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Top 10 Reasons Marketing Hates Sales

One of the most controversial posts on Sales Machine is "Top 10 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing." It generated a lot of comments, including one that detailed ten reasons that "marketing rolls their eyes at sales."

While that comment irritated me at the time, I've come to the conclusion that it contained some real wisdom, and provides a basis for discussing the rift between the two groups. Here's an edited and expanded version of that comment, along with some advice for how to lower the rancor and get some productive work done.

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Illustrations by Lorelyn Medina

REASON #1: Sales Acts Superior
  • Description: Sales professionals often seem to trade off their reputation for being the heavenly bodies who "bring home the bacon?."
  • Why They Do It: Sales pros know that if sales don't take place, there isn't a business, so everyone else is dependent upon them. So, in a certain sense, their attitude is justified.
  • Why It Rankles: Ideally, selling is supposed to be a team effort. Marketing (and many other functions) are supposed to act like a Wonderbra -- the hidden support that makes the Sales team look sexy.
  • Here's the Cure: First, confirm that the "wonderbra" isn't a ball-and-chain. Is Marketing REALLY supporting Sales, in a measurable manner that can be causally tied to better sales performance? Or is Marketing generating "deliverables" that have zero appeal to customers? If the former, then Sales Management should institute a compensation plan for marketing that recognizes their contribution, and schedule "joint celebrations" for big wins. If you're a team, you act like one.
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REASON #2: Sales Raids Marketing's Budget
  • Description: Sales teams sometimes see the marketing budget as a "jollies" budget for spending on meals, parties, alcohol and "sponsorship" -- all with no heed to return on that investment.
  • Why They Do It: Sales professionals are always looking for social opportunities to meet and bond with customers. They see the activity as useful to positioning for future and ongoing sales. Also, they often see Marketing wasting money on useless "sales tools" or branding exercises, so they figure: "why not?"
  • Why It Rankles: Marketing managers must justify every last penny of their budgets and there is no excuse for any marketing manager who cannot now measure and report on what the business is getting for its investment.
  • Here's the Cure: It's a matter of accountability. First, make sure that Marketing is really capable of spending money more effectively. If asked to choose between "host a trade event" and "give sales 100 extra, fully-qualified leads a week", most sales teams are going to ask for the latter. If marketing does host events, set up a tracking system so that there's a way to track whether or not the event resulted in the development of new business or an increase in business from existing customers. If not, stop holding such events.
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REASON #3: Sales Doesn't Respect Marketing
  • Description: Sales pros can sometimes seem dismissive of any activity carried out by Marketing. They apparently believe that all marketing work is dispensable, consisting of attractive girls who do events and brochures. The consider marketing something of a rest home for failed Salespeople.
  • Why They Do It: From the perspective of Sales, the only real job that Marketing has is to generate sales leads that are easy to close. If Marketing isn't doing that, then it's easy for sales professionals to simply dismiss Marketing as fluff.
  • Why It Rankles: Regardless of whether you think of marketing activity, it takes time and effort. And marketing groups that really do help sales work hard. In addition, marketing belongs to the class of worker who is often asked to work 50 to 60 hours a week, with no overtime pay. That's no fun.
  • Here's The Cure: Probably the best way to fix this problem is to have a program where sales professionals get to work a quarter or two in marketing. Not only will they have learned how marketing works, they can also help marketing get more on track creating materials and programs that actually help generate sales.
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REASON #4: Sales Takes All the Credit
  • Description: Sales pros often seem to think they are the only people responsible for bringing sales, even though other groups may have been involved in making the sale.
  • Why They Do It: Because sales pros are on the front lines, they are, in fact, the "proximate cause" that the sale happened. Also, many times the "help" that's available from other groups seems more like potshots from the "sales prevention brigade."
  • Why It Rankles: In well-functioning companies, marketers are responsible for the entire front end of the sales funnel -- generating awareness, positive brand perception, interest and initial inquiries. They can measure leads, manage the flow of leads and tell you what the qualification rate is. Then we hand it over to sales. Needless to say, they expect and deserve credit for helping.
  • Here's The Cure: Track the leads that the marketing group is generating. Compare them to the leads that the sales team generates itself. If the conversion rate of the leads from the marketing group is higher than the conversion rate of the sales-generated lead, give additional compensation to marketing, and include them in the "celebration" of the win.
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REASON #5: Sales Demands Expensive Brochures
  • Description: Sales teams sometimes demand a "glossy" brochure for every product they sell, because they think customers won't take the product seriously without it.
  • Why They Do It: In some markets, the glossy brochure is the "cost of entry." It shows that the selling firm is serious about the product line. However, it's undeniable that SOME sales professionals wrongly think that the brochure can create credibility that the sales professional lacks. Sorry, but that doesn't work.
  • Why It Rankles: Some customers don't like glossies and are happiest with an electronic document, or a plain printed page. Many prefer receive product information electronically (easy to pass on and harder to misplace), and if they do have a printed copy, they like to be able to scribble their own notes in the margin.
  • What's The Cure: Customer research. Find out, with a statistically valid study, how the customers in your target market perceive "glossies." If they really do need to see them before buying, keep the glossies in the budget. If not, scrap the huge environmental, workload and budget cost of collateral and teach sales to sell without the false crutch.
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REASON #6: Sales Only Sells What's Easy To Sell
  • Description: Sales sells what's easy to sell today, even when it might be more strategic (and better long term) to sell something that's more difficult.
  • Why They Do It: Less than 50 percent of the sales groups in the world hit their quota regularly. Sales goals are often ambitious and it can take every ounce of effort just to make the bottom rung. As such, sales pros don't feel they should be taking a cut in pay in order to try to sell something "strategic."
  • Why It Rankles: Marketers are trying to take a long term focus. They (the good ones, anyways) can sense when the market is about to change and if they can't get Sales to move a new product that's better positioned for the future, it can be the death knell for the entire company.
  • What's The Cure: Sales sells what they're paid to sell. That's the beauty of the profession. If management wants them to sell new products, then management needs to change the commission plan to reflect that new direction. In other words, selling a hard-to-sell strategic product should generate a bigger commission and an extra bump in quota fulfillment.
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REASON #7: Sales Gives Up When They Hit Quota
  • Description: Unless there is a multiplier on target, Sales won't continue to sell beyond target, even if there are larger reasons why the company needs to make additional sales.
  • Why They Do It: When you're working in Sales, it's very easy to think of making quota as "I'm done," because sales pros know that, next quarter, they're going to have a higher quota that's more difficult to make..
  • Why It Rankles: Marketing (and many other groups) work for a fixed salary and are often asked to work extra hours without extra pay. It's frustrating to be putting in extra time, when other folk are relaxing for the last week of the quarter.
  • What's The Cure: If there are strategic goals to be reached beyond quota, the bonuses for Sales should reflect that. But, longer term, the real problem lies in a business culture that glorifies unpaid overtime. Maybe management could hire a few more marketers, so that 60 hour weeks don't become the norm? Just an idea...
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REASON #8: Sales is Overly Protective
  • Description: Sales teams often ban marketers from talking to customers because they "might mess up the relationship" or "the customer might get fatigued from too much contact."
  • Why They Do It: Sales pros have noticed many marketers have two modes when dealing with customers: talking TO them (i.e. lecturing) and talking AT them (i.e. advertising). However, with customers, the key activity is always LISTENING, not TALKING. In short, some marketers talk too much, which irritates customers and damages relationships.
  • Why It Rankles: Marketers cannot learn what customers need, or how to find qualified leads, unless they are allowed to meet with customers.
  • What's The Cure: The best way for marketers to learn about customers and the needs of the sales team is to spend an internship in Sales. Marketers should "shadow" a sales professional, under strict guidance to "listen and learn." Then the marketer can take the knowledge back to the marketing group and astound them.
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REASON #9: Sales Ignores Market Strategy
  • Description: Sales pros tend to mock Marketers for having business degrees that are "no use" in the real world. Then they resist any change proposed by marketing.
  • Why They Do It: Most sales pros are well aware that academia is hostile to the sales function and that the theories about selling taught in B-schools are useless when applied in the real world. They're particularly leery of "market strategy" because it all seems to "airy-fairy" to be of any interest.
  • Why It Rankles: Sometimes businesses fail because Sales (among other functions) refuse to listen to the marketing group when they report on market changes, technological futures, competitor trends and the company's strengths and weaknesses in context.
  • What's The Cure: First, sharply curtail the amount of "market strategizing" that goes on. Most of it IS useless, and once the firm is going in a certain direction, trying to change the strategy midstream during a tactical execution is worse than useless. Keep track of marketing's ability to predict the future, and give them credibility when they've proven they can actually add value.
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REASON #10: Sales Does Not Appreciate Good Leads
  • Description: Sales teams sometimes brief Marketing on what leads they would like, what profile, how well-qualified, how many of them they'd like and when they'd like them. Then the sales teams give those leads to a junior salesperson rather than taking them seriously.
  • Why They Do It: This happens because the sales team does not believe that marketing is capable of actually generating a qualified lead. They probably got this impression after following up on 20 or so leads and discovering that they weren't really very well qualified.
  • Why It Rankles: Here's a case where the marketing group is REALLY trying to do what Sales says they want, and then the behavior of the sales team completely negates the effort. So why bother?
  • What's The Cure: There are two ways to handle this. First, if marketing REALLY believes the leads should be easy to close, they should bite bullet and close some of them. That will get the attention of the sales team, guaranteed. Otherwise, the marketing team may need to work more closely with the sales team on what constitutes a qualified lead. In general, a lead is a qualified if, and only if, the sales team that you currently have is able to sell to that lead.