Sales Training Article: Integrating Oil & Water

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

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Throughout the 90’s people evangelized the merits of getting Marketing and Sales on the same page. Limited progress was made. Breaking down internal silos was difficult and many vendors prospered despite “oil and water” relationships between Sales and Marketing. It was difficult to determine if the potential payback was worth the time, effort and money required.

The issue of integrating Sales and Marketing remained largely unresolved. My recollection is that sometime around Y2K people grew tired of hearing about it. Some concluded: “It is what it is.” This is a socially acceptable way of saying while unhappy about something, there’s nothing that can be done to resolve it. The topic dropped off the radar screen.

Important, unresolved issues have a way of resurfacing. Buyers stampeded to dictate that they want to evaluate offerings via the Internet and social networking without seller efforts to influence their requirements. In doing so, traditional selling approaches have become nails on a chalkboard for knowledgeable buyers.

For Sales and Marketing executives selling complex B2B offerings, buyer actions got their attention. Many transferred responsibility for the top of the funnel from Sales to Marketing, a change from a strategic to a tactical role. It was more knee-jerk capitulation to a buyer mandate than well thought-out decisions.

Breaking down silos between Sales and Marketing is becoming a “need to do” activity. A tourniquet was applied by throwing lead generation to Marketing. Surgery is needed. Despite the hype, “DIY buying” has not delivered the revenue growth that was anticipated. Stock prices have risen, more because vendors are managing to bottom lines rather than enjoying increased top lines.

Organizations without frameworks to view customers and prospects from a common lens will face uphill battles in devising coherent enterprise strategies to address today’s challenges:

  • Visitors earning high web activity scores can’t fund unbudgeted initiatives
  • Many visitors have personal or departmental vs. enterprise views of offerings
  • Nurturing tactics for inbound visitors fail to go beyond product training
  • Value is needed to justify new expenditures
  • A high percentage of leads passed to sellers provide low entry points
  • A small percentage of leads close
  • The focus on inbound activity has come at the expense of outbound executive touches
  • Sellers are left to their own devices to recognize and respond to changes:
    • Buyers no longer want to be “educated” by sellers
    • Knowledgeable buyers resist or reject seller involvement
    • Traditional sales techniques offend knowledgeable buyers
    • Selling business outcomes rather than offerings
    • Delivering business results vs. closing deals

It’s important not to confuse activity with progress. The goal is generating higher revenue, not more leads. A coherent enterprise strategy seems to be needed to coordinate working top-down with targeted Key Players proactively and bottom-up in nurturing inbound inquiries to gain access to higher levels. Getting Sales and Marketing on the same page is challenging but necessary. Organizations that figure it out have the potential to enjoy sustainable competitive advantages by providing superior buying experiences.

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