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  • Simon Boardman

Sales Vs Marketing. It's Knock Down, Drag Out Time!

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Before you blindly agree with all the hype around the apparent desperate state of the Sales and Marketing relationship in BtoB consider that this theory might be wrong!

  • While there may be some challenges, it's not the catastrophic state of affairs that various software companies, consultants, and advisers would all have you believe. Maybe they are all solutions just looking for a problem?

  • Consider what and who you are as a company, and where you want to go, and the role that both sales and marketing play, before you jump to a conclusion.

Based on the amount of web content and the age of articles addressing the subject, maybe there is a real problem. There's certainly a lot of "ink" on it on the World-Wide Interweb, and a Harvard Business Review Article from as far back as July 2006 discusses the symptoms and suggests some remedies. So, this is not a new phenomenon, and the HBR article rightly advises that under certain circumstances you don't have to feel obliged to make any changes. Don't become a victim of the latest fashionable thinking, making changes because that's what the "experts" say. Do it (or don't do it) because you have investigated and reached a thoughtful, researched conclusion.

After conducting a thorough investigation (you always wanted to be a cop, right?) and if you conclude you do have a problem and are committed to making a change, then you need to understand the origins of that problem. They might not be what you think they are, and they might be more profound than you first imagined.

  • People have biases, conscious or otherwise. These are likely to predispose them toward sales and away from marketing (Sales is always perceived as heroic and vigorous, Marketing as over intellectualizing inhabitants of ivory towers). Without knowing it you and your team might have (and will continue to) bully marketing into failure.

  • Could it be old-fashioned gender bias? According to Gemma Charles in Campaign "…a full 75% of marketers are women. But as we know, most CEOs are male. Female CEO's account for only 6.4% in the Fortune 500 according to The Washington Post from June 2017. Despite all the claims around progress in this area, recent revelations tell a different story.

  • Maybe we carry around biases based on our experience of past marketing failures. In other words, we have become conditioned with a negative feeling toward marketing.

Some heavy stuff that won't be solved by a few company booze-ups and an open-door office policy. Some painful nettles to grasp here, but if you lack the conviction, you will only ever be trying to fix symptoms.

What Can Be Done? – The Verto Verdict

  • Some considerations from their Harvard Business Review Article in July 2006 "Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing" by Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham, and Suj Krishnaswamy bear repeating. If these three conditions exist, then don't do anything:

    • The company is small

    • Sales and Market enjoy good informal relations

    • Or Marketing is still a Sales Support function.

  • You could appoint a CRO. While I object to fashionable titles, a position that has responsibility for both Sales and Marketing MUST define their roles and enable them to serve one another for the higher cause.

  • Find rallying points for sales and marketing to collaborate around. For example, lead generation (inbound and outbound), messaging, content and physical events all represent opportunities that force constructive and necessary communication.

  • Insist that the marketing team (or person) spends time in the field with the sales team visiting customers and prospects. Ensure they man the booth at trade shows, engaging meaningfully with delegates, not just laying out the fliers!

  • Finally, if you have capable sales and marketing people that you want to keep but who aren't "besties" then appoint a third person to work on projects and activities that overlap, forcing collaboration.

In conclusion – don't accept that you have sales and marketing dysfunction just because everybody says that everybody does. You can take it as read that's it is something you should pay attention to as you would with all executive functions and inter-department or team communications.


Taking some advice on the "length" of my articles and the lack of attention span these days, this post is the "Cliffsnotes" version. If you want to read the full article click here and head over the LinkedIn. Let us know what you are seeing out there.

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