Over the course of time we have shared much on the relationship between marketing and sales departments. For example, Jerome Conlon’s first person account of Nike’s journey from a sales-only culture to a marketing mindset. And Mark Di Somma’s look at the four ways brands should support sales teams. These insights resonate with marketers because the relationship between marketing and sales is a curious one in many cases. All too often, it can range from a friendly rivalry, or a mutual suspicion, or to outright hostility. As my mentor long ago would remind our clients, in business as in (American) football, you don’t tackle each other in the huddle. Your competition is the other team. And they are surely determined to tackle you.
For all the planning and research and strategizing that goes into developing, launching and growing a brand in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, it still comes down to human interaction. And the two groups most vested with the task of growing their brand in this challenging environment are the marketing and sales groups. So consequently, their combined team efforts are absolutely essential to brand building. This requires mutual understanding and respect for the important roles each group plays is key to working together. Simply stated, marketing goes nowhere without sales. And sales can never reach its full potential without marketing. Sadly however, only about 8% of companies have a strong alignment between sales and marketing according to Forrester.
The consequences of a dysfunctional relationship can impact brand performance. An Aberdeen Research Group study discovered that companies with “poor sales and marketing alignment” have a 4% decline in revenue. On the other hand, companies where both departments are in alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate. With so much at stake, why wouldn’t marketing and sales management make every effort to “align” themselves?
Perhaps that’s because it’s easier said than done. Alignment starts with understanding and appreciating the roles and responsibilities marketing and sales each have in supporting the brand. Like a marriage, their strengths should complement, not compete, with one another. While marketing should take the lead directionally, it should never dominate nor diminish the importance of the sales role in brand building.
It’s often said that marketing and sales people are different from each other. If you agree, this piece in the Harvard Business Review on the seven personality traits of top salespeople will surprise you. For example, the really successful sales professionals scored high on traits like modesty, conscientiousness, and lack of gregariousness. However, traits such as achievement orientation, lack of discouragement and lack of self-consciousness were also on the list and are the ones usually associated with fearless, aggressive, extroverted behavior most associate with sales professionals. Sales departments make contacts, deals, and, well, sales results. That’s why, as Mark Ritson concluded, you get a sales team to respect marketing by showing them how marketing can make them more sales.
Marketing department personalities may differ dramatically from those in sales, marked by a higher degree of strategic orientation and less tactical thinking. It’s a concern for market share over sales volume. Planning versus responding. Positioning rather than value propositions. Marketers can tend to be more introverted than their sales counterparts, and thus may run the risk of being overwhelmed in meetings and differences of opinions. However, marketers can (and should be) good listeners, because the sales department can be a wealth of first-hand market intelligence when they work together. As my colleague Chris Rainey is fond of saying, “Marketing is the lubricant for sales” and done properly, will make the sales process more productive and profitable for the brand.
Next time you find yourself at odds with your sales or marketing counterpart, use these compelling stats as motivation to work better together:
- Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates (source: MarketingProfs).
- Aligning sales and marketing also leads to 38% higher sales win rates (source: MarketingProfs).
- Sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals (source: Marketo).
- Aligning both departments can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing (source: Marketo).
- B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth (source: SiriusDecisions).
- Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate (source: Aberdeen Research Group).
Today’s brands can no longer afford tension between marketing and sales, there is too much at stake. They must work as one team with one goal.
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