A Chinese puzzle: the battle between sales and marketing

By: Drayton Bird

Date: 5 December 2011

Chinese Chequers{{}}I was in Shanghai doing a few seminars a while ago. It's a dizzying place. Every time I looked out of my hotel window the building they were putting up had gained another storey in the night, because people were working 24 hours a day.

Ambitions there are limitless — but not many people understand marketing well as yet. What they are especially good at, though, is asking highly relevant and perceptive questions.

One man asked me to explain the relationship between sales and marketing.

This made me think about a problem we come up against time and again. As Thomas Watson Jnr of IBM put it, "Nothing happens in business until something gets sold."

Many of the people we work with who are in sales appreciate that unless they have a full pipeline of leads the business is in trouble.

More to the point, they are in trouble — because they're judged by sales results.

And why are they in trouble? Very often because although they have to produce the results, they don't have the money — the marketing budget. The marketing director has that. And he or she is often more concerned with things like branding and advertising. Lamentable, really.

Results: impasse — and very often bad blood between sales and marketing.

What's the answer? Collaboration.

In far too many firms, sales and marketing — who should be natural partners — are sworn enemies. The sales people see the marketing folk as a bunch of high-falutin' theorists who know nothing about the real world. The marketers regard the sales people as a bunch of unsophisticated oafs. Yet the truth is — as you would know if you ever had to take money off people face to face, that selling is damn hard work.

Get them to talk to each other. Get them to explain each other's problems. Then get each side to come up with solutions — for the other guy's problems. A session which involved doing this would achieve a lot more than some of the stuff that passes for training in business.

Drayton Bird is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. He runs Drayton Bird Associates and is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author.

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