Marketing vs Sales: What’s the drama?

Marketing vs Sales: What's the drama?

Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street got me thinking about Sales vs. Marketing. During one of its scenes, the main character – played by Leonardo DiCaprio – tests his colleagues’ understanding of customers by handing each of them a pen and asking them to sell it to him.

The challenge is an attempt to identify his associates’ grasp on the key drivers that underlie sales. In most instances, people believe they need to make this pen more attractive or appealing. To sell the pen, they need to create an elevator pitch about the pen’s features and attributes.

However, one of his associates realises that it’s not so much about the pen. Instead, it is about the buyer; it’s about understanding what makes the buyer tick and motivates them to act. The scene ends with the associate not describing the pen as others had done, but instead asking: “Write this down for me”. To which DiCaprio’s character replies, “I do not have a pen…”

Marketing is?

The vignette above is an example of how marketing can drive sales. When I talk with business leaders about the value of marketing, I am often met with indignation: “I already invest in sales, why should I spend on marketing?”.

This attitude stems from the fact many are unaware of what marketing actually is. As such, its value can be confused with that of sales.

What many do not realise is that marketing has a strategic outlook. It involves understanding what the client wants and what drives them to act. Marketers aim to reduce the barriers to sale, allowing BDMs and other sales-centric roles a much easier ride. As Howard Gossage put it, people only see what interests them most; everything else is nothing.

So why the hesitation, why are many business leaders unable to identify the value of marketing and why are they not putting a budget behind it?

Sales and marketing working in tandem

One of the major challenges that business leaders face is bringing together the efforts of both sales and marketing and orientating them around the same goal. Getting strategic marketing and tactical sales working together is a challenge that when mastered makes the top line sing.

However getting these two jealous twins to actually play in harmony is like trying to break up a turf war.

The sales people think marketers are theoreticians who live in an ivory tower, while the marketers think that sales group are a bunch of cowboys- used car salespeople.

Getting them to work together involves finding a common goal, taking them back through the “Why” conversation and then getting them focused on achieving the entire organisations business plan. The departments are two sides of the same coin; one side tactical, one side strategic. Building a regular and respectful dialogue is essential to harnessing their strengths, and facilitating that dialogue is the prerogative of the organisation’s CEO.

This does not mean they should have the same KPIs or identical metrics. This would not only be an indication of  misunderstanding the value of both departments and is also a waste of time.

Measuring a return on investment for each area of expertise requires different approaches, methods and techniques. Marketing needs to be measured through the lens of a company’s brand: What is the awareness and how easily can a customer/ prospect identify the brand? Does the marketing spend actually deliver an easier sales path? These are the key questions that should shape your measurement approach. And sales, well that is pure dollars in different segments of the funnel and actual dollars sold.

Marketing is not a add-on to your sales team. It has its own destiny, techniques and benefits, all of which complement sales. If these two functions are not behaving in harmony then the CEO should see an easy path to improving the top line by solving this issue.


Ian NealBy: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Ian Neal