At a recent Focus Roundtable on Sales and Marketing alignment (or the lack thereof), we acknowledged the frequently discussed differences between the people who work in sales jobs and the people who work in marketing jobs. Marketing people think of their company’s prospects as a either a homogenous group or grouping of groups (segments), and they communicate with these groups through vehicles that are designed to reach masses of people. Sales people are talented at building 1-on-1 relationships, and communicating person-to-person. Every good sales person knows that if he can just get in front of the prospect, everything will be all right.
Healthy companies need professionals that are good at communicating both with groups and individuals. Why? For one thing, you can’t get in front of enough prospects face-to-face to scale most companies. And, when you do get face-to-face, you have got to be very effective.
The two methods of communicating are very different. Crowds react differently than individuals. If you have any doubt about that, take a look at events in the Middle East, or at least read The Tipping Point.
There is a rush, though, to fix the alignment problem with shared metrics and incentives that are very closely tied to sales, such as qualified, leads, close rates, and bottom-line revenue.
In my experience, shared incentives do help with alignment—but only to an extent. In reality, marketing still needs crowd-related metrics and incentives and sales still needs individual buyer related metrics.
To address the alignment problem head on, I suggest job cross-training and direct collaboration. Assign a sales rep to a team to develop a new content initiative. Send marketing staff to assist on sales calls. Let each see the world of the other, and blur the distinction between the two. In the process, they will appreciate each other’s strengths and talents—and that’s where alignment has to start.