Marketing and sales. Two classic organizational functions who have classically duked it out on opposite sides of the organizational spectrum.
And for good reason. While theoretically both work towards the same cause (to drive business growth), they, and the professionals within them, are inherently different breeds.
On the marketing side, we have the creatives, the strategic promoters, the sky-is-the-limit dreamers. Over in sales we have a a world famously known for its tenacious action-makers and do-everything-for-the-close hustlers.
You Need Us. We Need You.
The combination of each side is essential to business growth — rarely can a business succeed without some element of both.
Despite this reality, many c-suites continues to be dogged by this classic battle.
Dean Ara knows this battle well. As the Principal of Total Product Marketing, a Vancouver-based marketing firm specializing in strategy and brand development for technology teams, Dean has spent most of his career on the marketing side of the c-suite.
But it was a turn on the sales side that really helped Dean understand the full-spectrum needs of his clients. In fact, it’s this rare combined knowledge that has secured Dean’s role as Intelisys’ agency of record.
I recently sat down with Dean to hear more about his journey and how getting into the sales trenches helped him become a better marketer.
Here are his top takeaways — each of which contain some useful lessons for both his fellow marketers and anyone living in the c-suite.
Understand the Challenges of Sales
As a marketer for years, Dean’s mission was to drive corporate growth strictly from the strategic and creative side of business. Think clever content, smart tactics, and ambitious campaigns.
Along the way, he worked closely with sales, but often found himself in friction with his sales colleagues. Frequently his team’s ideas seemed to take enormous efforts to gain buy-in from the sales side.
Frustrated by the lack of cooperation, Dean decided to take action by way of a one year sojourn into the world of sales.
His mission? To better understand the plight of his sales colleagues by experiencing their daily life.
Dean chose to step into the sales trenches so to speak.
It was here in that ‘year away’ that Dean came to understand and empathize with the very real challenges of sales. It also showed him just why many of his marketing initiatives didn’t quite gain traction with sales. A few of the biggest challenges he learned were:
- Sales is tough: make that very tough. Salespeople are on the ground every day with the mission to close a deal. And closing is very hard. Over the course of his one year, Dean made a total of four sales — very hardwon ones at that.A closing rarely comes through a single cold call. Rather, they’re often won after months of pursuits, meetings, many many calls, dinners, and long trips on the road away from the salesperson’s family and home. The daily life of salesperson can be exhilarating, but it can also be extremely tiring. Marketers need to understand and empathize with the realities of their sales colleagues and work in ways to support them.
- Marketing ideas sometimes stink: sure an idea might sound great while being conjured up in the creative backroom of marketing. But does it have the grit to stand-up and work on the streets (aka can it make a close)? Related to point one, marketing should operate with the goal of making sales easier. When done right, marketing is a powerful tool that helps sales do their job better.
Be Confident, and Collaborate
Generally speaking, marketers are experts in their trade. But, many are also often intimidated by the expertise of their sales colleagues.
Dean knows this well.
Prior to taking his year in sales, he often felt intimidated by the pushback from his sales team. Salespeople are, after all, confident by nature. And so they need to be (see point 1).
Often, however, this sales confidence can create a large roadblock in communication and collaboration between marketing and sales.
To get past this, Dean suggests marketers need to also be confident in what they do and what they know. Sure, marketers may be the corporate dreamers, but by-and-large their ideas are derived from hard facts — think research and data.
These hard facts tell marketers who their target audiences are, what they want, what they’ll likely respond to, and how to nudge them towards a sale.
Not All Marketers Are Full of Fluff
With that in mind, Dean encourages marketers to step up confidently and own what they do. In doing so, it’s also the role of the marketer to illustrate to sales why they’ve created the idea or campaign that they have. Show the facts to back up that creative. Give your sales people the proof that will help them to go into the trenches and confidently hustle.
On that note, it’s important to remember not all ideas will stick. Nor should they. When faced with a roadblock from sales, it’s also important to have the confidence to ask why the resistance is being placed in the first place.
Is it because sales simply doesn’t like or understand the idea? Or do they have knowledge from the field that tells them the idea won’t work? Having the confidence to not only back-up your ideas but also ask why an idea is falling flat will lead to improved collaboration on both sides says Dean.
Ultimately, marketing and sales will always be different breeds. But with some efforts to gain empathy for the other side while maintaining confidence in your craft, mutual collaboration will be easier won. And the better both sides play together, the easier it’ll be to earn that growth.
For more marketing insights, including how to pick the right agency to help grow your business, be sure to catch my interview with Dean over on the podcast.