There is always a tension in the band between the lead singer in sales and the marketing songwriters and backing band. The “leads are weak” they sulkily lament or “MQL’s are a piece of crap” they shout on LinkedIn. Lauren Bowden Chief Content Creator at The Comms Crowd suggests on how we heal the band’s creative differences….


All sorts of partnerships can be formed to accelerate business – whether it be to leverage resources, talent, or market access if a win-win relationship is there, partnerships can be a no-brainer. Many organizations invest heavily in devising and nurturing programs to keep these collaborations fruitful. But there is one partnership that doesn’t get such treatment in many an organization and is in some cases woefully neglected – the on-going dysfunctional relationship between marketing and sales.

This is not a new topic, and I must admit has not been at the front of my mind since going solo as a freelancer. But it came up again on LinkedIn recently from Adam Schoenfeld, VP of Strategy at Drift (see below).

I get it and appreciate the candor and the sentiment. However, the in-house version of me from my days as a content marketer, working alongside a whip-smart team of marketing automation and field marketing specialists, all of whom working tirelessly to get to the MQL gold that is glibly referred to as ‘a piece of crap’ in this post… well? It got my goat a bit.

It raises a lot of issues. I would have liked to be in the room to hear how this played out. Fabulous that he received a high five from someone, but what happened after? Did they spend time talking about why it is so hard? How best we can use new advancements? That I don’t know.

It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that rather than working in tandem, marketing and sales will always be two tribes going to war – even though all common sense says they should be fighting on the same side.

All well and good in theory, but how is that achieved in practice? And to be fair to Adam, that’s the question he was posing too with this intentionally contentious post.

It can be argued that appointing someone in the role of head of sales and marketing is one route to a more harmonious partnership all round – but in more likelihood the expertise they have will be on either one area or the other, and call me cynical but that’s also where bias is likely to show its unhelpful head. I am sure there are some people out there who can wear both hats and look equally fetching in both. But they are few and far between.

Even if you can find such a sales and marketing unicorn, the partnership can never be equal if perceptions and culture across the organization remain the same – namely, the perception of marketing as a cost center and sales as a profit center. Built-in perceptions like this don’t come from any department. As with any significant cultural change, that must start from the top.

the partnership can never be equal if perceptions and culture across the organization remain the same – namely, the perception of marketing as a cost center and sales as a profit center.

So why is it so frequently left to head of these departments to duke it out? As Toolbox Creative puts it – ‘when you consider your sales and marketing departments not as individual silos, but interlocking parts, you boost your bottom line and build brand love’. What C-suite doesn’t want that?

Toolbox Creative also assert that the model should look less like this:

And more like this:

The benefits of this kind of model are clear. Chucking a lead over the wall – no matter how “qualified” it is – without knowing what happens along the way is useless. Win or lose, the more intelligence marketing has about a sale, the better. Not just to attract a stream of new customers but the kind of invaluable information a salesperson can get from signing a renewal an up-sell or a cross-sell is gold dust for marketers working on customer loyalty programs.

Chucking a lead over the wall – no matter how “qualified” it is – without knowing what happens along the way is useless. Win or lose, the more intelligence marketing has about a sale, the better.

Good communication and collaboration should not be limited to client intelligence. If the sales force does not feedback on the content and campaigns created by the marketing team, and vice versa, if marketing does not ask for sales insight to inform their output, then it will always be considered ‘pieces of crap’. And I don’t mean the kind of binary, “it’s good” or “it’s bad” feedback. Honest, authentic, constructive communication is the only way this feud will fizzle. 

This kind of healthy communication is not likely to happen overnight. The years of siloed working and boardroom bickering will have created some battle wounds. A defensive marketer (why are you looking at me?) might launch another attack after some bad feedback, while a salesperson may feel to say it best when they say nothing at all. But at some point, we must wave the white flag and concede that this is one partnership that makes the most sense to invest in.

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