Marketing and Sales: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Sales and marketing teams, left to their own devices, do not speak the same language. They think they do, but they don’t. Sales teams speak the language of prospects, appointments, commitments, and closed deals. Marketing teams speak the language of exposure, brand awareness, impressions, and reach. Language conditions the way people think, act, and make decisions. It shapes the way people view the world, sometimes in ways that are subtle. It’s for this reason that two people can have a conversation and walk away with completely different impressions of what was agreed upon.

Here’s a practical example of the way that this phenomenon can affect the relationship between sales and marketing. The word “lead” is defined differently by different organizations. Sometimes, people will say that they have “hot leads” or “warm leads” without a clear definition of exactly what it is that makes a lead “hot” or “warm.” Some sales reps, for example, will collect the name of a business owner from the receptionist at the front desk and call that a “warm lead.” Others might not call a lead “warm” until they have indicated interest.

There’s nothing more frustrating than passing a hot lead to the sales team, only to find out two weeks later than no one ever followed up. This is what happens when sales and marketing teams are not working from the same playbook.

The solution to this specific problem is simple. Define a set of measurable criteria that will determine if a lead is “hot.” You might also use a numerical index to score new leads according to their likelihood of converting. This practice is known as “lead scoring.” For example, you might assign an index of 0 to 100, wherein 100 represents a closed sale and 0 represents a dead lead. You might assign a lead score of 50 points if the customer calls with an inquiry. You could then train customer service representatives to ask questions, adding or subtracting points based on their answers. This type of system is one way to create a common set of language.  Metrics and scoreboards are extremely useful partly because the meaning of a number does not change from one culture to another.

Not everything can be quantified, but the practice of managing both the sales and marketing teams from the same set of metrics will help to gradually shift the way people communicate over time. Scoring systems can be implemented for nearly any process. For example, new recruits to the team could be scored during interviews based on measurable responses. But for scoring systems to work effectively, they need to be based on objective measurements, not scales of 1 to 10 based on how people feel. In other words, the same number has to mean the same thing, regardless of who took the measurement.

Metrics aside, the assimilation of the sales subculture and the marketing subculture into one larger culture are necessary if the two teams are to truly march to the same tune. You can’t accomplish this with a three-day off-site intensive or a one-week training program. This assimilation can only happen gradually, one day at a time. The practice of jointly involving sales and marketing team members in decisions that historically have been made by one team alone will make a difference. For example, the next time your marketing team designs a new flier, see what happens if you ask for input from the sales team. Invite your sales reps to bring a member of the marketing team along the next time they call on a prospect.

The process of getting marketing to walk lock-step with sales is easier said than done, but it’s absolutely essential to the health of any enterprise.


Challenge: what could you start doing today that would help your sales and marketing teams begin to operate more cohesively? How could you capture greater revenue opportunities by creating a sales and marketing super-team?


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