Sales versus Marketing... a narrative that is getting old.

The other day I was trying to explain the Sales and Marketing function to a friend who is a hard core "finance guy"; as I went about doing so, I couldn't help but flippantly say —

"When things are going well (meaning revenue) Sales gets the credit; when things aren't going so well Marketing gets the blame" 

We both laughed... but surprisingly not that hard.

I could not help but think of a conversation between a seasoned commercial leader and a marketing manager where I heard the manager say, "I understand what you are saying from a sales perspective but marketing is different, and we are going to do this..." As I was listening to the marketing manager I actually screamed in my head, "No, no... nooooo. The commercial leader is correct, and you are not different... focus on the customer, the customer's needs, and work together to generate revenue!" 

I should point out why I have earned the right to have an opinion on this topic. My career (30 years and counting) has been in both Sales and Marketing (almost 50-50), and I have received my fair share of credit and blame; for right or for wrong, I feel I have some insight worth considering. Academically, marketing is the business discipline that encompasses "Product", "Price", "Place" and "Promotion" (The 4 Ps); within the "Promotional Mix" is the sales channel... and make no mistake, this channel is extremely important — Why you may ask? It's because sales is one of very few groups in business that has an intimate and personal understanding of the customer, and is able to communicate complicated messages to generate revenue.   

And for anyone who doesn't think revenue is king, you should go ask any investor(s) you have to offer some insight regarding this point.

In my mind, the only thing that is different between Sales and Marketing is the levers available to each group, and maybe the degrees of separation their activities can be from revenue generation. The objectives of Sales and Marketing are the same — Engage with the customer, offer the appropriate product(s) and/or service(s) to meet the customer's need(s), and generate revenue. I very much appreciate the complexity to do all of this, but in the end it does boil down to this.

Many years ago a Sales Leader* was at a marketing retreat and was asked to speak about the relationship between Sales and Marketing. He was elegant, insightful, complimented his marketing partners, and offered insights on the sales team. At one point he compared sales to a "brochure" that talked back, had opinions, and offered ideas. He went on to say that some in marketing see themselves as "the great orchestrators of all things marketing, and frankly don't like rebuttal from one of their channels". He very eloquently suggested that this was the wrong perspective and that the sales team was a wealth of customer insight and ideas, and it's crucial to work together for success. Besides he went on to ask, "Don't we all have the same objective to engage with customers, offer the appropriate product(s) and/or service(s) to meet the customer's need(s), and generate revenue?" Fifteen years later his perspective still resonates for me —The narrative should always be Sales and Marketing.

So if your narrative is Sales versus Marketing, I strongly suggest you work to change this because no one wins when there is a dysfunctional relationship between Sales and Marketing, It's hard enough to generate revenue at the best of times.. just ask anyone in either Sales or Marketing. And if you're asking how to go about changing the narrative, I suggest you start with Sales and Marketing Leadership because in the end this is a leadership issue... on both sides. 

Let's not even get into those finance people who ask us about our latest expense report.


* His title was Sales Leader but in reality he was just a Great Leader... full stop.



Graduating Corporate University

The following is the original and rewrite can be found by clicking here.

If you were to ask me how I feel right now I would say I feel like I just graduated university - Let me explain.

My very exciting and very fulfilling corporate career of 22 years has come to an end due to a large merger and acquisition, as part of a broader overall consolidation in the industry. So what is a person to do after all those meetings, all those projects and presentations - all that corporate "learning"? Travel of course... and figure out what to do with one's life.

And travel I did, as well as exercised, ate better, reconnected with friends as well as made new ones and attempted the art of mindfulness which is quite a work in progress. It is true what they say with regards to taking a six month personal sabbatical... take it if you are able as it rejuvenates the body, mind and soul. 

So here I am. All educated, all rested and energized with the whole world in front of me. So what to do... back into corporate? Wait, wait.... wait! Lets think about it.

One of the things about having a "corporate education" is it does afford you some luxuries to evaluate the situation and determine what you REALLY want to do. It also probably allows you a different eye to figure out what that is - I mean when you are 24, right out of university with student loans, an eye on marrying the love of your life, then it's fair to say the drivers are a little different from graduating with a degree from "Corporate U".

My skills and competencies are in sales and marketing leadership, management, operations and project management - I'm a sales and marketing guy. (for better or for worse). As I objectively looked at myself and what I wanted to do I found myself looking at all my skills and achievements and aligning them with a job - ultimately each time it just came across flat as I just kept thinking is "this the best way to use my Corporate U education and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity in front of me". Then one day I looked at it differently.

What did I enjoy most in my 22 years? Was there a passion that simply gave me energy and true enjoyment -  where I was not working but simply having a wonderful time? And sure enough even with that question my business passion simply appeared - Creative Problem solving! Not just the thrill of solving a problem (the harder the better) but how we do it it in a practical sense, why sometimes we just can't figure it out and how do we "thing out of the box"? -  conceptional to practical, I loved it all.

So there it was, following a PASSION of creative problem solving and aligning it to sales and marketing which unto itself can be an addictive adrenaline rush. In a practical sense what does it mean? Well right now I want to understand it, talk about it, get other people's thoughts on it as to how it works and why it doesn't works. As with most PASSIONS I am just going to follow it and see where it takes me.

Connect all 9 dots using four straight lines, without lifting your pen and without tracing the same line more than once. As you can see, "out of the box thinking"

Connect all 9 dots using four straight lines, without lifting your pen and without tracing the same line more than once. As you can see, "out of the box thinking"

Just as a final note I will tell you up front I bite the inside of my tongue every time I say "out of the box thinking" as it just seems to be so trite and conjures up visions of a rather angry leader pounding on the table saying "this is unacceptable people! We need some out of the box thinking here!" Did you know the term was derived from a puzzle with 9 dots and 4 consecutive straight lines back in the early 80's? Who knew?

Lets talk!