to take an adversarial relationship within the same company. According to a recent study, 87% of all terms that come out of the mouth of a sales or marketing employee when referencing the other department is negative. Due to these contrasting views, conflicting perceptions are created about what each department does and how those functions contribute to the overall success of the business. It is not uncommon for sales employees to describe the marketing department as “lightweight” and “easy.” Marketing department employees often describe sales people as those who will “say absolutely anything to get a deal.”

Research has also unfortunately indicated that 75% of sales employees either occasionally or never use the materials and resources that they get from the marketing department. Sales spends an average of 80% of its time ignoring marketing leads and 50% of its time overall on techniques that are unproductive, like prospecting. A full 58% of marketing content turns out to not be relevant to potential buyers. This disconnect is extremely negative and has reduces the overall chance of closing a sale by a significant 45%.

The Customer Loses

Lest you think that the sales and marketing employees are the only “victims” in this situation, customers are also suffering. Thirty-percent of sales employees feel completely disconnected from the changing needs and expectations of both prospects and customers, all of which goes a long way towards permanently damaging the relationship of your business with those individuals.

Changed Tools, Changed Attitudes?

One factor that is exacerbating this type of relationship has to do with changes brought about by the digital environment. The types of changes to the tools that the sales and marketing departments use to generate leads, engage customers and complete sales have changed so drastically that the old sales and marketing relationship is essentially gone forever. Despite that, certain traditionalists still believe that basic human nature remains the same and unchanged for all time. As a result, the tools may have changed, but the rivalry itself is destined to continue.

One of the most prominent changes that businesses have seen over the last few years thanks to a largely digital environment has had to do with the sales funnel. In days long past, the go-to technique of marketing involves cramming as many leads into the funnel as they possibly could in the hopes that by playing the “numbers game” they would generate more deals as a result. The sales process is now driven by buying patterns more than ever and those patterns have changed in the last several years.

The Sales Process: Now vs. Then

According to a survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board of 1900 B2B companies, it was revealed that customers typically only contact a sales representative after completing 60% of the purchasing decision process on their own. Experts indicate that those numbers may be a bit too conservative for reality – it could be anywhere from 75% to 90% through the sales funnel before customers reach out to a vendor at all. Customers are dictating how fast they make a purchase decision now more than ever, which makes inbound marketing one of the keys to success regardless of the type of industry you’re in.

Marketing now owns a much larger portion of the sales cycle than ever before, but that doesn’t mean that sales is taking a back seat. Because buyers have changed the rules completely, the marketing and sales departments need to learn from one another. They also need to establish a closer and more mutually beneficial relationship than ever before. Customers no longer need you to sell to them. Instead, they just want you to make it easier than ever to complete a purchase. That requires sales and marketing, working in tandem, for the benefit of not only customers but your organization as a whole.

Editor’s Note: MC² developed an executive white paper on this topic called “Sales vs. Marketing: Who’s Got the Lead?” To download the complete report here. 


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