Closing Time

How to Resolve Sales and Marketing Conflict (and Close More Deals)

How is your sales team’s relationship with marketing? According to the latest research – it’s probably not great.

In fact, 87% of the words marketers and salespeople use to refer to one another are negative (good luck reaching the quota in that environment). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this episode of Closing Time, Jay Baer show’s how smart organizations are building that bridge and resolve sales and marketing conflict through unified CRM systems, aligned success metrics and KPIs, and proactive mechanisms to build relationships and eliminate surprises.

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Understanding Sales and Marketing Conflict

The history of conflict between traditional sales and marketing teams can be traced back to the early 20th century when mass production led to increased competition among businesses. At that time, sales teams were primarily responsible for reaching out to potential customers and convincing them to buy products, while marketing teams focused on creating advertising campaigns to generate brand awareness and interest.

However, as businesses grew and markets became more complex, the roles of sales and marketing teams began to overlap. Marketing teams started to create more targeted campaigns that were designed to appeal to specific customer segments, while sales teams began to develop more specialized knowledge about the products they were selling.

This overlap led to conflict between the two teams, with each side blaming the other for problems such as low sales, ineffective marketing campaigns, and poor communication. Sales teams complained that marketing campaigns were not generating enough leads, while marketing teams argued that sales teams were not effectively closing the leads that they were given.

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely experienced something similar.

Benefits of aligned sales and marketing teams

Sources of Conflict

The reasons behind this conflict are varied, but some of the most common ones include:

• Different goals and metrics for success. Marketing teams are often focused on generating leads and building brand awareness, while sales teams are focused on closing deals and meeting revenue targets. This can lead to tension when marketing teams feel that their efforts are not being appreciated or recognized by sales teams, or when sales teams feel that they are not receiving enough qualified leads from marketing.

• Lack of communication and collaboration. Marketing teams may not always have a clear understanding of the needs and preferences of the sales team, while sales teams may not have a clear understanding of the marketing strategy and messaging. This can lead to misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and a lack of trust between the two teams.

• Differences in knowledge and expertise. Sales teams may not have a deep understanding of marketing processes and strategies, while marketing teams may not fully understand the sales process and the challenges that salespeople face. This can lead to a lack of respect and appreciation for each other’s roles and contributions.

• Mistrust and lack of appreciation. Sales and marketing teams often work in silos, with little interaction or collaboration between them. This can lead to a lack of trust and appreciation for each other’s contributions, with each team feeling that the other is not doing their fair share.

• Lack of in-person events. With the decline of in-person events due to the pandemic, many businesses have seen a breakdown in communication and collaboration between sales and marketing teams. In-person events, such as annual sales kickoffs or client showcases, provide an opportunity for the two teams to come together and build trust and alignment.

Is "Healthy Friction" a Thing?

Alignment is key to success. However, there can be a misalignment between the two teams because they have different goals and use different methods to measure success. Some argue that there should be “healthy friction” between sales and marketing teams to push each other in a positive way, but this may not be the optimal solution.

It is better for both teams to have shared goals and incentives, which can lead to mutual accountability and improved performance. This approach creates a better cultural imperative and avoids the frustration of celebrating success in one area while missing revenue targets overall. Instead of healthy friction, shared goals and incentives are a better way to align sales and marketing teams for success.

Characteristics of Aligned Teams

For sales and marketing teams to be aligned, they should be using the same software to avoid confusion and streamline processes. It’s surprising how many organizations have different tech stacks for sales and marketing, causing unnecessary difficulties.

Having cross-functional personnel is beneficial. For example, a sales meeting should include someone from the marketing team, and vice versa. This approach is similar to the concept of an embedded reporter, where a reporter works closely with a particular group to gain a deeper understanding. In the same way, having someone from each team in the other team’s meeting can eliminate confusion and provide better insights. 

A few more characteristics of aligned teams include:

• A shared understanding of the target audience. Sales and marketing teams should have a clear understanding of the target audience and their needs. This shared understanding can help both teams create more effective strategies and campaigns that resonate with the audience.

• Regular communication and collaboration. Sales and marketing teams should have open lines of communication and collaborate regularly. This can help them stay aligned and avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings.

• A focus on shared goals. While sales and marketing teams may have different objectives and KPIs, they should have a shared goal of driving revenue and business growth. By working together towards this goal, both teams can be more successful and achieve better results.

How Transparency Leads to Alignment

When there is transparency, both teams can share information, feedback, and insights freely, which can lead to a better understanding of each other’s roles and goals. Here are a few ways in which transparency can help:

• Clear and open communication. Transparency encourages clear and open communication between sales and marketing teams. When everyone has access to the same information, it becomes easier to collaborate and work towards a common goal.

• Shared data and insights. When sales and marketing teams have access to the same data and insights, it can help them make better decisions and develop more effective strategies. For instance, sharing lead data can help marketing teams optimize their campaigns, while sales teams can use this data to identify high-priority leads.

• Enhanced trust and accountability. When both teams are transparent about their objectives and performance, it can help build trust and accountability. For example, if sales teams share their revenue targets and marketing teams share their campaign metrics, both teams can understand how their efforts contribute to the overall business goals. This can also encourage healthy competition and motivate both teams to achieve better results.


Can’t we all just get along? Learn why ending conflict between sales and marketing will end up paying off big time, in this week’s episode of Closing Time. Hi, everyone. Dave Osborne,. Chief Sales Officer here at Insightly. Welcome to Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. I’m joined today by Jay Baer. Jay is a marketing expert, advisor to some of the world’s most iconic brands, tequila aficionado, and lover of all things plaid. Jay, I’m wearing plaid today in your honor. Thank you very much, Dave. Fantastic to be on Closing Time. So you know,. I think very, very widely known that sometimes there has been conflict between sales leaders and marketing leaders. I know you’ve done some interesting research on the topic, so I would love to maybe kick things off there. Yeah. It’s we’ve talked about this in the past that it’s a little strange that we even have this scenario that there’s a separate sales department and a separate marketing department in a lot of B2B organizations. I think an argument could be made that just making one department that does both marketing and sales as a unified group makes a lot of sense. And you’re starting to see that more and more, unified revenue teams. One of the most amazing stats, though, about this kind of mistrust and misalignment is the corporate executive board did some research a couple of years ago and found that, 87% of the words that sales and marketing teams use about one another are negative. 87%, Dave. So it’s always like those marketers waste all the money. And those sales people are lazy. They never follow up on the leads. Right. It’s always like this narrative that infects the organization. It’s a tale as old as time. So what’s at the core of it, Jay? I mean, is it a lack of misunderstanding or a lack of understanding? Is it mistrust between the two? Certainly mistrust. Absolutely. And I think that’s borne not by any inherent shortcomings on either side, but I think it just lack of understanding. Right. Like do salespeople really know what marketing does, like day to day? Like, do they know how a marketer on the marketing team spends their time, hour to hour? I would argue largely they do not, because I have a lot of friends who are professional sellers and they sort of vaguely understand what marketing does, but they don’t really understand what it’s like hour to hour. And the same is true for professional marketers. Like, they understand what the function of sales is, but pretty often they don’t really understand what the mechanisms and process of sales entails. And so I really believe one of the best things you can do is kind of break down those those walls. And I got to tell you, just on a sort of timely and topical perspective, Dave, the lack of in-person events over the last couple of years has really hurt alignment because in a lot of B2B organizations, especially those with lots of geographical offices, the one or two or three kind of big meetings that the annual sales kick off or the big client showcase or whatever, that’s when the sales team and the marketing team actually comes together face to face and it bridges some of those trust gaps. And without live events and in a lot of cases for a couple of years,. I think that’s hurt. I think you’re right. I think you’re 100% right. It’s fascinating to me, being on the sales side of the table right. I think when we look at marketing,. I mean, I think any sort of mistrust, I mean, that’s the hand that feeds us, right. In many ways. So we would hope that there’s better alignment right. And I think, you know, marketers maybe don’t have the empathy on what salespeople are going through every single day. So I’ve heard the term healthy friction used to describe the relationship. So allowing each team to push each other in a positive way is that the space that sales and marketing should strive for. I don’t buy it. I don’t know that any friction in an organization that’s supposed to be working so closely together is inherently healthy. I just don’t see that as optimal. Now, I think a case can be made that what the true outcome of healthy friction is, is accountability and mutual sort of performance based incentives and things like that. That I’m OK with. But I will tell you what is the best way to go is to make sure that if there are incentives, they are shared by the teams. Right. So in a lot of cases and you’ve seen this in your career, Dave, sales has a set of objectives. They’ve got a set of targets they have to hit. Marketing has a set of targets they have to hit, but they’re not the same targets. They’re using a different scoreboard to calculate the success or failure of their initiatives. And by definition, that’s going to create some misalignment. So I’m a big believer, even if you have different teams of disparate leaders, I’m a big believer in everybody having the shared number. I just feel like it just a better cultural imperative. I mean, it’s always a frustrating, frustrating experience walking to an exec meeting, right? And maybe marketing, maybe CS, you know, they’re spiking the football saying, hey, we hit our numbers. Well, you know, maybe sales missed the revenue target. It’s like, guys, at the end of the day, if we’re not hitting our revenue targets,. I don’t know how we can celebrate. So, you know. We got a bunch of leads that we didn’t close. Haha. It’s like. Well, that’s right. That’s exactly right. So you mentioned accountability, shared incentives. What are some of the characteristics of sales and marketing teams that are aligned? I mean, shared software, right. Which seems like. Well, of course. But it’s amazing to me how many organizations where the sales team is working off of one sort of tech stack. And the marketing team is got a different tech stack and obviously they cross over at some point. And and the lead data or something goes from whatever marketing uses as their sort of source of truth to to the sales source of truth. But I just think that is way more cumbersome than it needs to be that making sure every sort of singing out of the same technology hymnal is absolutely a best practice. The other thing I would say that can really help is having cross functional personnel. So what I mean by this, Dave, is if you’ve got a sales meeting and of course people have sales meetings all the time, there should be somebody from marketing in every sales meeting and there should be somebody from sales in every marketing meeting. You may know this concept of the embedded reporter or a news gathering organization takes a reporter and says, look, you are going to live, work side by side with the Ukrainian military or whatever the circumstances are, because that’s going to allow you to really understand it in a way that you couldn’t otherwise and sort of boots on the ground metaphorically or in some cases, actually. The same is true with sales and marketing, right? Somebody on the sales team should be in every marketing meeting and vice versa. It will eliminate a whole bunch of confusion. I love that. I mean, we kicked this off talking about possibly the misunderstanding or the lack of empathy between the two groups. You know, having marketing, joining sales calls, really like having them understand exactly what we go through every day seems like a no brainer. It’s surprising that more teams, more companies don’t do it. I agree. And certainly in organizations that share a physical location one of the other things I really recommend and I’ve done this with some of my clients, is essentially the buddy system. So, all right. Once a quarter, somebody from marketing is literally going to spend a day side by side with somebody in sales, ridealongs, being on the virtual meeting calls, whatever the circumstances are. And then vice versa. One day a quarter, a salesperson is going to grab a chair, sit next to the marketer and just watch them do their work for a day. Man, the understanding and like the eye opening of that exercise is unbelievable. You know, it’s on a personal level.. Jay, it’s funny. I’m married to a CMO, so why don’t we working from home together now? Sometimes. You need to write a book on this.. This is gold. This has real potential. I think it just proves. I’m having my literary agent call you because this has got real potential. It proves that we can get along. But I can tell you just from personal experience, you know, just having the opportunity to listen to some of her meetings, hear how sometimes sales leaders may treat marketing and then, you know, it’s it’s just interesting if you put the shoe on the other foot, right. How that how those things can play out. And I think most times people have benevolent intentions, but misalignment happens even even if you’re still trying your best to build a business. So anyway, I can. I can empathize with that. You know, another thing you talked about is eliminating surprises, right? It surprises being a problem. What do you mean by that? You touched on it accidentally in passing a moment ago, this idea that you walk into the meeting and it’s a quarterly meeting and everybody has got to bring their results. Look, that that builds a lot of surprises. That can be unpleasant. I certainly prefer a scenario where everybody’s putting their cards on the table mathematically on a weekly or at the worst case monthly basis. Right. So sales knows where marketing stands and vice versa on a much more routine basis than quarterly. Quarterly is a long time. Now, obviously, your weekly or even your monthly numbers are going to bounce around a lot.. It’s the nature of marketing and sales. You’re going to have a really big sales quarter or a big sales month where a lot of things closed or real successful webinars, a bunch of leads spike on the marketing side, all of that’s going to happen. But making sure that everybody knows with with much more of a real time sense how it’s all going, it just allows you to make changes day to day in a much more responsive fashion. I think you get better outcomes. Absolutely. Well, this has been gold, Jay, I really appreciate you walking us through this. Any closing thoughts? Well, this isn’t just my recommendation and Dave’s recommendation. There is a mountain of research on this that demonstrate that teams that are aligned produce happier clients, more revenue, higher close ratio.. Aligned sales and marketing teams produce 400% higher annual revenue growth than teams that aren’t aligned. So there is an absolute financial imperative to get rid of this mistrust and bring your sales and marketing teams together. All right, Jay, thanks again for joining us on this episode of Closing Time. I really enjoyed it, Dave. But next time. I want your wife to be on the show. We’ll bring her on. We’ll absolutely bring her on. Thanks again, Jay. And thanks to all of you for watching. Remember to subscribe the channel, like the video, and tick the bell for notifications so you don’t miss an episode. We’ll see you next time.

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