The dotted line between sales and marketing – And why a smart Chief Marketing Officer needs to understand both

Early in my career I made a mistake. I thought of myself as an advertising guy. Someone who does marketing strategy, brings a keen insight into the mind of the consumer, and helps develop great creative campaigns. But sales? No – I’m not a sales guy. That’s an entirely different mindset. I’ll get the prospect interested, but someone else actually needs to figure out how to get the deal done. That’s not me.

Of course, I was wrong. Sales and marketing are entirely connected. Without sales, marketing is just art (and sometimes bad art, at that). And without marketing, sales is just talking. We do that all the time. But working together, the two disciplines can work magic.

With many of my clients, I’m asked to come in and help solve a marketing challenge, which quickly turns into a solution that’s driven by the sales team. And conversely, I’m asked to come up with a sales strategy that relies on better marketing. One client of mine is a summer camp – we spend a lot of time thinking about branding and differentiation and messaging, but not so that we can create glossy magazine ads and direct mail. But instead, how we can refine our talking points and experience when meeting people at community events and speaking with them on the phone. That’s marketing and sales working hand-in-hand (and, might I add, we’re up year-over-year thanks in part to the way we’ve been able to work together).

Here are three things to keep in mind when looking at your sales and marketing teams:

  1.  Sales and marketing teams should communicate regularly. For one client that I serve as an outsourced CMO, I have weekly meetings with sales leadership and monthly meetings with the entire team. We plot strategies together, outline promotional ideas and share messaging strategies. Often times new marketing campaigns come from the insights provided by the team talking with potential customers every day. This kind of creativity only happens when both departments work together – as a leader it’s my job to make sure it happens.
  2. Make sure your messaging is consistent. Have the sales team seen the ads? Are they included on the emails going out to prospects? Has marketing reviewed the sales scripts? If not, they should. Make sure your prospects see, hear and read the same key points – repetition is the key to successful marketing and changing consumer perceptions. Be sure that sales & marketing are on the same page.
  3. Sales & Marketing leadership must be in sync. How many of you work in organizations where sales reports up one side of the funnel, while marketing is in another? That’s not always a good recipe for success. If your sales team and marketing teams are trying to achieve different business goals for different parts of the organization, it’s hard for them to get together to accomplish anything. I’ve seen many a time where sales is driven by finance and revenue, while marketing is asked to do public relations and corporate communication. And what ends up happening more often than not is that the marketing message and the sales messages can’t find a common ground to intersect. The best organizations put both sales and marketing under a strong C-level executive (or an outsourced Chief Marketing Officer) to be certain that the two groups work in lockstep to drive both revenue and a consistent message.

So ask yourself, how far apart are the dots in your organizational line between sales and marketing? And if they aren’t close enough, maybe it’s time to bring in someone from the outside to connect them together.