Editor’s note: Scott Place is president of Maverick Marketing, a provider of complete, outsourced marketing communications services to early-stage and rapidly-growing companies. Place will also serve as a panel session speaker at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s (CED) upcoming Engage: Sales & Marketing (www.cednc.org/engage ), set for Dec. 13 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. This is the latest in a series of Entrepreneurial Spirirt columns done in partnership with WRAL Local Tech Wire.
_______________________________________________________________________________________There seems to be a natural tendency for sales and marketing teams to have more than a mild disagreement. I’ve seen this happen a hundred times and even participated in more than one conference room brawl. I’ve been on both sides of the table, and I firmly believe there are ways for both teams to work well together that don’t involve the marketing weenies challenging the sales weasels to a parking lot showdown.

First and foremost, both teams should agree, but sometimes don’t, on the need to understand the customer and what they are willing to buy. They should also be able to easily agree that launching new products or services and bringing them to market profitably is in both of their interests and the interests of the stock holders. Both teams have the same goals, but they come at it from different perspectives. Understanding, and maybe even appreciating, the differences can really help.

The Marketing Mindset

Marketers want to position new offerings in the market that should be wildly successful “if they can just get the sales weasels to do their job”. They conduct research, talk to customers, develop sales tools and train the sales force on how to go to market. They get frustrated by the constant requests from sales for more tools. It’s never enough, and it is particularly maddening when the sales people don’t seem to correctly use what they have. The marketing team also wants to know why the sales team never seems to convert the leads generated through campaigns. Marketers are particularly unhappy when they’re used as the primary excuse for missed sales targets.

The Sales Mindset

Salespeople want to close business and make money for themselves and the company. This determination drives new offerings to success. They don’t want to be burdened with reporting or meetings with marketing. If the marketing weenies would just give them the right tools, they will make it all happen. They will make their own tools if marketing won’t give them what they need or show them how to use what they are given. Marketing needs to provide them with good leads that can be converted quickly and easily. Why don’t the marketing weenies understand that the salespeople are the ones with a quota to meet?

How To Problem Solve Constructively

How should things work in the real world? Both teams need to understand they are codependent. Each team has skills the other one needs and can use to their advantage.

Marketing people need to understand that no matter what they do, the sales team puts a pen in someone’s hand to sign a contract. Marketers exist to dream about new products and develop the tools salespeople need to sell them, but they should actively involve sales in both processes. Salespeople talk to customers and prospects every day, which gives them a real sense of what can sell and what won’t. Marketers also need to understand salespeople are under pressure to hit sales objectives, and it’s their neck if they don’t.

Salespeople need to understand that marketing people give them products or services to sell. Good product marketers conduct research to determine what should be successful. Failed products are just as fatal for them as missing a sales quota. Salespeople can go to them with ideas about new features or services but should understand the feedback has to be captured in a project plan and will take time to deliver. Don’t sell what you don’t have or can’t be sure you will have in a short period of time. Salespeople also need to realize marketing communications people create tools and generate leads for them to convert into revenue, but they frequently have limited budgets to spend. Sales can help by going with them to senior management for more budget and by actively converting as many of the leads generated as possible.

So what’s the bottom line? Better communication between the teams will help, even if there is not an active appreciation of how the teams are interdependent. In the best of all worlds, both teams will find ways to complement and support each other. Going to lunch or for drinks to build understanding and working relationships is much better than a conference room steel cage death match.