Marketing and Sales – How to Achieve a Healthy Balance

Marketing & Sales Balance

After discussing the challenges of working with the sales department, a CMO friend stated something to the effect that “those sales people have no idea what we do around here.” Of course I have heard (and expressed) plenty of complaints pointed in the other direction. This got me pondering on the perennial topic of how marketing and sales work together. I’ve written and spoken fairly extensively on this topic, including a white paper titled: Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing. And one of my best received seminar topics is Marketing is from Mars and Sales is from Venus (thank you John Grey for the title idea).

There is certainly a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing. But while both departments are highly dependent on each other, they can also have different motivations and metrics. And therein lies the problem. While the only metric in the end that really counts is revenue, marketers and sales may have a different perspective on what it takes to achieve that revenue (at least in the long term). For example, the sales department often has a short-term focus because of the necessity of making the quarterly revenue targets. Marketing not only has to support the current revenue targets but has to generate awareness and leads to fuel the sales engine in subsequent quarters. This is why companies who have the marketing department report to the sales VP sometimes regret the decision. They get a short-term bump in revenue but pay a price in future growth.

If you are the marketing side of the sales-marketing equation, there are two very important things you can do to ensure a good balance between the two departments – both of these topics are covered in the white paper. First, you need to quantify marketing’s contribution to revenue. By this I mean the part of the revenue pie that is not generated through customer up-sell, existing service contracts and so forth. This is the part of the revenue that the marketing department can influence by building awareness and generating leads.

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Second, you need to negotiate a service level agreement with sales that covers items like:

  • Number of leads required and when
  • What constitutes a sales ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to sales reps
  • How sales reps follow-up and track leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

Earlier, I mentioned that marketing and sales had a symbiotic relationship. We often hear the term “symbiotic” but what exactly does it mean when it comes to the marketing and sales departments. Here are two definitions of the term.

  1. A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.
  2. A relationship of mutual benefit and dependence.

Note the big difference between the two definitions. In the first, the two organisms (e.g. sales and marketing) do not have to benefit each other. But according to the second definition, the two organisms are both mutually dependent and beneficial to each other. Now that is the way to achieve healthy balance and a healthy bottom line, not only between marketing and sales, but also for your company’s bottom line.

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  • John Leavy July 27, 2012   Reply →


    It’s sad we still have to deal with this topic year after year. But thanks for beating this dead horse one more time. Your advice is spot on.

  • Saurabh Khetrapal August 13, 2012   Reply →

    The short-term vs long-term causes a lot of problems. Many sales teams are looking to make the sales right now, since their salary is often based on a commission. Meanwhile, marketing is trying to ensure that the sales pipeline stays filled in the future. Different metrics of success lead to inter-office miscommunication.

  • Andrew August 18, 2012   Reply →

    Thanks for the post Christopher.

    Sales and marketing mis-alignment never ceases to amaze me. As you note, both roles are ultimately (I hope!) working towards the same end goal – revenue generation and the growth of the organisation.

    But by not working together both parties suffer. The B2B Barometer survey of B2B marketers in the UK reveals some startling facts ( 79% of B2B marketers – 8 in every 10 – feel sales and marketing need to be better aligned in their organisation. The most common consequences of this? Leads not being fully nurtured (60% believe so) and wasted time (53%).

    What a waste. We’d all certainly benefit from adopting the second definition of symbiotic!

    Thanks again for the post.



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