Can We Get Sales and Marketing to Play Nice Together?

There is an ongoing tension in some companies, based on false stereotypes,between the Sales Department and the Marketing Department. Talk to theSales staff and they’ll tell you that marketing doesn’t get them enoughqualified leads. Talk to the Marketing staff and they’ll tell you that they do generate those leads, but sales doesn’t properly follow up on them because they spend most of their time entertaining clients in fancy restaurants and on the golf course…when they aren’t going to the bank to cash their fat commission checks! Remember the false stereotypes!!!

But what can be done about this? Why can’t we all just get along? Doesn’t it make sense that performance would improve with increased cooperation? Of course! And current research confirms this. In a 2005 study of 300 companies with sales of $10-600 million, 95% felt that their sales would increase if sales and marketing worked more closely together. Of course, this is easier said than done. Here’s how we did it, and I hope this helps you.

I came up through the ranks as a marketing guy. Later in my career while running an educational software company, I learned to look beyond designing ads and brochures that won awards. We needed to sell stuff, not hang plaques on the wall! Spending lavishly to generate huge volumes of (largely unqualified) leads gets you promoted in the marketing department, but can get you fired in the C-Suite, where maximizing both the top and bottom lines are paramount. It was at this point that I came to appreciate the words of a mentor early in my career – “we can’t pay our rent, turn on the lights or make payroll until somebody buys what we’re selling.”

So we did three simple, but crucial things that lead to a lot of “A-HA moments” and drastically improved relations between Marketing and Sales:

  1. We told our Marketing people to think of Sales as your customer. Find out what they need and give it to them. Have them define what a qualified lead is to them. This will lead to better market segmentation and product positioning and will guide your lead generation and collateral development activities.
  2. We sent our Marketing people to sales meetings as well as the occasional sales call. This did two things. It showed the marketing folks that sales was not just nice suits, fancy meals and golf outings. It also strengthened the personal relationships between the individuals who, if they worked together, had the power to grow the business.
  3. We designed an incentive system that rewarded everybody for meeting and exceeding the company’s sales goals. This not only forced marketing and sales to work together for their own respective self interests, but helped establish the company-wide sales culture all businesses need (talk to my colleague Todd Cohen about sales culture!)

Sales needs Marketing to provide the tools to do battle in the trenches. Marketing needs Sales to take a lead and convert it into a paying customer. Embracing the collaboration between the two departments and turning it to your favor will go a long way towards your ultimate success!

Eric David is the President of TEAM David Associates, LLC ( which provides marketing, sales and general management consulting to small businesses as well as non-profit social enterprises. TEAM David Associates is based in Garnet Valley, PA. Eric can be reached at: [email protected].

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