Promoting your business

Sales and marketing: Why can’t we be friends?

Aligning sales and marketing strategies can be a vast untapped opportunity for your business.


Does this scenario sound familiar?

Your salespeople sit on one floor and your marketing team sit on an entirely different floor, or on the same floor but well distanced from each other. There is little communication or collaboration between the two departments and there is no alignment in the sales and marketing strategy. Sales targets are not being met. Time inefficiencies are resulting in high internal costs, and this disharmony may be causing conflict and a tense work environment.

The fact that marketing and sales don’t work together well should never be accepted as “That's just the way it is.” Because the solution is simple: when the issues of sales, marketing and management are addressed holistically, these problems may never arise, and if they do, they can be resolved more easily.

In fact, aligning sales and marketing strategies can be a vast untapped opportunity for your business to harvest significant productivity gains with little effort.

Consider how much time, effort and money your marketing person or team spends on the production of collateral, online content, thought leadership pieces, lead generation initiatives, branding exercises and awareness creation.

But how much of that costly effort is actually hitting the mark?

The old adage “I know that half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which half” applies equally to marketing.

But why don’t you know? Granted, some marketing deliverables, such as brand recognition and thought leadership, are less tangible than others. But others such as the number of qualified leads generated, conversion rates, time to sale and so on are tangible.

The crux is that the tangible metrics above rely on close collaboration between the marketing department and the sales force.

"The greatest inhibitor to sales effectiveness is the inability to communicate a value message."

Serious Decisions

If you were to empower your sales team to constructively critique the support that they are receiving from your marketing team (as opposed to criticising the marketing people), then your marketing decision-makers would know pretty quickly what efforts deliver results - and what marketing needs to focus their attention on in order to better support sales. Suddenly, you would know exactly which 50% of the marketing budget is better spent elsewhere and you could do more with less.

Marketing/sales collaboration: The effect on productivity

Let’s take a look at a quick sample calculation that is merely based on the effort that marketing expends on creating sales collateral for a medium sized business. This is just an example of many possible productivity improvements that more effective collaboration can deliver. This example here is just to illustrate the concept. You can easily extrapolate the relevant numbers for your own organisation:

Number of marketing staff


Average annual employment costs


Salaries total


% of time spent on marketing content creation and curation


% of that is not used by the sales force


Productivity improvement opportunity based on marketing time alone


Ancillary cost on unused collateral (IT, printing, distribution, storage, etc.)


Marketing productivity opportunity p.a.


Full-time equivalent p.a.


Sales for productivity opportunity p.a.


The numbers above are deliberately conservative and maybe a tad simplistic, but, even with these conservative assumptions, from a productivity perspective you’re either paying for the equivalent of nearly three people in the marketing team without receiving a return or, seen another way, you could hire the equivalent of almost three more staff for the same outlay. 

And, in the example above, we have not addressed what additional productivity would come from a sales force that is more effectively supported by its marketing team.

"Only 25% of sales leads and collateral that marketing creates are ever used by sales teams… (which means that) 75% of marketing-generated sales leads and marketing content are never used by salespeople"

International Data Corporation

The benefits of holistically creating a sales and marketing strategy

Research shows that salespeople spend on average 20-30% of their time either looking for, or modifying, marketing content. Returning this unproductive selling activity time to the sales representatives frees them up to do 20-30% more selling. Think about what could happen if you freed up just 10% more selling time, and if that were to lift sales productivity by the same margin?

To illustrate the significance of the above statistics, a 5% improvement in sales productivity can yield up to a 20% improvement in profit, a four-times profit multiplier! Can you imagine what these numbers could mean for your business?

Making your marketing and salespeople “BFFs”

Collaboration can be achieved in three steps:

1. Benchmark the true level of collaboration between your teams to draw a line in the sand from which you can move forward. Benchmarking is necessary in order to determine just how bad or good the relationship at every level is today, where the bottlenecks are, and where the 'low hanging fruit' opportunities lie. This is best done by an external and independent, neutral third party so that it is not influenced by existing relationships and to solicit true, frank and honest feedback from all stakeholders.

2. Coach all staff on why closer collaboration is good for them and help them to define and agree on the collaboration processes and metrics that they will now live by. Answer questions such as "What's in it for me?" and "What does success look like for me, for my department and for the whole organisation?" Make sure that there is universal agreement on the above.

3. Implement and support the collaboration processes with the appropriate collaboration technology, if appropriate. Don't be tempted to rush this step. It’s important to leave this until the parties have agreed on why and how they will work together. A technology-lead approach will only encounter the usual resistance as people often reject change that is imposed on them.

Provide ongoing coaching, either by a neutral collaboration services provider or by a dedicated internally appointed and empowered “collaboration czar”, so that collaboration can grow beyond the walls of head office and remain sustainable, even when internal personnel and external circumstances change.

Creating a marketing and sales BFF culture in your business will result in:

  • more revenue

  • higher profits

  • better customer experience

  • deeper staff engagement

  • higher calibre talent.

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