Why Sales and Marketing Don’t Speak the Same Language

Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Marketing, Sales 2.0 [ 1 Comment ]

Webster’s Dictionary has been a tool used by many generations, now of course one of many options available online. It’s very much a democratic concept—words defined in the same way for all to employ. Yet, when it comes to marketing and sales, a common definition becomes very elusive. Or more accurately, the word, “lead,” employed by each discipline is dramatically different.

In many companies, sales and marketing work in silos, and when they do meet, they collide. To a marketing person, a “lead” is a name and phone number of a prospect, who based on their profile, is a potential buyer. To a salesperson, a lead is a targeted title at a targeted company with an expressed desire to buy from the company.

Therein lies a huge challenge.

A marketer develops campaigns designed to reach out to those potential buyers; most typically with a call to action. If a potential buyer (prospect) responds to that call to action, marketing calls this a “lead” and counts this as a feather in their cap. After all, marketers take a holistic approach to their craft. They are chartered with “making the phone ring” and use different mechanisms such as direct mail, email campaigns, trade shows, seminars, etc. to do so. Marketers measure success by “hits,” attendees, inquiries, etc., then try to equate a Return on Investment (ROI) to such metrics. Typically, this ROI is based on sales pipeline or projected sales which may take months or even years to materialize. While there is value in these marketing initiatives, quantification of value is in the eyes of the beholder.

Sales people are much more tactical and only focused on the numbers that really count—compensation for their efforts. In most organizations, sales people view leads much differently than marketing. They view them as opportunities to close business in a defined (the shorter the better) time period. A lead needs to be qualified.

The problem is in the definition of a “lead” and the definition of “qualified.”

You have two groups of people with different backgrounds, different objectives, and different definitions. In order to function properly, these two groups need to communicate more effectively. They need to share a common lexicon, a common dictionary, and a co-dependent level of accountability.

Of the two groups, marketing is more likely to have the advanced educational degree, work in the corporate office and be focused on metrics one or two steps removed from the heart of the sales cycle. They view leads as opportunities and the more the better.

Sales is much more primal. They think: “Is someone ready, willing and able to buy my product now?” These are relationship people and risk takers who are more likely to have been the quarterback on the football team or the captain of the baseball team. They are in the field and work directly with the customer.

Because of where they come from and how they are measured, a rift is inevitable. Marketing creates all this great activity and thinks “these dumb jocks cant sell their way out of a paper bag.” Sales looks at marketing and says “these poindexters wouldn’t know a good lead if their life depended up it.”

However, the common ground is that both sales and marketing need results to survive and prosper. They each need to contribute to corporate objectives, but take very different paths to get there, with many collisions along the way.

The Emergence of Translator

Recently, some open minded companies have begun to address this issue. These organizations bring in third parties to provide the common definitions between sales and marketing. More importantly, they bring in the associated processes that leverage the strengths and core competencies of each side. Sometimes these third parties introduce enabling tools and methodologies. Other times they provide outsourced services.

To succeed, these companies need to employ proven and repeatable methodologies that work with both marketing and sales to accomplish goals. Taking marketing’s strategies, these third parties create messages that position the company’s products and services in the context of the prospect’s needs. They identify the correct decision-maker or influencer within the organization and know how to gain the necessary time and attention of this potential executive sponsor to create consistent and repeated meaningful business conversations with this coveted audience.

Employing a campaign approach, these outside firms communicate key messages as they turn suspects into prospects and move them down the sales funnel. The net result—a sales funnel filled with qualified leads that understand the offering and want to hear more. A streamlined sales cycle that results in more sales, faster. By doing all the prep work before the salesperson makes that initial call, these firms leverage the time and talent of the best purveyors of a companies’ value proposition – their frontline sales people.

Marketers are freed up to understand their buyers better, pursue newer and better tactics, and measure their efforts. Sales has more time to do what they do best and that is to manage sales cycles and close deals. When sales closes more deals and marketing has the data to refine strategies and campaigns, goals are met and commissions and bonuses are paid. When this all comes together it is amazing how the language barrier is not a barrier after all.

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