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Why can't marketing and sales get along?

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Sales and marketing departments, which ought to work together in a symbiotic, supportive way, too often get bogged down in turf wars.

"The marketplace is primarily not ‘getting it’ at the operating level," said Vic Hunter, president and founder of Hunter Business Group L.L.C., Milwaukee, a b-to-b marketing consultancy. Even if company executives recognize the problem, attempts to correct it often fall short, Hunter said.

In fact, as much as 80% of marketing expenditures on lead generation and sales collateral are wasted because these efforts are ignored by sales, according to research by Aberdeen Group, Palo Alto, Calif. There’s a significant lack of trust in the tools that marketing departments provide their sales teams, evidenced by the fact that many salespeople reportedly re-create their own materials. Typically, they spend 40 to 60 hours a month re-creating customer-relevant collateral material, research showed.

The problem stems in part from a lack of understanding within organizations about each department’s role. "It’s vague in their minds what the other one does," said Bob McKim, chairman of msdbm/Source Link, a database marketing company based in Los Angeles.

Another problem is political posturing within organizations. "Sales feels like they’re the ones on the firing line, therefore they should receive the credit," McKim said. "Marketing feels they’re often ignored or their efforts are unappreciated. They would like to receive credit for sales activities. Somewhere in between lies the truth."

Whatever the reasons, the culture clash has become an impediment to generating revenue, just at a time when marketing is increasingly called upon to support sales and track return on investment.

"Marketing exists to help sales sell," said Brent Hieggelke, director of marketing at WebTrends, Portland, Ore., a unit of NetIQ Corp. "They don’t exist just to generate leads."

He said communication between departments is key—the more the better. "Marketing can adjust on the fly, but the salespeople need to give them feedback," Hieggelke said. "If you have no closed-loop reporting, you better make sure you’re talking to your salespeople at least on a weekly basis."

Hieggelke meets six times a year with his company’s sales and marketing committee, a group of about 10 people. The meetings, led by Hieggelke and the director of sales, focus on what’s working and what’s not. "We have the system that gives us the numbers," but you still need the face-to-face contact, he said.

Revised organizational charts

It’s a mistake to separate sales and marketing, said to Todd Bloom, VP-marketing at General Motors Corp.’s Isuzu Commercial Truck division, Cerritos, Calif.

"In many traditional companies," Bloom said, "you have a head of sales and you have a head of marketing. We have no VP of sales." Instead, heads of the GM division’s five regions, who report directly to the unit’s president, handle both sales and marketing. "It’s all the same discipline. It is all integrated," Bloom said.

Another company working to overcome the sales/marketing gap is San Diego, Calif.-based Iomega Corp. Iomega, which made its name selling ZIP storage drives, has established a continuous process to pull together sales and marketing.

"Culture has got to be where it starts, but technology has to be the facilitator," said Mike Collett, senior manager of business development in Iomega’s Americas Sales Group.

Collett, who logged time in Iomega’s marketing department before moving to sales, said the company has tested technological solutions on small projects—what he calls "nimble approaches" that focus on specific needs—with a mix of off-the-shelf and customized applications. The company also works with msdbm/Source Link to build its integrated database systems.

Based on the success of the small deployments, Collett’s group is ready to roll out an integrated process. "Now we are looking at something more expansive that can start sharing data from the front end to the back end," he said.

Another company that’s addressing this problem is Parker Hannifin Corp., a Cleveland-based manufacturer of industrial products.

"Our largest disconnect is the one between our groups," said Steve Erickson, VP-strategic business development for Parker Hannifin. "Within each of the groups, the sales and marketing functions work closely together. The problem is coordinating them across the groups."

Hoping to eliminate this problem, Erickson is focusing on reforming Parker Hannifin’s decentralized organization, in order to approach customers on a unified basis.

Meanwhile, specialized technology may be one way to help connect sales and marketing departments. Products from vendors such as MarketSoft Corp., Lexington, Mass., signal a marketplace hungry for such solutions.

MarketSoft’s Cross-selling Hub, which provides data enhancement to qualify and sort leads in real-time, is a "validation for the marketer," said Chris Bergh, VP-chief technology officer. "It gives them charts so they can go to the CEO and say, ‘Look, I’m worth something.’ "

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