Let’s Get This Straight
It's universally understood that dogs don't like cats, Greta Thunberg and Andrew Tate are not fans of one another, and flat-earthers despise anything spherical. Just as true in terms of their universal disdain for each other stands the animosity between marketing and sales departments hinders effective marketing and sales alignment.. Now, does this scenario sound familiar to you, echoing the dynamics within your organization? I suspect it painfully does. Amidst your pain, I’d like to offer you a bit of solace in that the presence of this marketing vs. sales situation in your company simply makes you “the rule”, not “the exception”.
This discord between high-caliber marketing and sales teams is the industry norm. But why? Why do two departments, which ideally should function as integral parts of the same machine, often operate at odds? The roots of this issue, affecting the bridging of the marketing and sales gap, are deep-seated, stemming from a blend of historical misconceptions, stereotyping, and lack of mutual understanding. As someone who transitioned from the fast-paced, target-driven world of sales to the creative and strategic realm of marketing, I've experienced firsthand the challenges, miscommunications, and yes, the sometimes violent eye-rolling from both sides. I've walked several miles in both pairs of shoes, and I bring to this discussion not just observations, but lived experiences.
My goal with this article is simple一to shed light on the underlying causes of this rift, its repercussions on business outcomes, and more importantly, tangible solutions to help you bridge this pervasive chasm within your organization.
Unpacking the Historical Rift Between Marketing & Sales
Stereotypical Glimpses: The Marketer vs. The Salesperson Persona
I think it’s fair to say that generally speaking we all choose our profession. Somewhere along the way, a certain career path beckons, and we heed the call. It resonates, we embrace it, get paid for it, and evolve within it. The people that seek out marketing and people that seek out sales roles often could not be more different than one another with each having their very own, and often justly deserved, stereotypes. What do the stereotypes for these respective groups look like? Allow me to paint a generalized picture of each group that, using a game of darts analogy, is likely to at least hit the board vs. running afoul getting stuck in your friend's leg that, if captured on video, would lead to both of you becoming YouTube sensations.
Note: Please understand that the following is meant to be fun and lighthearted, and no offense to either group is intended.
How Your Average Marketer Presents In the Wild
In the wild your typical marketer is a creative individual who by day can be seen sipping on a pour over coffee from consciously sourced single origin coffee beans. Come 5 o’clock they can be spotted, along with other creative-types, enjoying what’s known by those in the know as the best IPA from the best local brewery within 100 miles. And when it comes to music, it’s nothing but deep tracks from slightly obscure indie artists played exclusively on vinyl. Guys have mustaches, girls have bangs, and they all wear beanies. Their knowledge foundation? Grounded in institutional education, they've mastered marketing theories, strategies, mechanics, and metrics.
Helpful Article: The Psychology of Branding: How Brand Identity Influences Consumer Decisions
How Your Average Salesperson Presents In the Wild
Now, let’s have a look at the archetypical salesperson—assertive, often exuding a type-A personality, possibly with an athletic background where lessons taught from an overzealous parent or coach of “winning is everything” got woven into their dna, powering them through the airport as they use their Pre-Check clearance to expedite passage to the Delta Sky Club, the Admiral’s Club, or whatever exclusive club available to the travel elites that affords them the ability to be removed from the rest of the herd of basic travelers. This special treatment is deserved as their sojourn consists of an earth shatteringly important client meeting that is the stage upon which they are the Mick Jagger, the Taylor Swift, or the Kendrick Lamar. Their college background? Let's just say it's decidedly non-STEM.
Helpful Article: Tactical Empathy in Sales: How to Build Trust and Connect with Your Prospects
Why Mutual Misunderstandings Persist
This stark difference in background and personality traits doesn't just stop at surface level—it seeps into their professional understanding and collaborations. While both might have a textbook comprehension of the other's role, there's a chasm between this academic knowledge and the gritty realities of what it takes to be successful in that role.
For example, a marketer might conceptualize sales as merely "closing deals", and cashing fat commission checks. Those of you from the sales world have good reason to take offense at this, but if that’s all they’re able to observe, can you really blame them? They don’t observe and therefore can’t fully appreciate the nuanced interpersonal skills at work, product knowledge, the time spent honing the presentation, and resilience required. Conversely, a salesperson could see marketing as "making things look pretty," undervaluing the research, strategy, and creativity underpinning each campaign.
Having transitioned from sales to marketing, I've felt this disconnect firsthand.
Helpful Article: The Power of Emotional Appeals in Marketing: Why People Make Decisions Based on Emotion
Siloed Operations | Divide Brings Discord
Typically, these two departments play in the same sandbox of “revenue creation strategy”, but operate in silos, each with their distinct goals, strategies, and success metrics. This paradox of connection paired with isolation breeds an "us vs. them" culture, which, if unchecked, can rapidly morph into a toxic environment. It's "the rule" that marketing, often cocooned in its bubble, rolls out campaigns and content without input from the sales team. When the downstream results of these unilateral marketing efforts invariably misalign with on-ground sales realities, friction ignites. Sales teams are left grappling with content and leads that don't resonate with their market insights, while marketing feels undervalued and misunderstood when sales does not appreciate their well intended efforts and expertise. The chasm created by this divide is readily filled with discord.
The Human Factor: How Egos Amplify Departmental Tensions
Peel away the professional veneer that often hinders sales and marketing collaboration, and at our core, we're all humans driven by emotions and instincts. One primal instinct is the protection of our ego, and to be fair this is an area where admittedly I’m quite the expert given the enormity of my ego is only matched by its fragility. In the sales-marketing dynamic, this naturally translates into defensiveness over one's territory, strategies, and outputs. Any perceived critique is met with resistance, further deepening the rift.
The Business Impact: What Disunity Costs Your Organization
The repercussions of this discord are far-reaching. Beyond the evident strain on improving company culture and departmental cohesion, there's a tangible impact on business outcomes. Squandered revenue opportunities, inefficient campaigns, and demotivated teams become "the rule." The true casualty in this standoff is the company's bottom line and its potential for holistic growth.
Mending Fences: Proactive Solutions to Harmonize Sales & Marketing
A Unified Direction: The Critical Role of Leadership in Facilitating Alignment
In any organization, change must start from the top. It is imperative for CEOs and business leaders to recognize and actively address the chasm between sales and marketing. Instead of turning a blind eye, treating this discord as "business as usual," they must clearly charter a new course, and steer the ship towards a unified direction. This is not a time for leaders to waver. Clear warnings about what dissension looks like and its repercussions should be made clear to the team.
For companies, especially those generating under $100M in annual recurring revenue, the north star should be clear and unapologetic: revenue generation. I can not stress how imperative it is that both marketing and sales departments must be aligned with this singular objective. When both teams view their roles through this lens, marketing evolves into "sales at scale," broadcasting messages, captivating audiences, and creating opportunities for the sales team to cultivate and harvest.
Active Collaboration: Why Regular Interactions Breed Success
For effective sales and marketing collaboration, crafting messages that resonate and campaigns that convert is vital, and it's essential to tap into the knowledge residing with the sales team. Who other than the salespeople who have feet on the street better understand the pulse of the market, the pain points of prospects, and the nuances that tilt decisions?
Instead of operating in silos, marketing should actively collaborate with sales, seeking their insights, and integrating them into strategies. It's a feedback loop where sales shares its on-ground learnings, marketing uses its expertise to develop campaigns, and then these are refined with further input from sales. This cohesive and collaborative strategy provides both sales and marketing with agency, and ensures that marketing outputs align with market realities, bridging the divide that has historically plagued companies.
Building Mutual Respect: The Power of Valuing Each Other's Strengths
For any collaboration to bear fruit, it must be rooted in mutual respect and appreciation. Both sales and marketing teams bring unique strengths to the table. Sales thrives in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of deal-making, while marketing excels in crafting narratives that connect and compel.
Instead of focusing on the differences, it's time to celebrate these strengths. When each team understands, respects, and values the other's contributions, a culture of appreciation naturally ensues. This isn't just beneficial for inter-departmental relations; it elevates the entire organizational morale.
The Outcome of the Alignment: The Organizational Upswing of Collaborative Efforts
When these principles are applied—alignment, collaboration, and appreciation—the results are transformative. Beyond the tangible uptick in revenue, businesses witness a compression of sales cycles, optimized marketing campaigns, and a surge in lead quality. Additionally, the toxic "us vs. them" culture dissipates, replaced by a cohesive, unified team working towards shared goals. A bridge is built over the chasm that overtime becomes a superhighway of collaboration and connection. The organization doesn't just function; it thrives.
Helpful Articles & Resources to Aligning Marketing & Sales
Charting a New Path: The Imperative of Sales and Marketing Functioning As One
For whatever reason we have all generally accepted that it’s the natural state of the universe that marketing and sales should be at odds with one another, but this attitude and complacency towards status-quo should not be tolerated. The alignment between Marketing and Sales is non-negotiable. Accepting that these departments simply don't get along is an outdated mindset that modern businesses can no longer afford. Business leaders, it's high time to demand better—for the sake of your company, your market, and especially for your hardworking Marketing and Sales teams.
In a business ecosystem valuing adaptability, cohesion, and collaboration, it's sheer lunacy for revenue-focused companies to let age-old rifts between marketing and sales persist. Such divides not only stifle individual departments but hinder the entire organization from realizing its full potential. As someone who has journeyed through both terrains, I've experienced firsthand the remarkable results that can be realized when these two powerhouses unite. But it requires intent, effort, and leadership to overturn "the rule" and create a new norm—a norm where mutual respect, seamless collaboration, and shared visions become "the exception" that every company aims for. By doing so, businesses not only supercharge their revenue streams but also cultivate an environment where people get to experience joy in exercising their strengths. After all, every last one of us can appreciate the joy we experience when we get to be good at what we’re good at*.
* Remember earlier when I said sales people likely don’t have an education in STEM? Yeah, that also includes falling short of being a master at grammar 🙂
By the way, if you liked this article then this one will likely resonate with you as well: The Business Strategy of Being Human in an AI Everything World