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No doubt everyone in an organization wants to maximize profits and minimize internal damage. Breaking things costs money, and teams in conflict with each other are a liability—both eat into profits. With today's customers demanding more, companies need to focus on the customers rather than putting out inside fires.

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Why can't sales and marketing get along?

I've heard many cat-dog types of stories about sales and marketing. Obviously, these two teams are important to an organization. Why can't sales and marketing see eye to eye, and how does an organization deal with oftentimes opposing views?

—Denny, analyst

MarketingProfs readers point out why this happens and urge us to recognize the differences between the two departments. Readers also give salient advice on how to help the two important teams work together. With these suggestions, organizations won't have to put out more fires and will see lots of green instead.

The Why: Recognize their differences

Several readers point out that the sales and marketing teams are different in terms of time and customer relationships. "Sales is short-term focused (making quarterly quota) and marketing is long-term focused. Sales meets customers daily and individually, whereas marketing may infrequently meet customers and often in groups, like focus groups," Guy Smith from Silicon Strategies Marketing says. The sales team's focus is outbound while marketing's focus is inbound, as it needs to gather intelligence about the customers.

Marketing aims to develop many campaigns over a longer period of time using a consistent, clear, and logical approach with a budget in mind. "Thus, marketing focuses on the overall success throughout a campaign and not just on the day-by-day results it can easily track," Tim Osmondson, vice-president of marketing and sales with SkyeMark Business Solutions, says.

Manuel Alvarez, Gerente de Inteligencia de Mercado, defines how the role of marketing differs from sales. He says that marketing is responsible for developing an emotional bond between your product and your company, which allows the purchase to be repeated. That bond makes it possible, even though other products in the market exist, for you to satisfy the needs of your clients and to have them prefer you. "However, marketing does not sell products directly. Marketing clears the barriers that make sales difficult and makes the work of sales easier. Marketing is responsible for creating long-term relationships with clients and prospects that allow the salespeople to sell more every day."

Bob Magnusson, director of marketing with Ironman Parts and Service, adds, "Sales and marketing rarely get along when marketing holds fast to the notion that they know the customer better than sales. Sales works hard to build the customer relationship and views marketing not as support, but as "Big Brother" patting them on the head and telling them to step aside."

Michael Bolduc believes the problem stems from the different skills, responsibilities and attitudes of these two teams:

Sales people need to be optimistic and open minded to maintain positive customer relationships. In addition, their commissions are often based on revenue targets instead of profit. As such, to most sales people, almost every opportunity is worth pursuing (I've never met a pessimistic salesperson). Marketing people, on the other hand, may have profit and loss responsibility or be in charge of the market strategy to profitably grow the business. They need to decide where and how to focus resources in order to make the biggest impact on the business (get the biggest bang for the buck). The attitudes and personalities required for these different roles usually keep the typical sales and marketing groups at odds with each other.

Tim Osmondson provides more insight:

If marketing changes up campaigns daily without some formula for consistent messaging, these companies may fail. Brand consistency and key messaging of a company are absolutely necessary for the marketing department to create, initiate and replicate into every person's job description and company focus throughout the firm. A sales department only cares about the immediate results and marketing's responsibility to provide qualified, solid leads. This is only accomplished each day, every week, month and year if all employees follow a clear path and put into practice your company goals and commitments and follow the key messaging presented, over and over again.

The How: Break the cycle of opposition

Changing the relationship for the better and the company's benefit is no easy task, but it can be done. Making changes requires breaking the cycle of mutual opposition, explains Beto do Valle, senior consultant with TerraForum Consultores. "For that to happen, marketing and sales need to work shoulder-to-shoulder to create ONE view, ONE strategy, with COMMON objectives and goals. While they (we) keep working on separated plans and schedules, there'll be no unleashing of the potential power of these forces working together," do Valle says.

Angela Schuster, marketing manager with Integrated Research, describes a similar situation, and here you can see what can happen when addressing the opposition and putting them on equal terms:

We tried the drastic measure of actually TALKING to the sales team and getting to know them and their processes better—on a regular basis. We included them in the planning stages of our campaigns, we tried to understand what made them tick, where they were focused, the messages they were putting out in the marketplace, their sales process, then mapped this info our marketing approach and provided an automated system to give both teams insight into what was happening. We developed an entire philosophy around matching marketing messages to the sales stages and integrated the two teams more closely.

It's taken a while (we're still getting there), and we've had to really change our approach, and often reinforce that we (marketing) are there for them (sales); but the results are more focused campaigns that produce qualified leads and happier sales people because the leads marketing produces are much better than before, and sales sees us as a valuable resource for them. Marketing needs to take responsibility for "closing the gap" between the two. Sales never will, as they're focused on quick wins and see most things (including marketing) as an obstacle to achieving this.

Sales and marketing both want to have happy customers. The two teams can work together to find tools and solutions to help them better help their customers, comments Edie Kello, marketing manager with US GreenFiber. "As a marketing manager, I work closely with sales personnel and customers to understand their needs so I can develop tools, programs, promotions, products and services that are worth developing. I want sales behind me to ensure a return on our investment," Kello says.

A reader advises involving sales in the marketing planning process, including program development and education on the execution of the program:

Helping sales to understand that one of the major goals of a marketing program, beyond awareness, is to generate leads and revenue goes a long way to garnering their support and cooperation. Include their very valuable, in the trenches, experience in the development of campaigns. Secure sales leadership buy-in when launching new campaigns. Engage the star sales reps, the ones whose voices and opinions are valued highly, in planning meetings. Especially within the channel realm, where the roles are more consultative to the network of partners, the sales and marketing agreement is a necessity to ensure that the partners truly believe and adopt the message—and carry it out into the marketplace.

Guy Smith from Silicon Strategies Marketing provides a way to create a bond: "Marketing must demonstrate to sales the value they add to the sales cycle, and demonstrate how a lack of cooperation hinders sales. When sales realizes the interrelationship between the two, many barriers fall."

Bob Magnusson, director of marketing with Ironman Parts and Services, advises reinforcing that marketing is a support function for all departments and telling sales that they're valuable and that their first priority aside from revenue generation is feeding information to marketing:

The very first focus group within an organization should be sales. Before launching any campaign, sales needs to be well informed and enthusiastic about it, since it is in all likelihood derived from information they reported. Encourage listening and reiteration to ensure communication. Set SMART goals and reward the sales and marketing departments as teams.

Michael Bolduc says the organization needs to communicate goals and strategies to everyone in the company so they clearly understand them:

If the goals are long-term revenue and market-share growth at the expense of slightly lower margins, then the sales group might have a little more control. If the goals are more profit-driven, then marketing might have the final decisions. I personally am a fan of making everyone in the organization responsible for profitability and feel that sales commissions should be tied to profit as well as revenue goals. After all, at the end of the day, it's what you have left over that really matters anyway.

This insight into why the two teams tend to butt heads should make the reasons behind it clearer. Understanding the way both teams work and deciding to break the cycle of opposition will help companies figure out the solution for getting the two departments to work together. After all, both sides want the company to succeed.

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Today's marketing hot buttons

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—Sheeba, project manager

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.