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“Sales versus Marketing” – a thing of the past?

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Recently I was invited to be on a “Sales versus Marketing” panel session at the inaugural Tech Marketers Conference attended by well over 100 marketers from a variety of industries.

The debate started with the notion that the relationship between sales and marketing is – in general – arduous. Salespeople “always” blame marketing for not delivering enough quality leads and marketing “always” blame sales for not getting out there and closing the many leads that they provide.

The Core Problem

In our view – and our experience – it is actually broader than that. The core of the problem is about alignment, or to be precise, misalignment between marketing and sales.

Sales and marketing alignment is critical for growth as it encompasses the areas of common goal identification, defined roles & responsibilities, and established workflows that are essential in producing optimal results. Yet, many companies continue to struggle to realise their full potential, because their sales and marketing organisations are not in step with one another.

In August of 2010, Aberdeen Group's marketing strategy and effectiveness research practice surveyed 453 companies to assess the state of sales and marketing alignment. The outcome of the survey showed that companies with a best-in-class alignment achieved a 20% average growth (increase) in company annual revenue, as compared to a 4% average decrease among organisations where the alignment was lacking or not present at all.

An eyebrow-raising finding also was that within aligned organisations, 47% of sales forecasted pipeline was generated by marketing, as compared to an average of 5% among non-aligned organisations.

Sales and marketing organisations must adapt to today's rapidly changing, on-demand business environment to maximise every opportunity initiated by marketing and taken by sales.

How to create Alignment

It staggers belief that at an executive or leadership level, peers are not aware of each other’s goals, KPIs and strategies.

And yet, this is what we see at a number of our customers. The siloed approach, the “us and them” distrust exists at the top echelons of many intermediate and large companies.

So the very first step is to ensure that at the very top of the organisation you create awareness and alignment of each other’s’ objectives, goals, KPIs, and strategies.

Ask yourself, if you’re in Marketing, are you aligned with your Sales counterparts? If you’re in Sales, are you aligned with your Marketing counterparts? Do you use the same language, are you driving towards the same goals? Are you clear about each other’s roles, responsibilities, and KPIs?

For example, what constitutes a “qualified lead”? A simple question to be asked, but with different answers depending on who you ask within your organisation. Be clear on – and jointly agree and document – what comprises a qualified lead.


Included in this needs to be agreement and the expected service level associated with each lead. For example, when a lead that meets the agreed requirements is handed off to sales, sales will act within a predetermined time frame. The reverse is true for sales directed campaigns; marketing will take the agreed to action within the specified time frame.


Are the sales and marketing departments on the same floor; do they physically reside amongst or next to each other? We recommended to one of our customers to move all of the marketing people onto the same floor as the salespeople. As a result, alignment, collaboration, and results improved.

Joint Calls

Make sure you bring along marketing colleagues to customer and prospect visits; walk in the moccasins of your colleagues and learn first-hand what it is like to talk to customers. You’ll be surprised how many marketers have never gone out to meet with real customers…

Reporting Structure

Another trend we are observing is that the marketing and sales functions end up reporting to a single “Head of” individual, thus enabling better alignment from the top down.


When introducing a new product or service, how early does marketing, product management, or product development engage the sales team for their input and customer validation? What exactly is required to hit the 1st year new product launch sales goals? Who owns what in that scenario – and by when?

Big Deals

With big deals, what marketing program and resources commitment exists to support the sales team? The big deals are those opportunities that can make or break making the revenue targets.

Commercial Insights

One of the top competitive advantages available to any sales force today is business intelligence from marketing.

Marketing Automation systems and advanced closed-loop reporting provide marketing with the ability to provide timely insights. These insights include activities online that the prospect is performing. As sales reps manage an opportunity, they should have real-time insights into online activities of their contact as well as anyone from their domain.

Industry insights are also essential for sales to be successful; it is no longer acceptable to ask your prospect or customer “What’s keeping you up at night?”, as you need to do your homework and find out what is going on in the industry the customer is in, or what challenges exist for that particular business.

And just to be clear, sales also needs to feed back into the organisation insights that they’ve obtained from talking to prospects and customers.

Channel Partner Sales

An understanding between sales and marketing is critical on which partners are in key, strategic or channel partner programs, so that the appropriate levels of support, resources and expertise can be aligned to the greatest potential. These could include joint marketing & sales programs, early product access, etc.


Providing a comprehensive view, from prospect enquiries tracked all the way through to Leads, Opportunities, and Wins helps reduce the barriers between sales and marketing. This includes alignment of closed opportunities to a marketing campaign.

Leadership and Culture

Ultimately, looping back to the start of this section, it comes down to leadership at all levels of the organisation.

This means making sure that your reps don’t throw mud by giving negative feedback without specific details. Be tough, open and honest with feedback. Provide specific details on why leads were not good. Coach on what makes a great lead. Continuous feedback between the individual rep and the contact providing the leads is required for success.

Sales and marketing teams should have also regularly scheduled meetings with joint results reporting. These regular meetings form the ongoing collaboration necessary to provide timely insights and drive corrective action. Monthly or Quarterly reviews are too infrequent to get to root cause problems that are holding results back from peak performance.

In conclusion

Taking into account the buying journeys customers go on, and the way that they have changed dramatically, the collaboration, integration and alignment between marketing and sales is of increasing importance in the B2B space.

The above hopefully has given you food for thought on how this is working, or not working for that matter, within your organisation.

We always welcome feedback to our articles, so feel free to get in touch!


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