Bridging the Sales & Marketing Disconnect is No Easy Task

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I wanted to get back to this discussion because it impacts so many organizations. This isn’t a new problem, it is one that has existed for decades and there are no clear signs of remission despite many efforts to find a cure.

One of the problems clearly is in how the two entities, Sales and Marketing, identify themselves and what they believe their mission is. In an article written by Derek Gilmore, back in 2010, Derek mentioned that most job postings for the Director of Marketing focused on brand building, creating collateral and attending trade shows. Clearly another important area is lead generation.  Derek went on to write “In contrast, today’s VP of Sales needs to know the numbers cold. They need to know the sales pipeline, close rates of the sales team and more.”

“The lack of analytical capability in the role of Marketing Director is a real problem today. This lack of analytical capability also creates a serious accountability problem. It also puts the Marketing Director at a disadvantage with a CFO when having to justify expenditures. They need to be able to sit in a management team meeting and demonstrate the ROI of their marketing programs. Once marketing transitions to a more metrics-based approach to their role, the alignment of sales and marketing will finally begin.”

In their article “How the Rift between Sales and Marketing Undermines Reps” of November 7, 2011, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson wrote: “In a recent Corporate Executive Board survey, sales executives’ top term for their marketing colleagues included “paper pushers,” “academic,” and perhaps worst of all, “irrelevant.” On the other hand, marketing executives called out their sales counterparts as “simple minded,” “cowboys,” and flat out “incompetent.” Strikingly, across several hundred sales and marketing responses, a full 87% were negative. In today’s historically difficult selling environment, the rift between sales and marketing seriously undermines even the best-performing reps, yet much of the sales support that marketing provides falls short because it’s focused on teaching customers about the supplier’s business, not the customer’s business.”

According to some of the research that has been presented, it looks like Sales may have a valid concern. Let’s take a look. In a research conducted by Firebrick Consulting they found that 78% of sales leaders report their teams are creating their own presentations. According to IDC, 58% of a vendor’s marketing content is not relevant to buyers. They estimate that this disconnect reduces the vendor’s chance of closing by 45%. According to the Gartner Group “More-effective proposal management and presentation creation can reduce the time required for sales to prepare such deliverables by as much as 50%.”

In their research paper “How CMO’s can close the Sales and Marketing Divide, Sept 2008” the Gartner Group stated: “Efforts to increase coordination between marketing and sales functions often fail because of corporate parochialism, perceived variances in priorities, cultural differences and mutual antagonisms. Marketing personnel see sales as unresponsive to corporate development strategies, while sales personnel tend to view the marketing department as detached from the realities encountered in sales cycles. The primary responsibility of the sales department is to win new clients and retain and expand relationships with established accounts.”

“Marketing benefits from closer collaboration with the sales organizations, because marketing devises the go-to-market strategies, provides the language justifying and promoting value propositions, creates the marketing collateral and assumes considerable responsibility for demand generation. Departmental credibility and effectiveness will increase if programs are viewed as providing more-direct, positive contributions to the day-to-day efforts of the sales force. Notably, marketing usually retains more expertise in sophisticated analytics and creative work than sales, presenting unique resources that could help sales teams exploit market conditions.”

A good friend of mine, Judy Miao who is Managing Director at PQResults in New York, sent me a great article written by the Customer Manufacturing Group called “The Marketing & Sales Disconnect, Removing it Once and For All.” they write: “The disconnect, some call it war, between marketing and sales is found whenever the two functions exist in a company and at least one person works in each department. To “end the war” between the two vital functions of marketing and sales, you must address two much deeper issues, namely:

a)      What these functions are and do (and that – even today – is not well understood), and

b)      How these two functions should interact from an overall process level – that is, what the links between them are, and what information and/or activities travel along with those links.

The key to marketing and sales working well together is to work off of a complete process model of the integrated marketing/sales function. In short, ending the war between marketing and sales requires using process management to manage these two areas. It requires that the roles and responsibilities of each unit in the overall scheme of things are clearly defined, that the entire spectrum of required capabilities is put in place and appropriately resourced, and that the various elements link together effectively.”

So, do I think that I have come any closer to solving this age old problem? Of course not! However, if we can get both sales and marketing talking to each other instead of at each other, then we can start to make some progress. This disconnect has major ramifications to organizations as it goes unchecked. The bottom line is, and has been mentioned before, that these two groups need each other and depend on each other, so they need to start collaborating rather than competing with each other, and explore tools and ways in which they can provide input and feedback to each other. Perhaps then we can start building the bridge that connects the two.

I would love to hear what you think, your experiences and remarks on ways to help solve this dilemma.

  1. Hi Chuck:

    Thanks for this

    (1) Based upon the new buying model, sales and marketing need to collectively create, web based, interactive, graphically visual, sales tools, that demonstrate, using the buyers numbers, sales and marketings business reason to buy (ROI, TCO, Cost Reduction, Cost Recovery, et,al)

    Because this is what prospects want.

    Because interactive, visual presentations add the following to a sales presentation:
    Improve retention of your message by up to 38%
    Reduce the time taken to explain complex issues by up to 40%.
    Advance participant persuasion by as much as 43%
    Be perceived as more professional and Develop audience belief
    Sway your audiences beliefs up to 67% more
    Achieve your goal up to 67% of the time vs. 33%..A 100% Increase!

    (2) Another area that desperately needs integration is sales training (facilitated ongoing learning) and sales implementation (ongoing facilitated application) because 85% of sales training doe not advance performance
    beyond 120 days.

    Integrating these two areas will transfer individual learning and behavior change long term and will advance long term performance as much as 300%

  2. Great post Chuck
    Made me recall another CEB paper from last year that showed that, on average, customers now complete about 60% of the purchasing decision process BEFORE contacting a sales rep. Read the conclusions here ( ) but the implications are fundamental for modern marketing and sales organizations. Not only do Sales and marketing need to work together but they also need to continually adapt and come up with better ways to influence the selection and buying process. Given how slow they have been to collaborate perhaps the need to adapt fast to a new buying process can achieve the collaboration you are espouncing?

    • Thanks Jeff, the key here is getting the two organizations to work together and share information. Since sales is the front line interface with the prospect, there needs to be a mechanism that allows feedback from the sales/customer interaction to filter up to marketing so they have a clearer understanding of what the prospect wants and needs. Since most marketing organizations never get out to make sales calls, this becomes an important conduit in which they can get that information.

  3. Hey Chuck, good post to generate discussion around the traditonal “problems” between Sales & Marketing. Having worn both hats in recent postions where new business revenue was the main objective, and, where I had 100% accountability for solving the problems or perishing since the CEO only had one person to blame, one quickly learns to focus on the solution. I agree in the reality that words like “war, rift and disconnect” are popular when discussing the S&M problems, however, I’d suggest leaders should focus more on how to converse with words like “peace, agreement and connect” about S&M more often. Reality is that customers have changed their buying process by spending 70% of their evaluation/reserach time on the web BEFORE contacting a vendor. The research paper by Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera, “Uncovering the Hidden Sales Cycle” published August 2011 ( is a must read for today’s S&M executives. So, it’s obvioius that S&M methods and strategies to find, cultivate, prospect and sell new accounts MUST CHANGE for B2B vendors. Add the emergence of cloud-based CRM, integrated apps from auto lead assignment to appointment scheduling, marketing automation solutions, mobile capabilities, video etc., there’s a critical requirement to synch S&M to the CUSTOMER. It’s magic when the S&M teams work in harmony for the common objective of securing new account customers for the company. It works! In my opinion, the customer’s behavior on the web has clearly landed the traditonal S&M “problem” on the CXO’s plate to solve. No more excuses, the customer’s have changed the game, and, the tools are available to create a dynamic S&M process that continually creates quality leads and closes new customers. Just do it or keep complaining and lose more deals to your competitors because as a CXO, you are still insisting on the traditonal approaches to S&M.

    • Thanks Dick for a very insightful response here. There is a great deal of truth in what you say. Again, my whole problem and issue with the disconnect is the rivalry between Sales & Marketing rather than the alignment. Both groups seem to be more at odds with each other than working to try and bridge that gap and work together. I’m not sure that any of us have come up with a way to solve this problem. Sure the CXO can dictate change but unless both groups buy into the alignment I just don’t think it will happen.

      Great comments and I appreciate the information you shared here.

  4. Great post Chuck… thanks for sharing it on LinkedIn. As you know, your experience matches my own. So… what to do? I suggest two steps: sell the C-Level team on the ROI advantages of setting joint objectives and requirements for both sales and marketing; then execute and lead the cross team polination. Every MarCom Director should have close rates top of mind. Every Sales Director should be concerned with marketing messaging as it relates to lead quality. Both should collaborate.

    • Great point Scott. I hear what you are saying about mutual accountability on both sides and I totally agree. Until both sides start to collaborate and work more closely together the whole sales iniatitive will fail.