/ The Great Sales/Marketing Rivalry (and How to Get Over It)

When I was a kid, my friends and I had one way to deal with issues and challenges: we would fight it out. A push here. A shove there. An occasional left jab and right hook. And though that’s how we settled the score, we always ended up playing minutes later like nothing happened.

I bring this up because after 25 years of sales leadership, it has become clear to me that marketing and sales departments everywhere have a similar relationship. We have a mutual respect for one another, we have to play together, but we can’t help taking a swing or two as we go. Here are 3 steps that I have learned to make sales and marketing work together to grow a company:

Get Over the Us/Them Mentality

The ages-old sales/marketing rivalry primarily comes down to a question of data: Is marketing’s research up to date, or does sales’ intuition for customers trump the industry stuff?

Have you noticed that whenever there is a sales and marketing meeting these days, each side brings their data analyst along (today’s version of the old west gun slinger) with their view of the data and, more strategically, their view of the other team’s data?  Marketing has numbers to show its campaigns are bringing in qualified leads, and sales has its own data sets about which sales people or messages are performing better.

The point is to make revenue—period. Sales people need commission and marketing needs a paycheck. Neither one gets what they want if business isn’t coming through the doors. No amount of data is going to help sales and marketing develop synergy if every metric is presented in a way to make the other team look bad. And that brings me to step 2.

Check Your Bias at the Door

You want to prove that your department has what it takes to build the business, so you show all your great numbers…along with whatever bad numbers you can drudge up on the other department. But there’s something inherently wrong with presenting the data in this way; you’re making the numbers tell your story instead of the real story.

If you have an incentive plan (compensation, commission, MBO bonus structure, etc.) that incentivizes you to sideline the true story, be an adult and say so. Then change it. Get rid of it. Do what you need to do to align your incentives to the goals of the company.

That’s why I get really excited about Domo. You see the entire, honest story right in front of you so that marketing and sales can both adjust.

Don’t Meet in the Middle

Once you get over the data bias and start looking at real numbers, you both just do what’s best. Don’t compromise. Don’t insist on doing things partially your way. If sales tests a message or angle that closes more deals, marketing needs to move toward that. If marketing has a better way to respond to pain points and introduce the right product or feature at the right stage of the buying cycle, sales had better listen up.

Sometimes sales has got it. Other times, marketing knows best. Don’t meet in the middle. Meet at what’s successful. And use your data to define what “success” really means, and to figure out incentives for when we collectively get there.

Now Go Get More Business

I don’t think that the professional world will ever quite rid itself of the sales/marketing rivalry; just like young boys, they probably fight for the fun of it from time to time. But when businesses use data the right way, there’s a lot more peace in the house. Right now, a lot of the problem stems from marketing and sales having different types of data and different ways to measure. Stop the in-fighting. Get a single, clear view of the data. Then go and bring more business through the door.

How do your marketing and sales teams share data? Share your strategies in the comments (If you are in marketing, we will accept your comments in crayon).


Tags: marketing, sales

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