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The Marketing and Sales Battle: Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Posted on 2.05.2015

By Mark Yeager, Yeager


To say sales and marketing departments are often at odds with one another is nothing new in business, and often gets treated with acceptance and some eye rolls. But since this ongoing battle often results in missed opportunities and lost revenue, don’t think this is the way it has to – or should – be.  Here’s a deeper look at the root of the conflict, and what your business can do today to resolve it. 

Origin of the Problem

At its core, marketing departments are driven by efficiency. This group seeks the biggest impact possible for its efforts and dollars spent. Its return on investment, or return on volume sometimes, is a key metric so the focus is on being efficient. 

Sales departments, on the other hand, are driven and rewarded by effectiveness. This group either hits its quota or it doesn’t. Being effective and getting numbers to show for it is the goal with sales. 

These inconsistent objectives can create a huge rift between the two departments, which usually manifests in arguments about customer acquisition. Misaligned orientation of marketing trying to be efficient and sales trying to be effective also often results in bad sales tools, furthering hindering customer conversions.  

Aligning Sales and Marketing

In order to bring sales and marketing onto the same page, start by getting detailed about defining commonly used terms. Let’s take the term “lead” as an example. Marketing may think of a lead as someone who expresses interest by clicking on a banner ad, but sales may be of the mindset that a lead is someone closer to actually making a purchase. To unite both groups, gather them into a room and spend a full day hammering out the specific details of terms they share. 

Come up with four to five characteristics that leads may possess. Examples could be, “they are part of a decision making unit” or “there is an impending event driving them to fix their problem.” If a prospect has four of the five traits, then both departments must agree it should be considered “hot.” If it has three of them, then it’s “warm” and probably not ready for sales quite yet. Two or less means it goes back into the nurturing cycle. If you can map out specific criteria, and nail down shared definitions, you’re miles closer to getting both parties to speak the same language. 

Once you have this figured out, shift everyone’s focus from “more” to “better.” The “better” work we do as marketers to qualify our audience before we do our outreach, the more targeted we are, the better investments we make in the communication message and vehicle we use to reach these people, the more results we will see. Then what gets handed over to sales – either in the form of collateral or leads – will be ripe for the picking. Everyone wins. 

Making Progress – and Profit

After sales and marketing work to have more of a shared vision, and the overall goal has moved from “more” to “better,” you’ll want to evaluate your sales tools. Gather together both of your teams again, and discuss what steps were taken, what verbiage was used and what material was shared in order to land your most recent big clients. You’ll quickly see what’s been working, as well as what hasn’t been working. You should also see some major themes. Maybe several of the CFOs you’ve been talking with have been won over by a one-page financial projection sheet. Or perhaps a couple CEOs had the scale tipped when they saw a report on workforce productivity increases that could net them some free time. 

Once you’ve figured out what has historically worked, boil it down to 10 areas. These are the topics around which you should have ironclad, tightly designed sales tools. Marketing’s job is to transform these ideas into usable, relevant collateral that your sales team can then pass on to interested prospects. You’ll see a much better bang for your buck by taking this route, rather than having marketing quickly produce one-off requests or – worse yet – having salespeople try to create their own collateral. 

The fissure between sales and marketing has always been efficiency versus effectiveness, and maybe always will be. But you can fix this gap, and bring both sides of the house together. By creating a common lexicon, shifting the overall vision and building sales tools that actually work, your business will run more smoothly. And your sales and marketing teams will be both more efficient and more effective too. 


Mark Yeager leads organizations to achieve high growth through proven marketing methodologies as the Partner and Chief Strategy Officer of Yeager Marketing. With over 20 years of marketing expertise with companies like iLinc Communications and Pragmatic Marketing, Yeager helps clients define marketing strategy based on business objectives and measurable results.

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