Why Sales throws Marketing under the bus (and how you can avoid the fatalities!)

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Sales asks: How many marketers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Sales answers: 15

1 to ignore the request from sales for more light.
1 to develop a creative brief on why light is important.
7 to shoot the YouTube video on how to screw in a light bulb.
1 to evaluate the amount of light offered by competitors and draft a competitive analysis.
2 to create the product slick.
1 to determine competitive pricing for the service and then set the cost well above that.
1 to buy 150-watt bulb for a 60-watt lamp.
1 to put the right spin on the process.

The above scenario, while humorous, is a sad indictment of the misalignment and disconnect that often exists between Sales and Marketing departments – a disconnect that, according to a recent webinar hosted by market intelligence firm IDC, can cost a company in excess of 10 percent of its annual revenues. While some organizations have been attempting, for many years, to equip their sales force with the right information, at the right time, in the right format, to help drive the sales process forward, many companies still struggle to get their Sales and Marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies.

One of the major reasons for the misalignment between Sales and Marketing is that the two departments simply have different agendas. Because of the lack of communication, understanding and alignment, Sales believes that the content and collateral created by Marketing isn’t as effective as it should be. At the same time, most marketers don’t have an effective way to track and receive feedback on what collateral was actually used to win and close business, or to know what was working and what wasn’t.

Since Marketing rarely makes face-to-face sales calls to actually see how the customer-facing content that has been developed for them is working, it is almost impossible for Marketing to react accordingly and know when it isn’t. My previous Blog “Are office politics, silos and turf wars killing your sales?”  is a perfect example of the problem that exists between Sales and Marketing. The politics, silos and turf wars between these two groups is often one of the main reasons why neither Sales nor Marketing are as effective as they could and should be. So, it’s all too easy for Sales to throw Marketing under the bus and complain that Marketing is “out of touch”, with the “real world” of Sales.

When Marketing responds to a request from Sales to create a particular piece of content or collateral, it’s not uncommon that it goes unused once it has been created. Marketing responds to the Sales request only to get thrown under the bus, by Sales, because it didn’t meet their needs. So, whose fault was that? I mean, did Sales not provide the right information or detail of exactly what it was they needed? Or did Marketing not listen clearly enough and ask for clarification regarding what Sales wanted and needed? So they wind up finger pointing and blaming each other for the outcome. All too often we find salespeople spending way too much time rewriting marketing collateral that takes them away from the time they should be using to sell. This results in less selling time in the field  with collateral that is often less effective than the original marketing piece they attempted to rewrite.

The best way to avoid these fatalities is to clearly  have a formal process in place that allows each group to collaborate and work together for the common goal of the whole organization and customer. Information and feedback need to flow in both directions so Sales and Marketing are in sync and are supporting each other. If the two groups can develop this type of relationship where they both recognize that each desperately needs the other, then and only then, will they have each other’s backs and eliminate anyone from being thrown under the bus.

  1. Coordination between the marketing and sales teams need to be done on a regular so that their efforts are aligned. This allows the likelihood of a prospective client purchasing the product or services of the company. Coordination also optimizes operations.

  2. Chuck, great distinction between the two worlds of sales and marketing. The true is it is usually a timing issue. Marketing is a nurturing tool to keep a top of mind awareness of a prospect until their problem becomes big enough to reach out to a salesman.

    Salesman on the other hand only want to be talking to prospects when they are hot and ready to buy. Part of the solution is to understand that sales doesn’t want to do marketing and marketing doesn’t want to do sales. So your solution is a great bridge between the two!

    Nice blog!

  3. Chuck you have said it well here. We exist daily at the intersection of sales and marketing and we see these turf wars and often competing agendas strangle field sales initiatives. There are marketing dominated organizations and there are sales dominated organizations and then there are high and low performing blends of the two. I have worked in both all extreems in my career.

    My belief is that anyone working in marketing operations should have to carry a bag and quota to get a real sense of the frustration field sales sometimes experiences. Marketing materials do not sell deals, brands do not sell deals, logos and typeface do not sell deals, they just help to open doors, plant seeds, create images and set expectations making it easier for the sales rep to have the first or next or hopefully the closing conversation in the sales cycle.

    You are right there needs to be a process, there needs to be cross pollination there needs to be collaboration!

  4. Chuck, good perspective on a Key Issue.
    One which needs our attention, but WHO can solve the probelm, other than the person who owns it?

    Sales and Markleing, when they align do so by Cooperation and Coordination it Rocks!

  5. Great article… really made me chuckle!
    Would be great to ask a marketeer how many sales people it takes to screw in a lightbulb?!

    As someone that has genuinely worked both sides of the fence I can sympathise with both.
    Clearly they do need a formal process to encourage collaboration, but surely if both just took the time to walk a mile in each others shoes before both taking the time to listen to what customers really want then everyone would be talking a common language instead of worrying about different agendas?
    Perhaps we should consider ‘what is the perfect sale?’

  6. Okay, so that’s sales’ side of the issue. But from another perspective, sales isn’t particularly good at giving marketing any feedback about what customers are saying or where they see the marketplace going. Coordination would be useful, of course. But equally important is for both sides to better understand the other’s role in the organization. That needs to come from above.

  7. I don’t think this story is coming from just one side of the aisle at all. I’ve been in sales, and in marketing, and straddling the two as CEO of a software company undergoing a business turnaround. However, both sales and marketing are wounded by this protracted battle–and at least some of the blame goes to top management for having failed to clearly define who is responsible for what, AND how they will go about the doing of it. If you’ve ever had a sales job in which you learned, to your surprise, that you were expected to do things that CLEARLY are in the province of marketing (or in a marketing job that mirrors this mis-fit) you’ll know exactly what I mean.

    Sales is a team sport; Marketing is a team sport; BUSINESS is a team sport. I agree with Chuck — clean process, clear definition, and good ‘coaching’ can fix these problems.

  8. I want to thank each of you for your great comments and responses. I agree that this is a 2-way street with both Sales and Marketing taking equal responsibility. The whole idea here is to get people talking and being open about what they want and need, so that they work together and are not advisaries.

  9. Another great post Chuck,
    There is definitely a long-standing contention between marketing and sales organizations. One thing is clear. Neither organization feels the other understands their issues. So I have an idea. What if marketing went undercover – just like they do in the TV Show Undercover Boss?

    What if cameras followed the head of marketing – perhaps posing as an MBA student on assignment – around for one week as he or she “interned” with an inside rep, a field rep, and a district sales manager? Granted, it might not make for good television. But certainly –if done with honest intentions – it could make for a worthy, real-life experiment for any organization.

    And the opposite should also take place, perhaps at the same time. I’m curious what you think would happen… what insights would they gain?

  10. Wow Nancy, I love the way you think outside the box! Make no mistake it would definitely open up their eyes to the challenge that sales people have and also get direct feedback from the prospects they are expected to connect with. I’m not so sure they could pull it off with a camera in tow, but I like the idea. You know Michael Fox’s old company Tribal Knowledge, actually went out and did video interviews with salespeople and I believe with customers to capture their actual feedback and then those companies used those videos to train their people with.

    I think it would be great if the people who were responsible for creating the marketing collateral actually were able to actually see the reaction of the people they intended for it to be delivered to. So, if they can’t actually go on face to face calls with sales people then they should at least have a process in place that allows for sales to rate the content they are given, as well as make comments on its quality and value. That way we open up the lines of communication between the two organizations and so both can benefit from the feedback.

  11. Chuck, thanks for adroitly articulating this rampant problem in the modern corporate ecosystem.
    I really like the sales question / answer.

    Furthermore, I would like to add few pennies of mine. In my opinion, in addition to the antidote (Collaboration) identified by you, proper defining and delegation of the responsibility is important. For instance, in my company there was a huge brouhaha about content in a prospect presentation prepared by marketing team, as sales and marketing was blaming each other for not populating the latest statistics.

    I strongly believe that proper job description not only helps in reducing friction, but also helps in effective monitor and recognition of deserving teams.


  12. Although the article touches on many of the chronic and critically important factors of sales vs. marketing dysfunction, the roots of the problem are embedded much more firmly than most of us imagine. No solutions will be effective without systematic changes to each and every company in need.

  13. I want to thank both of you for your comments as they are spot on in my book. My next blog due out tomorrow will have additional statistics on the impact of this particular problem that seems to face almost evey organization. Keep the comments coming they are great and appreciated.