Sales wears the pants, Marketing wears the apron: A Myth

The age-old debate of Sales vs. Marketing has found its way into every product/service based company at some point or the other. Organizations have experimented with a multitude of strategic approaches to resolve this internal conflict. Unfortunately, it’s the ‘issue’ that has almost always emerged as the winner. Clearly, the issue/conflict arises out of the lack of well-defined roles.

It’s a common perception within many organizations that while sales, quintessentially wears the pants in the family, marketing is a stay-at-home wife cleaning-up after the men of the house. Let’s face it; irrespective of how much we’ve matured as a society, we still live in a patriarchal one. A society, where men are expected to be the bread winners and women, are expected to take care of the house and do chores. This regressive trend handed down to us by our forefathers, has made us domineering.  Hence, we often don’t play well in teams and always feel the need to go one-up on another. Consider the examples of few societies which have moved beyond this tendency and you’ll notice how they have fared well in other walks of life too. Apply that thought to how the sales and marketing machineries within organizations work and voila!  More often than not, the constant bickering between the sales force and marketers, on who’s more important is what hurts the company’s performance.

Marketing’s role varies significantly from company to company. Most small businesses do not have a decent-sized marketing function and the ones that do, use it as an adjunct to the sales function. As the company grows larger, both in terms of size and revenues, marketing grows in size and takes on a more strategic role and starts voicing its opinions. Each function takes on a task it believes the other should be doing, giving way to rifts between the two. This is where senior management needs to step in and chalk-out roles and responsibilities, leaving no room for ambiguity. Another tough decision that every company must make is whether it needs to be a marketing-led organization or a sales-led one. This does not take away from the importance of the role either functions assume within the company.  This just enables organizations to set its long term and short term goals in perspective and focus on the one that is more important to them and that’ll help them be more successful. Success is a rhetorical term here since different organizations view success differently and that’s what sets apart a few from the rest.

Why Sales & Marketing Hate Each Other

Having well-defined roles isn’t enough. There is no ‘one solution’ that’ll resolve the conflict between sales and marketing. Things need not always be hunky-dory between these two, it’s okay for them to continue to work as independent functions. And let no one tell you that a bit of healthy competition isn’t good for your company. Because it is! However, the keyword here is alignment. Sales and marketing need not butt into what the other is doing but it’s important for them to work parallelly and align their objectives. More often than not, these two functions not being in sync can prove to be quite disastrous for companies. Following are a few tasks that can be implemented to improve the sales and marketing integration:

  • Get sales and marketing to meet periodically to review and improve relations.
  • Engage in joint planning and training.
  • Establish common metrics for evaluating the overall success of sales and marketing efforts. For instance, establish a sales goal to which both teams commit and define key sales metrics—such as number of new customers and closings.
  • Creating clear rules of engagement, including hand-off points for important tasks such as lead follow-up.
  • Defining who should be consulted on which decisions.
  • Creating opportunities for sales and marketing to collaborate — for example, planning a conference together.
  • Involve sales and marketing in generating value propositions for different market segments.
  • Utilize and regularly update shared databases.
 (Source: Harvard Business Review • July – August 2006)

The egotistic battles between sales and marketing may never end but if the right steps are taken to draw the line and not let them run amok, this situation can be salvaged. More importantly, this energy can be transformed into something that’ll aide in the company’s progression. Look at it this way, if there were no differences of opinions or feuds between sales and marketing, the company’s growth would stagnate. Having said that, it’s equally important for these two to kiss and make-up or the situation could prove to be highly detrimental for the company. With this, I guess it would be safe to say that both sales and marketing wears pants in the family!

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