So, we’ve all been there if you have worked in a Fortune 500 company.  The sales regional managers are in town.  Everyone knows it.  They make sure everyone does. Heads will roll.  Deals will be made.  Side meetings are happening all over the cafeteria and regional chiefs  walk by with ear on phone nodding at you at great speed.  A nod is considered good.

It’s the quarterly sales meeting.  The Pride has gathered at the watering hole and they are  surveying all the grass chewers coming up to drink.   Sizing ‘em up.  Licking their paws.  Operations, sales stars, product specialists, human resources, bean counters .. marketing.

They perk up.  Fresh meat!  Their commission checks are leaner than they would like this quarter (thought they won’t admit it) and they are hungry.  The CFO just told them they couldn’t forecast their way out of a paper bag or identify a net new customer if they ran into them on the freeway, and his expectation of predictable pipeline from them is gone.  No-one knows quite where it all went wrong.  The head of sales is pacing up and down.

Uncomfortably close across the watering hole the marketing Gazelle-person has slipped in under the Acacia tree to drink.  He puts his head up and looks cautiously from left to right and sniffs the air.


It’s been a hard walk to the Oasis. He is thirsty.  He remembers he has little marcoms to feed back at home so he needs to be careful.  He warily puts his head down to lap again.  Suddenly, in a flash, a lion from the “North East” springs to life, bolts across the gap in a fraction of a second and grabs the hapless marketer by the neck.  One torn jugular later, it’s all over. Blood everywhere.

How Lions talk:

“If only you cared about revenue and not not meaningless leads (read: we haven’t even looked at them).”

“If only you were really accountable like we are (read: how come I had to fire one of my barely passable reps who is twice the woman you are?)”

“If only you understood the customer like we do and spent more time in the field (read: that one critical missing product feature you lied about on a slide last quarter cost me big bucks in commission).”

Generally, its the marketing person who gets eaten up in this exchanges. There are, after all, many more Gazelles than Lions.  More likely, they will escape quite a few times and go away to lick their wounds, never to aim to tell the truth again.  Or to work on their survival strategy.  Knowing full well that putting up with a painful death is the best they will get.

I had one boss who was proud of his ability to EXCLUDE facts from his sales staff decks in order to continually dodge the bullet.  Another who would plan on making the report-out slides so complex that no-one could understand and question them.  Another, now general manager of a division of a major global company who told me: “get out of business-to-business marketing .. you can never see the real effect of what you do.”

So what is the better way?   How do you make sales and marketing play nice with each other.  More importantly, how do you make them be more productive for you?   In Steve’s recent post he puts it down to 3 things: goal marketing on revenue, make marketing more accountable, make marketing meet customers.

That simple, right?

Not quite so fast.  The retorts to this I have heard in my career:

“Marketing people aren’t actually responsible for closing the sale … how can they be goaled on something where they have no actual final control?

“It’s not that marketing people don’t want to be accountable for something as straightforward as revenue .. it’s just that the CEO started a new open software initiative 2 days ago, and the PR agency needs to be changed, and then there is that social media blitz with the 1000 iPads we ordered. Plus the annual sales meeting.  We have too many other goals.”

“Sure, there was that meeting with the customer when they did the tag along with the sales rep, who got really really upset at them when they took that call from our CEO.”

The point is .. its not productive for this conversation to happen.  If sales were always right marketing would just work for it, but most CEOs know that they need their marketing to do some other things too.    I have seen marketing be collapsed into sales half a dozen times as a result of a new sales VP winning this argument ‘definitively’ in their opinion.  Finally, the world is right way up.   Every single time, the marketing org budget is slashed, job descriptions are redefined as many marketing people become ‘business development.’  About 12 months later that same sales VP, or their boss, loses their job as the reps complain that they have no air cover, no content, no ad campaign, no PR, no events.  No .. marketing?  Who did this?

So what do you do to make sure your marketing sales are most effective?  It’s definitely not to have them slug it out in a quarterly meeting.  By that time its too late.  They net result of constant conflict is that SOMEONE will eventually leave and go where they are appreciated

Start with the data is my suggestion and simple joint accountability and reporting.  I would also venture the following suggestions; automate everything you can, inspect what you want people to respect, set a clear shared direction with crystal-clear metrics that are to some degree or other shared, and establish and value trust.  Oh, and ensure there is accountability.

Sounds very trite.  The sort of thing a non-sales person would say right?  What do I really mean?

The automate bit is becoming easier and easier, but not as easy to achieve as buying a subscription to, though that is a good start.  Not so much because of Salesforce, which is a relative improvement on prior systems.  Most importantly it’s one database of key data.   I’ve come across quite  a few startup companies now  who honestly believe that the subscription to Salesforce was going to solve their lack of marketing or sales process problem, or thought that they really didn’t need to do change management.  It’s a vital first step, sure.  But only a first step.  For me success only = Salesforce + change management.

A bit more on some of the others.

First, inspect what you want people to respect.   What do you really want them to respect?   Revenue, definitely.  More likely multiple outcomes versus activity, and at several points down a real pipeline (not events, campaigns, contacts, names or suspects but prospects tied to real forecastable pipeline).     Certainly you should want them respect each others contribution.  This means measure people on conversion ratios.    How many names became forecastable prospects?  How many turned into revenue?

Second, a common view of direction and clear simple metrics.  By this I mean, what direction is the company going and do you think it should it get there, tied to a clear idea on how to contribute to the strategy.   How can they tell that you are on the right path to revenue?   I would argue that sales people caring about successful demand generation matters is only slightly less important than marketing people caring about revenue resulting from their activity.  The point is to balance this and make sure that these metrics are as simple as you can make them.   For example, the % of leads converted into accepted pipeline opportunity by sales.    Why shouldn’t the rep be responsible for making sure that lead gen event went well?  Why shouldn’t that marketing VP have part of their comp based on the team revenue goals?

Finally, most importantly, trust and accountability.  None of the of above matters unless the team works together, honestly and openly.  And when someone fails to meet their goal, sales or marketing, they are given a chance to get it right next time, without question.  The team supports them to fail so they can succeed next time.   Good teams allow a lot of failure and honest feedback.   On the other hand, people should ultimately be accountable for poor performance too.