C-level executives know that a battle is raging at most companies – the classic battle between sales and marketing. Executives encounter it from all different vantage points ranging from their earliest days in the workforce down in the trenches to the 30,000-foot view summary in their current positions. It is a problem that plagues many organizations, and yet it is rarely discussed at any level. However, without addressing it and fully understanding how it affects profitability, it cannot truly be solved.
To unpack this complex issue, you must acknowledge one simple fact – If there is a competition occurring between sales and marketing, then there is going to be a winner; and, perhaps more importantly, there will be a loser to boot. Dissecting who wins and who loses the fight requires an earnest examination of the key stakeholders:
From the marketer’s perspective, they always win because without marketing efforts like advertising there are no leads for the sales team to convert into customers.
They reference audience engagement and cross-channel attribution metrics to make the case that their activities are directly responsible for driving revenue. They cite fluctuations in KPIs and can tie them to changes in their ongoing efforts. In short, their data tells the story that they want to sell to the organization’s leadership.
Marketers have a personal stake in being declared the winner because winning means continued funding for the marketing channels that they are most passionate about. Compensation is important to them, but they tend to value recognition and personal achievement more than their paycheck.
On the opposite side of the fight, the sales team would argue that they always win because without salespeople, the leads that marketing brings in would not convert.
Sales teams have no shortage of testimonies from customers that they can cite to make the case for their worth. Additionally, they typically have a mountain of sales conversion data that directly ties their involvement with leads to customer acquisition. As one of the most outspoken areas of any organization, sales makes their presence, and worth, known vociferously.
Salespeople also have a vested interest in winning because their success is directly correlated with their compensation. The fight is personal to them as well, because it affects their livelihoods.
The CEO is concerned with the business overall, not any one department, which is a precarious position to have in the midst of this fight. Allowing a winner means that the organization loses profitability, which means that the CEO loses as well. However, if weapons are lowered and the battle ceases, both teams can work together to increase profits and employee satisfaction. This is a win-win for the CEO, who is responsible for the organization’s growth trajectory in the form of working capital and solvency.
Unity is beneficial for the organization in its entirety, which means it is also a positive outcome for the CEO. Therefore, the only logical way for the CEO to win is to either bring in the right leadership to stop the fighting, or to make employees feel so valued and secure that both sides surrender and agree to work cohesively.
Since both sales and marketing require substantial investments to achieve their objectives in the form of bonuses and advertising budgets, the CFO loses to some extent regardless of who wins the battle. The CFO need not be concerned with which team is winning if expenses are not inflated as a result of the fighting. Unfortunately, the sales versus marketing battle can lead to budget waste if both teams are not unified around the same short-term objectives and long-term goals. For that reason, the CFO shares the same outlook as the CEO when it comes to putting an end to the fighting to increase overall profitability.
It is easy to forget external stakeholders when evaluating the toll that an internal battle can take, but they are equally important as any in-house stakeholder. In fact, the customer is an especially vulnerable stakeholder. When sales and marketing are distracted by in-fighting, customers fall by the wayside, allowing their needs to go unmet and their concerns to go unaddressed. Dissatisfied customers are the most dangerous disease that can infect a business.
The recurring theme across all stakeholder interests is unity. A unified company is a profitable company, a company that stands the test of time, a company that is respected and admired across its industry. Simply put, when sales and marketing are working together, everyone wins. When there is conflict, everyone loses. A primary goal of any organization is to identify where and why this friction exists to eliminate it and organize every employee around a cohesive message and a consistent goal.
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