I’ve talked to a lot of guests on Marketing Smarts about the differences between sales and marketing, and how to negotiate the conflicts that can arise between the two functions. Then I spoke with Dan Pink and realized that, aside from people in sales or marketing, no one cares about this distinction!
Shocking, I know. Here is how Dan put it:
This distinction that is bandied about between marketing and sales, to me… they’re not exactly the same, but they’re kind of sort of similar. But debating the theological distinctions between the two doesn’t do a lot for me. And I’m not sure it does a lot for readers.
“To me as an outsider,” he added, “the distinction isn’t that relevant.”
People Outside Your Company Don’t Care
Years ago, I worked for a company that based its business on four principles. One of theme was, “We need to have a holistic approach towards everything we do.”
The idea behind this principle was simple. While we may make a distinction between recruiters and salespeople, IT and finance, this office and that office, field and HQ, etc., to the outside world, we were just one company.
Dan was essentially making the same point when I interviewed him. Companies may struggle with the relative responsibilities of the marketing department and the sales organization. People can argue about whether sales should report to marketing (as Lou Imbriano recommended on our show) or whether marketing (in a B2B context) needs to focus primarily on sales support.
But the fact of the matter is your customers don’t care about how you are organized internally. They don’t care about reporting structures, lead management processes, or whether sales and marketing have established mutual SLAs (as they have at Hubspot) to improve efficiency and collaboration.
Your customers only care about the quality of your products and the experience they have when they interact with someone at your company. (And frankly, they will have no idea what department that person is in and will only care who that person’s boss is if they are especially dissatisfied with the service received.)
Forget About It
Given claims that customers are already close to 70% of the way through the purchase process before they engage a salesperson, I feel it’s safe to say that marketing (whose content is generally shepherding people through that 70%) has taken over what used to be a sales role (educating the prospective customer). It would also not be too much of a stretch to conclude that the difference between sales and marketing is breaking down based on evolving customer behavior.
That, however, would mean missing the point here.
What I’m suggesting is that the distinction between sales and marketing can be useful from a management perspective but irrelevant from a buyer perspective, as Pink pointed out. Therefore, whenever you find yourself arguing about who should report to whom and who is responsible for what, you need to take a step back and say: How does this possibly matter to the customer?
If it doesn’t matter, forget about it!
If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Dan Pink, you may listen here or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!