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  • Writer's pictureWill O'Brien

Can Sales & Marketing ever speak the same language ?

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Can Sales & Marketing ever speak the same language?

Ask any CEO or CFO in a B2B Tech company if they have achieved perfect alignment in the Sales and Marketing function, you are likely to hear something like this:

1) It works ok

2) It could be better

3) It’s hopeless and we have gone through several VP’s in both Sales & Marketing and it’s still broken

4) It’s our highest area of cost

I have watched the industry change for 30 + years and seen both Sales and Marketing functions develop in sophistication and expertise. With that said, the score card on the combined overall effectivity is patchy with money being wasted and no one really asks why?

Without boiling the ocean I think there are 8 areas where things could improve and this post will look at 2 of these. I would welcome any inputs and comments to develop this “Elephant in the room” conversation, please like and share this if it resonates.

Ego and expertise

Many Sales and Marketing VP’s have careers that started many years ago on the shop floor as a rep or a junior marketeer. Sales meeting would always feature a marketing slot where the marketeers would do their best to explain what they were doing to grow pipe. Sales people would sit there nodding or glazing over and not much has changed other than the language has changed to impressions / openings / likes / website visits.

Marketeers would have to deal with poor “lead” follow up from sales and sporadic last minute requests for support and campaigns.

Gifted Sales Managers and Sales VP’s know marketing is key to their success and cultivate cooperative relationships. Less gifted Sales VP’s would blame marketing for their lack of pipeline and poor results. It’s easy to be a sale’s “fire breather” and complain about lack of leads or poor marketing support.

The best salespeople I have worked with make marketing a natural extension of their internal network. Colleagues are respected and individuals in both teams park their ego’s and form strong productive 121 relationships.


The success of salespeople right up the sales VP level can be boiled down to one crude measure which is invoiced revenue and payment. There are no prizes for coming 2nd or nearly getting an order. The job is binary, takes no prisoners and waffling around data and facts is pointless. Lack of quota attainment, or patchy results, will eventually lead to a performance review or being fired. Rightly, sales people are hugely sensitive to failure because we all have bills to pay, families to feed, and no one wants to fail in a peer group.

Marketing measurements are very different. The world of social media and customer buying patterns now makes it necessary to monitor how various systems are performing. Marketing team members should be measured on the various elements that make up the marketing suite. Buyers are spending huge amounts of time researching options before any sales contact is made and this is important to monitor activity. Over time marketeers are now using the language of impressions, visits, downloads, openings, MQL’s, and SQL’s.

All of this is fine except none of it matters to many sales people! The only currency that really registers for the sales person is when an opportunity lands on CRM with a sales stage of 20% and above or where BANT stage 2/3 are passed, (BANT means Budget, Authority, Need, and Timescale and was developed back in the day by IBM).

Conversely sales people who blame lack of pipeline on marketing should consider these two golden rules about pipeline source and pipeline cover:

Pipeline cover should be 3-4 x your actual quota and sales pipe should be derived as follows:

50% - Self generated by the account managers approaching prospects and customers and talking about what you can offer / how you can help.

10% - Generated by internal referral from Consulting, Development, or Support

10% - Generated from talking to eco system partners

30% - Generated by the marketing function as a best outcome

Sales people who complain about lack of success and blame marketing would do well to stop and focus on what they can impact which is 70% of their pipe.

Marketeers who obsess about marketing metrics should stop and focus on what really matters to the sales force – actual opportunities that are worth pursuing, not the metrics and noise that frankly doesn’t matter to those outside of marketing!

The next 3 posts will cover the following headings so stay tuned if you want to know more:

Customer intimacy and references / Collaboration - not post spend consultation / Honesty, feedback, and transparency / Making marketing money work harder – stretching your budget / Effective PR and picking the right agency / Global brand versus local constraints - not an excuse for inaction

Summary – Part 1 of 4 to follow

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins a key take away principle is “Companies that are trying to become great must force themselves to confront brutal facts and difficult realities in order to address them”

I have worked with 10 + marketing teams over the last 30 years and been accountable for Sales & Marketing in 3 different roles. Sales & Marketing is one of the greatest cost areas for any B2B tech business. With Covid-19 depressing customer spending the Tech industry is facing change, needs to cut cost and this “Golden goose” needs to be challenged.

Will O’Brien – Founder Day Five Consulting

Authentic Training Delivered

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