The Yin of Sales and the Yang of Marketing

Managing your enterprise for revenue today and growth tomorrow.

It's a chronic problem at most businesses and an anchor dragging behind the boat that limits growth: why don't Sales and Marketing play well together? In my view, there are three main contributing factors. But more important, I suggest that a few simple shifts in thinking can change the dynamic and unlock significant growth.

Why don't sales and marketing play well together?

The first reason sales and marketing don't play well together is that they are different kinds of people, wired differently, doing different tasks. Obvious, right? Yes, but it's still worth taking a look at those differences to understand how to get them working together as a team. The short answer is that salespeople are "today" and marketing people are "tomorrow." The implications of those different orientations are shown in the table below.

The second reason Sales and Marketing don't play well together is that they are measured differently. Salespeople are measured in a very concrete, binary, one-dimensional way: revenue versus quota. Marketing people are measured in abstract, complex, multidimensional ways: share growth, margin growth, new product success, effectiveness of messaging, and merits of the growth strategy.

The third reason-perhaps the most important and the most invisible reason-that sales and marketing don't play well together is that our organizations and our habits promote either/or thinking. Win/Lose. Are we sales-driven or marketing-driven? The hidden implication is that we cannot be both.

The costs of either/or are high: Ambiguity and tension drain organizational energy. Attention focuses inward instead of forward. Selling is disjointed and piecemeal, and marketing spending is wasted. Either/or means sales and marketing are pitted against each other.

The yin of sales and the yang of marketing

The truth is that every business needs both sales and marketing. Every business needs revenue today and growth tomorrow. Planning and execution. Global vision and local customer relationships.

Yin and yang are defined as two opposites that complete the whole. Each relies on the other, and they are in dynamic equilibrium. Sales and marketing can be seen as yin and yang.

The advantages of yin and yang:

  • Yin and yang is a bigger idea-cooperation and collaboration multiply energy.
  • Sales and marketing complement each other within a powerful, integrated business offense.
  • Everybody gets to play to their strengths, be who they naturally are.
  • Team play; everybody wins-and wins together.
  • The business takes off.

So how do we get there?

I suggest that with three shifts in approach and practice, you can move your business from either/or toward yin and yang.

Shift #1: Role clarity. In most organizations, the roles of sales and marketing are not clearly and consistently defined. Everyone thinks they know what sales is, but are your salespeople hunters or farmers? How much qualifying and nurturing do they have to do wersus proposing and closing, or upselling? Is your sales cycle long, complex, and involved, or more transactional? Selling is different in each of those cases. And while everyone thinks they know what sales is, outside of the consumer products world, almost no one really knows what marketing is. Is it sales administration? Advertising? The website?

Without role clarity, the interactions and handoffs between sales and marketing can't be clear either. That leaves gaps, and contributes to the blame game.

For simplicity's sake, I suggest that in a yin and yang world, the role of marketing is to generate demand and nurture prospects and customers until they are ready to have a personal, individualized buying conversation. Then the role of sales is to have those individual conversations and jointly develop specific, personalized solutions for the customer. Using these definitions for sales and marketing, the handoff points from marketing to sales become clearer, as well. Now yin and yang are two opposites completing the whole in a dynamic equilibrium.

Shift #2: Promote mutual respect and formalize interdependence. From the sales viewpoint, marketing provides value when they generate high-quality leads, provide effective selling tools, incubate prospects while they "ripen," and bring new products and service improvements to the offering. From the marketing viewpoint, sales is the conduit to the marketplace, carrying the message to customers and prospects, moving customers through any desired change, managing and growing customer relationships, gaining distribution for new products, and collecting feedback from the channel.

In general, sales needs to develop a stronger "tomorrow"/planning orientation, and marketing needs more direct contact with customers. Customers prefer team selling, and multiple "voices" from the company touching multiple audiences within customer organizations strengthens relationships and uncovers opportunities.

Shift #3: Make sales and marketing jointly responsible for new business development. Ideally, the head of sales and the head of marketing would be equally responsible for and accountable for finding new business. This brings both a sales and a marketing perspective into the business development process, and it ensures formalized cooperation and interdependence between the functions at the top of each function.

Get your business moving forward

These shifts-role clarity, established handoff points, and interdependent team selling-will break down either/or thinking and create and a stronger, integrated offense for the business that is focused outward and forward. That's a success formula for managing your enterprise for revenue today and growth tomorrow.

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About the Author: Don Drews is president and founder of Courageous Marketing.