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BFFS: Marketing & Sales

Gary Survis | May 24, 2017| 1 min. read

Fact #1: Marketing and sales need to understand their distinct roles. Here is how it is supposed to work: Marketing teams fertilize the soil, plant the seeds, and tend to seedlings. Sales teams care for plants, harvest the crops, and carry them to market – for money. Simple in principle, but my experience over the years has taught me that for many organizations, it isn’t always clear where marketing ends and selling begins.

Fact #2: Neither marketing nor sales will be successful if they are not collaborating with the other. Coincidentally, issues with Fact #1 typically drive issues with Fact #2. While we know that high functioning organizations are the ones where sales and marketing are working together, the reality is that marketing and sales often don’t understand each other very well. The causes of this dysfunction can be plentiful and diverse. Some of the most common causes include an entrenched culture of distrust between marketing and sales, team members or leaders who transfer their beliefs about the marketing or selling organization from their previous employer, or simply, the personalities of the functional leaders. Whatever the cause, the consequences of combatant or ineffective marketing and sales teams can significantly impact the ability of a business to reach its organizational goals.

Ice Advice

Turns out, some of the best advice on addressing this issue comes from an unlikely source: Vanilla Ice. Robert Van Winkle probably did not have marketing and sales on his mind when he said, “Stop. Collaborate and listen.” But he was right.

So, Stop.

It is time to stop the blame game! A culture of blaming can be toxic. As the leader of marketing or sales, you need to set the tone. Every day that your teams spend blaming each other for their failings isn’t just a wasted day; it’s a day that your company stumbles backward. The result is likely wasted marketing spend, a weak funnel, and poor sales performance.

So put on the brakes and work to change your culture. When you hear the blame game start, (i.e.: “marketing is sending us bad leads” or “sales aren’t following up on the leads we are sending”), don’t simply nod your head in agreement. Instead, work to step up and break the cycle. Start by digging deeper and figuring out the root cause of the problem. At the end of the day, most marketing organizations I come across are focused on passing on great leads, and most selling organizations are focused on nurturing leads. Failure is usually the result of complex misunderstandings on what each organization is trying to accomplish. Not genuine lack of sportsmanship. 


So, you now have recognized the problem and are ready to begin actuating change. It is time to create a culture of collaboration. Stress that marketing and sales should work as a single unit to meet joint organizational goals.Key marketing and selling processes should be jointly owned with jointly shared performance objectives. Your culture should be based on joint team wins – and fails. There are multiple points where collaboration makes sense:

  • Funnel Definitions: Both teams should help define the phases and activities that push a lead in your funnel
  • Lead Scoring: Just because lead scoring typically resides in the marketing automation platform, it doesn’t mean that marketing owns it. Lead scoring models must be jointly owned by sales and marketing to ensure that they are tuned to serve both organizations.
  • Opportunity Conversions: There needs to be strong alignment between marketing and sales around the MQL to SQL conversion rates. There are multiple reasons why these rates may suffer, and there is much to be gained through joint discussion and understanding of why your leads are not converting.


Once you’ve stepped in with clear goals, stressed team outcomes and pushed collaboration, the final step is making sure communication is flowing in all directions – not just between the teams and not just from you, but also between other leaders. Look at sales and marketing metrics jointly. Hear what your teams are saying. Ask your teams what tools they need to work better and be more efficient as one unit. Create a leads council to regularly review what is working well and what still needs improvement. Assume people’s best intentions and value their contributions. Most issues can be resolved if both parties are willing to come to the table with an open mind and a desire to do what is right.

Take Action

Take Vanilla Ice’s advice a step further and do more than simply talk about these issues. The best way to begin is with an honest and open discussion with your peers that is based on mutual respect and shared interests. From there, chart a plan that will drive results for both teams. If you aren’t working with your partner in sales or marketing today, what are you waiting for?