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How to Close the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

by David Meerman Scott  |  
August 26, 2014

Portions of this article are excerpted from The New Rules of Sales and Service: How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business, published by Wiley.

In my days as vice-president of marketing at several technology companies, I distinctly remember how difficult it was for my team of marketing professionals to command the respect of the salespeople in the company.

We were finally successful in doing so, but only by becoming the company experts on the buyers.

The salespeople didn't care about the brochures we produced or the websites we built. They rarely commented on the email newsletter or the tradeshows we spoke at. But by effectively understanding and defining our buyer personas, we shortened the sales cycle for the reps who followed our strategies. Only then did the salespeople offer respect and kudos.

But most sales teams and marketing teams continue to operate out of alignment. The marketers and salespeople question one another's skills and their commitment to the job. They fight over the quality of the leads. I remember hearing of a sales team that snidely referred to the marketing department as the "T-shirt department" because they said all the marketers had accomplished was the production of T-shirts imprinted with the company logo. Others call the marketing department the "branding police."

Marketers, in turn, complain about how the materials they produce fail to be used by the salespeople. They bitch and moan because the sales leads they generate are left untouched, claiming that sales staffers are too lazy to pick up the telephone.

Think about your own organization's latest launch event. Were the salespeople hanging on every word as the marketers described the features of the latest product, service, or product marketing plans? If you're like most people I speak with (if they are honest), the salespeople were bored, probably poking at their smartphones instead of paying attention.

How Sales and Marketing Differ

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David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and partner in the sonic branding studio Signature Tones. He is the author of 10 books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in its 6th edition, with 350,000+ copies sold in English and available in 29 languages.

Twitter: @dmscott

LinkedIn: David Meerman Scott

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  • by Zak Pines Tue Aug 26, 2014 via web

    David, this is a great topic and very timely. I was with a group of about 35 DemandGen professionals at a MassTLC peer group last week, and the most common concern I heard also centered around marketing and sales alignment, and this was from a group of some of the top demand gen folks around.

    I did a summary piece following the event sharing my perspective on 3 ways to jumpstart the alignment which is here -

  • by Tony Zambito Tue Aug 26, 2014 via web

    Hi David,

    Nice article and glad to see the importance of buyer personas emphasized. What I can add to your article is sometimes the best people to interview buyers can be in strategy, research, and insights areas of companies. That is, outside of both marketing and sales. This is especially true if the problems are related to key decisions regarding market strategies as well as future growth investments. In my own research, I have seen buyers apply this mindset of not being candid to both sales and marketing, as marketing presence is felt more in the digital age.

    My take on the dysfunction you speak of is the issue is three dimensional versus two-dimensional. What I mean is organizations are best served as thinking of this as three parties are out of alignment marketing, sales, and buyers. I have seen organizations work on their marketing and sales alignment and leave the buyer out of this work. Left wondering why they still cannot connect. In essence, closing the gap between marketing, sales, and the buyer becomes the larger goal at hand. This is where deep qualitative buyer research and buyer personas can be of significant help.

    Congrats and look forward to the book.

    Tony Zambito

  • by Tuhin Verma Wed Aug 27, 2014 via web

    Thanks David for sharing this article. I my view it is the friction between Sales and Marketing that is never ending . In my area of business as a Brand Design Manager, I often come across this dilemma. It is easy to convince, combine and bring cohesion in Design Management when it comes to Marketing people. But very difficult to deal with Sales people. I have found them at odds with the Marketing team & Design. Even in meetings that concern brand building and planning initiatives, the sales team is at loggerheads and demand better trade incentives. This I believe is short term goal and should not be entertained at the cost of long term wealth creation for the brand. I am surely going to use your views in my talks / dealings with the Sales & Marketing people of various organizations I consult.

  • by Olga Maykopova Wed Aug 27, 2014 via web

    Hello David,

    Article is really nice and the problem between Marketing and Sales departement is like the neverending storie. I work is a snowboard industry on Russian market. Everybody knows that brand mostly produces their collections very selectively depending on the market. Than on sales meetings collection became even more selectively because stores owner make pre-order of what they think people will buy. Last year I made the easy quiz between 500 snowboarders throgh all ove the country. People should pick one item of three which they would buy. At the sales meeting we did the same with sales and they were so surprised that 80% of items they pick didn't work with the choice of their customers.

    Thank you for reminding to communicate more.


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