Why sales hates marketing


I started my working life in sales. If I’m honest, I was pretty rude about marketing back then. As a sales person for a consultancy firm I was frustrated that the information and tactics employed by the marketing department didn’t help me to generate leads at the coalface. Now, I may have had a bad first experience of marketing in a complex service business, but this frustration is something I hear again and again from the sales community.

I’m now in marketing (funny how life goes, isn’t it?). As a result of my early experience, my whole raison d’être is to create marketing collateral that makes selling easier: everything we do for our clients here at Valuable Content is to get them sales results. Still, I often ponder why sales people have such a low opinion of marketing, and what marketing can do to counter their frustration.

I had a bit of a revelation on this question this week. It came from a first-class business development workshop I sat in on, run by client David Tovey and his team at Principled Selling. We shared some ideas on the sales vs. marketing dilemma. Here are a few of our thoughts:

  • Salespeople think that marketing is over-rated as a differentiator.
  • Salespeople know that they make the difference but feel under-valued as a differentiator.
  • Marketing teams tend to think of marketing in corporate terms: building brand awareness, high level PR, advertising.
  • Salespeople want collateral that helps them build relationships at the coalface: relevant and up-to-date case studies, thought-provoking content such as articles and research as conversation-openers or leave-behinds.
  • Marketing tends not to commit budget or time to giving sales what they want and need.

As David Tovey says:

“The marketing department sometimes think they are providing the sales team with enough by doing brochures/newsletters and other information promoting the company, product or brand. But this talks about ‘us’ not the customer. It is often all the sales team get in their kit bag.”

If this is the situation (and we’d welcome your views on whether we’ve hit the nail on the head), is it any wonder that sales hates marketing?

Simply put, the purpose of marketing is to get people who have a need for your kind of services to know, like and trust you so that they think of you first when the time comes to buy. Both corporate marketing teams and salespeople at the coalface of client contact have a role to play here.

Marketing departments must recognise this and invest in helping sales teams to create the valuable collateral they need to build trusted relationships for sales results. For both marketing and sales, more business is the goal.

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  1. Trevor Lever

    Hi Sonja,
    Interesting topic – and I could ramble on about this theme for ages. You could also flip the question around (Why Marketing Hate Sales) and have another lively debate. My own view is that few marketing people go out with the sales folks to visit clients to really understand the coalface. Without this experience it’s hard for marketing to create relevant sales collateral.

    Last year I got to run a couple of workshops for a large corporate who wanted to ‘build bridges’ between their sales & marketing departments. These teams were often fighting against each other, rather than working together. I blogged on these sessions (http://www.trevorlever.co.uk/sales/what-sales-want-marketing-to-tell-them/ and http://www.trevorlever.co.uk/sales/what-marketing-want-sales-to-tell-them/) and they provide some insight into the issues this particular company faced.

    I’d loved to have been in that workshop as I find these types of discussion fascinating.


  2. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Trevor.

    Thanks for the comment. Your ‘bridge building’ workshops sounds like a great idea. I recommend your 2 articles too – interesting insights.

    Marketing would really benefit from joining sales on their client visits. That’s where you find out, really find out what clients want. Only then can you design marketing collateral that meets their needs.

    Hope to catch up soon.


  3. matt lambert

    Always excellent stuff, as to be expected Sonja. Thanks.

    I have lots to say on the subject (some say on any subject) but the most important that I can think of is that “copy writing is not marketing”. But it often comes under that umbrella, and is ‘friction’ making.

    In fact Copy writing is “salesmanship in print” (as stated in a definitive book on the subject published in 1923 by Claude Hopkins). It is sales, and very difficult to do if you haven’t sold before.

    David Olgilvy is the main inspiration for me – he came from door to door sales to sell ‘digitally’ through advertising. He never lost sight of the fact our industry is paid to generate opportunity and sales. And incidentally I also like the fact he advocated ‘long copy’ (wonder why?)

    Back to the subject in hand, with yourself moving from sales to marketing, I always thinks it made it easier to go a good job if you’ve ever had to stand in front of customers – face to face.

    The other ‘bone of contention’ is that sales people don’t always like to share their knowledge of customer conversations, because it makes them feel more vulnerable. When in fact, it is an incredibly skilful job in relationship building (I was in sales too….still am, but undercover).

    But I agree, if more sales people shared ‘what it is’ that made customers pay attention, then marketing would get better leads for them.

    There’s a lot of convergence going on in these departments – trouble and strife for those who don’t like change I suspect!

  4. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Matt.

    You are right – there’s no doubt that good copy needs a salesperson’s eye (Copyblogger have a nice article on the subject here – http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-copywriting/).

    You mention standing in front of the customer face-to-face and again I agree. I think a lot of marketing messages are devised in a vacuum – without truly understanding what clients/customers really want and need.

    Thanks for the well-considered comment. Hope all is well with you.



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