Why Marketers Should Absolutely Dig Salespeople

The Great Game: Sales vs. Marketing and Content

Sales and Marketing – like oil and vinegar? They don’t mix, but they do make the salad. A tale of Sales and Marketing getting along. Sort of.

It’s odd that Marketing and Sales don’t always get along.

It’s not as if they were enemy tribes or even college football rivals. I think of each of them as standing at different places near an elephant in the dark, trying to describe to the other what the animal must look like based on what it feels like. The times when Sales and Marketing don’t get along are when one just doesn’t want to believe that the other is describing the same animal.

Case in point

Ralph, a regional sales manager for a technology company, phoned me last month about a white paper project. Like most really sharp salespeople, this guy knows his stuff:

  • how the product works
  • the terminology the geeks use
  • what makes customers happy
  • what makes his customers’ customers happy

We agreed on the scope and details of the project over a few phone calls and e-mail threads. Then I asked, “You’re in Sales. Why isn’t Marketing leading this project?”

“Oh, well, you know how it is between Sales and Marketing. We’re always a little bit at loggerheads. I’m out here, 3,000 miles from the mothership, and I drive a lot of my own collateral projects because it’s hard to get things through Marketing.”

“Hmm. Almost everything I work on ends up going through Marketing sooner or later, if only for desktop publishing and approval. Won’t they get their knickers in a twist if you drop this piece on them?”

“Heck, no,” Ralph replied. “In fact, Marketing agrees with me that it takes them too long to generate this material.”

Sales is fast…

So we start the project, and Ralph carpet-bombs me with background material on all the products in his division, peppers me with e-mail loaded with ideas on what should be in the piece, and invites me to a client-site visit to see the technology in action. It’s too much to absorb, but it’s exciting to work close to somebody this excitable.

Good salespeople have a “the sky’s the limit” attitude that is like gasoline in their tank. Good marketing writers hook into it.

“Let’s put this in the paper,” he writes me one day. “Can you include text on how the technology started out?” he writes a few days later. “Here’s a collection of how different reps around the country position and sell our products,” he says, lobbing me a 5-page collection of quotes.

What can I say? I get a kick out of drafting the piece, because Ralph’s excitement is infectious.

It’s also exhausting.

…and Marketing is slow

After Ralph and I have gone through two revisions, we have a conference call with the director of marketing, a business development manager and two other marketing managers. The dominant message is, “This is good stuff. We just want to make sure that we balance it with everything else we’ve got going on.”

Saw that coming. (I’m a marketer, remember?)

We make relatively little measurable progress in the call, but mostly resolve that there is still plenty we have yet to resolve: other people need to weigh in on the piece, we need more data points, it’s getting to look like four pages or six or maybe even eight.

Marketing seems slow compared to Sales, but that’s in its nature. The job of Marketing is to take all the Sales-adrenaline and make it work for the entire company (not just Ralph).

Ralph knows this – he’s been doing this dance with Marketing for over ten years – and the push-and-pull is part of what drives him. I doubt he’ll ever get a license plate frame that reads, “Have you hugged your marketer today?” but he appreciates the checks and balances Marketing exercises on his efforts. I send him a link to Stephanie Tilton’s new ebook, “8 Steps to Get Sales & Marketing Cranking in Unison.” He immediately forwards it to the director of marketing, who thanks him and replies, “This is what we all need!”

Similarly, Marketing needs Ralph’s the-sky’s-the-limit thinking because that’s how it learns about the conversations taking place on the front lines.

They should both absolutely dig each other.

Have you hugged your salesperson today?

photo credit: Fabio Venni


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”

4 thoughts on “Why Marketers Should Absolutely Dig Salespeople

  1. John,
    I’m so pleased that your client found the eBook valuable! Your reference to different perspectives on an elephant caught my eye. On my recent post about sales and marketing alignment, Jeff Ogden left a comment about how hard – and necessary – it is to address change in the alignment issue. He then pointed to “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard,” the new book by the Heath brothers, which uses an analogy of riding an elephant. McKinsey recently conducted an interview with Chip Heath about the main concepts of the book. A worthwhile read for any organization trying to get sales and marketing working in tandem. https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Change_Management/Making_the_emotional_case_for_change_An_interview_with_Chip_Heath_2543


    1. Yes, the elephant is a handy animal for us marketers to refer to. If it didn’t exist, we’d have had to invent it (apologies to Voltaire).

  2. Ah, license plates… more like, “Have you bugged your marketer today” 🙂

    I do recall setting in Friday sales/marketing kick off meetings (I was a curious technical trainer at that time) and watching the tech marketers getting peppered with qs from ‘road warrior’ sales people. They’d dropped in for a ‘marketing fix’ at the ‘mother ship’ and it was wham, bam, thank you mam knowledge transfer live and uncut!

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