The Agonizing Struggle: Marketing vs Sales, How To Get Along

Can’t Sales and Marketing just get along?



If you’ve worked in a number of marketing organizations, you have probably experienced some that had a great relationship with the sales force, and some that didn’t. What is the difference? Why can’t Sales and Marketing just get along?

We would argue it is Marketing’s job to understand what makes Sales (and sales people) tick, how they think, and how we should serve them as our customers. After all, it’s marketing’s job to do exactly that with the customers who pay the bills – understand their needs and deliver a solution that works. To do that, marketers must recognize that the sales team thinks about everything from the standpoint of the sales funnel.

Understanding the sales funnel
From generating leads at the top of the sales funnel, to wanting price concessions to close deals at the bottom of the sales funnel, this is how Sales views their world… through the sales funnel. To work effectively with Sales we must understand the funnel.

Let’s consider the sales funnel as broken down into four stages:

  • Top of the funnel is before the prospect is aware of the product or service you are selling
  • In the funnel is where Sales must now present the solution to the prospect
  • At the end of the funnel, Sales must successfully handle objections, beat the competition and close deals
  • Through the funnel, is after the deal has been closed and the product or service is being delivered

Top of the funnel
At the top of the sales funnel, the sales organization only cares about three things: leads, leads, leads. Well, they occasionally care about a fourth thing: more leads. As a marketer, what are you doing to deliver qualified leads, generate air cover and build awareness of your brand and product or service? For marketers to get along with Sales at this stage of the sales cycle, they must show they are actively creating campaigns that will both create awareness in the marketplace and lure qualified opportunities into the funnel.

In the funnel
Once qualified opportunities are in the funnel, they are in information gathering mode. So the sales team’s focus turns to delivering a crisp message and looking professional. Sales wants a crisp, clear message that they can articulate. And, they want strong, professional tools to deliver that message and showcase what they’re selling.

If your sales team is creating its own PowerPoints or one-off collateral pieces, chances are they don’t think Marketing is doing its job. Find out how they are selling and why they are doing this.

Try accompanying your sales people on some prospect calls to understand the anatomy of a first and a second call. Then, develop a compelling message with strong demonstration, presentation and leave-behind tools that will help the sales person get on the short list.

At the end of the funnel
At the end of the sales funnel, Sales wants help closing the deal. This is the time that prospects start to decide between competing products. Sales needs good, solid references to assure the prospect they are making the right choice. They need materials and tools to deal with objections and to help them handle questions smoothly.

Understanding the issues that come up at the end of the sales cycle, Marketing can provide materials that address them. We have seen numerous tools work here – from evaluation criteria checklists to process worksheets and from interactive ROI calculators to well-orchestrated site visits. The prospect gets nervous as he or she gets near signing the contract; the better the sales team can handle the objections and requests, the better their close ratio.

Through the funnel
Sales also has needs after the deal is closed. They want a product that is easy to install and that works as advertised, or a service that the client is happy with. They want happy customers, so they can sell more to them later and to use for referrals and as references to other customers.

Of course, it is everyone’s job (including Service, Product Management and Marketing) to ensure the deployment and follow-up with customers is strong, so that the brand continues to build on itself.

We can get along….
…And not only can we, but we must. The best organizations have Sales and Marketing aligned, to generate more revenue and accelerate growth.

The Sales organization is like every other target that Marketing deals with. It’s important to listen to them, understand what they want and need, and then deliver solutions that address those needs.

In our experience, understanding and delivering on Sales’ needs at each stage in the funnel is the best way to have your sales organization raving about what a great marketing team they have.


By Mike Neumeier, APR – November 26, 2008

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