I feel like a relationship counselor writing this blog post but most of the technology companies that I’ve worked with over the past 20+ years have had a dysfunctional relationship between sales and marketing. The only thing that varies is how severe the dysfunction is between the two groups. Open disclaimer, I am an unabashed career sales person so my perspective will be skewed. Having said that, I have had the good fortune to work with some truly talented marketing professionals and teams over the years so I can speak to sales and marketing dynamics that work well. Not surprisingly, the highest performing sales teams that I have managed always had a strong and successful working relationship with marketing.
So, what are the top deadly sins to look for in a highly dysfunctional sales & marketing relationship? Read on and I will share my personal experiences:
1. Marketing is measured and rewarded on leads not revenue- How can you have alignment if the two groups are focused on different goals and results? The simple answer is that you can’t. The beauty of measuring and aligning marketing and sales purely on revenue is that you save a ton of time that is constantly spent debating the definition of a lead:-) At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to sales people if marketing is generating 1000 leads or 1 lead. What does matter is that marketing is helping to provide the necessary air cover and finding the right leads that turn in to real opportunities which get converted in to sales.
2. Marketing is not held accountable- Many years back, I was a passionate sales director meeting for cocktails with an equally passionate marketing director that I worked with. He is one of the most exceptional marketing professionals that I have had the pleasure of working with. As a general rule, when I find people that are exceptional at what they do I tend to find ways to work with them again as evidenced by the fact that the aforementioned marketing gentleman and I have worked together at 4 different companies thus far and counting! During our cocktail conversation, he expressed tremendous frustration at not feeling appreciated by sales. He did work very hard at trying to understand what our needs were and help support them through his team and their efforts. He actually thinks very much like a sales person which is one of the reasons why he is so good at what he does. I explained that one of the things that always separated sales and marketing was the level of accountability that sales people were held to versus marketing. Sales people live in a quantifiable black and white world whereas marketing tends to live in shades of gray. Sales people have to meet and exceed certain revenue thresholds or they lose their jobs. What is the average tenure of a VP of Sales versus a VP of Marketing? How long are mediocre people tolerated in sales for? Marketing tends to have squishy goals with lots of caveats. Sales isn’t afforded that luxury. One of the best things that a company can do to foster better alignment between sales & marketing is to establish clear goals for marketing and hold them accountable. I trust that you will find sales “appreciating” marketing a lot more when they are measured and held accountable in the same ways that sales is.
3. Marketing does not spend enough time out in the field- One of the biggest frustrations for sales people is that they are on the front lines every day talking to prospects and customers. Sales people know what their competitors are doing that are winning deals. They know what the customers want in products and solutions that are missing in their products and costing them deals. Sales people know what the general market perception is of their company and whether they are known or not. Marketing needs to proactively go out in the field with sales and learn firsthand how they can better help support sales to sell more effectively. Most marketing folks tend to be viewed as “ivory tower” types that very rarely leave the office and spend quality time in the field in front of customers. To compound matters, these are the same types that constantly represent that they know what the customer wants or what the competitor’s tactics are. That information is typically outdated and undermines their credibility with sales.