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The sales vs. marketing war: how do we finally bury the hatchet?

The never-ending rivalry between marketing and sales departments dies hard. But this entrenched battle is meaningless in the age of omnichannel and social selling. With a few best practices, peace in our time is achievable.

Some see it as a sort of Hundred Years’ War. Solutions provider Pardot (Salesforce) has used Game of Thrones as an illustration of the age-old rivalry between sales and marketing. And although both functions are ultimately pursuing the same goal – the creation of value – misunderstandings on both sides continue to fuel this simmering conflict.

Sales reps accuse their marketing counterparts of being out of touch with the situation on the ground and not delivering enough quality leads. Conversely, marketing professionals claim that sales staff tend to go for the easy options, sticking to selling well-established products to already-loyal customers without cultivating new ground or promoting recent offerings.

Reward and compensation also create an imbalance. The sales rep, knowing that his pay is made up of a large variable component, sees short-term turnover as king. The marketeer, on the other hand, is unaffected by target-driven bonuses, and focuses instead on building customer loyalty and brand image – both of which are long-term issues.

Taking a synchronised approach

Such entrenched warfare is no longer defensible in the era of social selling and omnichannel. As we showed in a recent LinkedIn study, B2B buyers’ journeys are becoming less and less linear. They take shortcuts which bring them into contact with a wide range of players. Regardless of which of the supplier’s staff customers speak to, they expect to be heard.

With the virtualisation of customer relations, face-to-face meetings become increasingly rare, and sales reps enjoy less of a proprietary relationship with “their” customers. But even so, marketing still needs on-the-ground reports to provide deeper analysis.

In the United States, large groups have resolved the problem by merging sales and marketing into a single department – a trend which hasn’t really made its way across the Atlantic. In the absence of complete harmony, the two departments should at least do their best to get in tune.

Technology can win you the war. As a complement to a CRM, a marketing automation solution allows the marketing department and the sales force to share information about an account and co-ordinate their efforts. Once marketing has played its part, the baton is handed over to the sales teams. There are no more squabbles over the scoring system: it is calculated automatically using jointly defined criteria.

Establish the functional scope

However, a tool can’t solve every problem on its own, and governance comes into play. General management is responsible for establishing the functional scope of each party. Market studies and brand positioning are the preserve of marketing; customer accounts are managed by the sales department. Between the two, there is a grey area concerning pricing policy and customer relationship management.

Creating a cross-functional department devoted to customer experience dispenses with the tricky questions. Alternatively, you can get off on the right foot by setting up mixed teams when putting together a new proposal. The marketing and sales departments both present their wish lists and discuss their respective constraints.
Next, there needs to be agreement over the launch campaign. The sales department will present any feedback it considers relevant, and will be involved in producing a white paper and product information sheets. After all, if everyone helps to write the music, you should all be singing off the same page.


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