The ideal way for marketing and sales to work together

Marketing and sales have different primary goals: marketing is about raising awareness of your brand, while sales is about converting that awareness into transactions and profit. Given these different objectives, sales and marketing can look a lot like squabbling siblings. I saw this firsthand when I came into my role as chief marketing officer (CMO). Our sales and marketing departments had a lot of animosity and didn’t trust each other. Over time, working and evolving together for increased revenue and sales has led to greater success. Creating cohesive marketing and sales departments in your own business can similarly drive demand and increase productivity.


Marketing and sales typically clash because both have a strong desire to take credit for the process of bringing in profits. The reality is that sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin and need each other to support the business. Without awareness of and trust in the brand, which marketing creates, sales won’t have the prospects to connect with and to pitch products to. Without the deeper relationships and transactions that sales creates, there’s no return on the brand investment.

Success is most likely to occur when sales and marketing grasp that the customer journey is about building and tapping trust and that they’re both essential to doing it. Both departments have to trust each other and see that they are working together for the same goal.


If your sales and marketing teams are ever going to unify under the same banner, they need a structured way to see how their responsibilities connect and give each other input. Establishing regular meetings between the teams will give them a chance to develop a battle plan together. It also clarifies that both teams own lead management.

With my teams, I try to have these meetings once a month. Marketing explains to sales what they’ve been doing and sales gives the marketing team information about what they’re seeing with customers. Then, together, we strategize. Based on the input from both sides, we come up with immediate or short-term tactics for sales and adjust the longer-term tactics for marketing.

These types of collaborations require a common language, which isn’t necessarily going to be automatically present. Sometimes you have to develop that common language intentionally. This was true for us. For some help, I brought in a consultant. They got the sales and marketing teams to jointly define the key basic terms everybody needed to understand, such as ” client,” “prospect,” “sales-ready lead,” and “marketing lead.”

In the end, deliberately sitting together and putting our responsibilities, tactics, and vocabulary up on a whiteboard was one of the most powerful things we did for our business. It not only let everyone see how important we all were to the process, but also how we each helped to drive revenue. Once we had this greater sense of togetherness, we tapped the inertia we’d built and looked more seriously at how we approached our data. We are currently putting all of our client information coming from both sales and marketing activities into what we are calling a “data lake.” It is our hope that this open approach to data will provide sales with a better sense of what next step to take with prospects, such as sending an email versus doing a webinar. It simultaneously should allow marketing to understand what effective engagement looks like in the field so we can maintain or develop effective campaigns.


As your sales and marketing teams get more comfortable with each other, it’s important that they understand strategies aren’t going to be static. They’ll have to adjust the marketing plan together based on the sales outcomes they see. By being realistic about what’s happening and taking shared responsibility, and by committing to sharing data between groups, they can find the most efficient and successful strategies and pivot as trends shift.

Isn’t it time you started a unified journey?

Your sales and marketing departments support each other in the customer journey, which revolves around building and capitalizing on trust. Neither is more important than the other in this way, and both are necessary. Achieving unity between the teams, however, is a deliberate choice. It requires meeting regularly, clarifying roles, establishing a shared vocabulary, and using shared data to develop clear, flexible, and mutually-supportive strategies. Guide your sales and marketing team through these steps with confidence to achieve greater margins for success.

David Partain is SVP of Northern Trust and CMO of their subsidiary, FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds.

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