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Marketing Momentum: The Love-Hate Relationship Between Sales and Marketing

Marketing Momentum: The Love-Hate Relationship Between Sales and Marketing

By Katrina Olson

Sales and marketing are a lot like siblings. You have to get along because you live together; but sometimes you don’t like each other. You’re competing for attention, money, and love from your parents…or in this case, the president or CEO.

You know, intellectually, that things will go more smoothly if you work together, but you still argue and pick on each other. Similarly, sales and marketing departments sometimes find themselves at odds. Why?

  1. A difference in goals. A marketer’s goal is to think longer-term to position the company and build the brand. Of course, you’re also there to support the sales team with shorter-term promotions, events and materials, along with shorter-term sales goals.
  2. Lack of mutual understanding of the roles of each discipline. Marketing is a management function that requires research, strategic planning, an adequate budget and specialized skills. Salespeople have a radically different approach since they must nurture customers and prospects, work long hours, possess excellent people skills, know thousands of products while constantly learning about new ones.
  3. Lack of c-suite support. Both disciplines need the full support of upper management.  Does marketing support sales or does sales support marketing? Does it matter? The answer is neither and both. And it depends on the corporate culture and structure. Ideally, they’ll work side by side under a common supervisor.
  4. Lack of communication and coordinated planning. When sales and marketing work together to strategically plan the year’s activities, their goals will align, they will communicate similar or complementary messages, and budgets will be distributed equitably from the beginning, eliminating misunderstandings or turn battles later in the year.

So what’s the solution?

Andrea Barrall, director of marketing for New Jersey-based distributor Turtle & Hughes is, overall, very satisfied with how the company’s sales team, marketing staff and branch managers work together to plan and execute training workshops, counter days, and off-site events.

She sees marketing as an extension of sales. “Marketing should do everything it can to support the sales team attract new customers and nurture relationships with current customers. Without our sales teams and their customers, we would be out of business. But it’s also important for sales to be the voice of the customer, and share their needs.”

Barrall notes that sales also must share information. “The sales team sees information about their customers as proprietary and are not all willing to share in order to build a comprehensive database. Sales must view marketing as a support team and not simply overhead that their efforts support.”

OSRAM SYLVANIA Trade Marketing Manager Sarah Eastman enjoys a similar relationship with her sales team. “Members of the sales team are my customers. I develop tools for them to sell more products and collaborate with them. They give me direct feedback from their customers, which I in turn use to tailor our marketing efforts. The sales team also invites me to participate on client calls, and they connect me with marketing contacts at our customers.”

Eastman feels sales and marketing should work together to brainstorm new marketing ideas, communicate with customers, and develop programs to support those customers. “Marketing in a vacuum isn’t going to help anyone. No one can be successful.”

This issue often comes up when I’m talking with marketing people; and I’m sure it’s discussed among salespeople as well. So ask yourself, “What can I do to improve relations between sales and marketing?

Salespeople, are you asking for what you need? Marketing, are you listening to what salespeople want? Are you getting and using available resources to improve the company’s overall effort? If you answered no to any of these question, maybe it’s time for a change.

Want to learn more about this topic, and many other marketing challenges? Register to attend the upcoming NAED AdVenture Marketing Conference in Chicago on August 10-12. Visit naed.org/AdVenture to join us!


Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.


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