Marketplace Chasm: The Divide Between Marketing and Sales

First published July 18, 2013 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Marketing people and salespeople don’t like each other very much. Oh sure, to be politically correct, they will pay lip service to the ideal that they’re all part of one big happy family, working for the common good of the company. But deep down, you know what I say to be true.  Salespeople don’t trust the sneaky and manipulative ways of marketing people. And marketing people think salespeople are a bunch of type A prima donnas. I know –I’ve heard the backstabbing begin when one or the other leave the room. These are two tribes that are uncomfortable sharing the same teepee.

I believe it’s because they don’t think alike. Marketers are long-range operators. They are more comfortable at a distance from their target – sort of like a bomber pilot in WWII. There, they can objectify the campaign, thinking in abstract strategies. They like the 30,000-foot view. Up there, you can see the big picture and plan accordingly. It’s also a lot less messy.

Salespeople like trench warfare. They prefer rolling up their sleeves and battling it out on the front lines, where rulebooks routinely get tossed in favor of whatever works. Ask any office administrator whom the worst culprits are when it comes to filling out forms and filing reports –an accusatory finger will be pointing directly at the sales department door.  The salesperson’s philosophy is that the rules don’t apply to them, as long as they get results.

Look at one common point of confrontation between the two: the lead-gen form. Marketing people want to gain as much information as possible to plug into the prospect database, so they can slice and dice the data to their heart’s content. They’re not completely happy until they can segment and profile based on height, weight, religious affiliation, shoe size, ethnic background, educational level, blood type, current mood, number of relevant sites visited in the past 72 hours, underwear worn, pets owned and brand of toothpaste preferred. All a salesperson wants is a name, some form of contact and a semi-regular pulse. They’ll take it from there.

So, what’s the big deal? Who cares if salespeople and marketers don’t play nice together?  Well, I care. And I say that as a customer. The problem here is that as the sales department and the marketing department have their little turf skirmish, I’m caught in the war zone. All I want is the smoothest possible path to my eventual purchase, on my terms, at my speed. Your job, Ms. Salesperson and Mr. Marketer, is to help me get there. I don’t really care who got blindingly drunk at the last corporate retreat, or who is consistently a pedantic ass at the weekly sales and marketing “huddle.” I just want to buy the best stuff at the best price — period.

What inevitably happens when marketers and salespeople feud is that the path to purchase gets dictated by them, rather than by the customer. Hand-offs from one department to the other can be unnecessarily bumpy, due to internal problems that have nothing to do with the customer. Sometimes, the lack of communication between the two sides requires customers to do all the heavy lifting to keep the sale on track — including supplying information multiple times, constantly explaining their requirements and having to sit through redundant sales pitches.

In the old days where a disconnected, asymmetrical market was the norm, the divide between marketing and sales was less noticeable. We didn’t really start interacting with a vendor until we were in front of a sales rep. Marketing just primed the pump, so to speak. But today, in a more interactive, symmetrical market, we expect a seamless journey from the world of the marketer to the world of the salesperson. We make no distinction between the two. Unfortunately, the same is not true within the walls of the vendor’s organization. As long as these departments continue to feud, the customer will be the ultimate loser.

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