From the November 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Whether you've finally managed to grow your business to the point where you've got separate sales and marketing teams or you're working with an outside marketing agency and a small-but-scrappy band of salespeople, you undoubtedly cling to the same vision: The marketing folks will create greater awareness and demand through careful planning and execution, while the sales team will be out on the streets closing deals. Now if you could only get them to stop bickering and work together...

When it comes to workplace interaction, few relationships are as fraught with tension as that between the sales force and the marketing department. While it is possible to eliminate the us-vs.-them mentality, the productivity of many firms is greatly reduced by the infighting of this potentially oil-and-water combination. While the overall goals of both departments are to promote the company's products, services and image, they achieve those goals in very different ways: Marketers need statistics and hard information in order to do their jobs effectively, but salespeople often rankle at gathering such data because they feel it takes too much energy away from their sales efforts. The result is often resentment in both departments, which leads to decreased productivity for everyone.

To bring the groups together and get good results, try these tips:

  • Practice regular team-building. The fastest way to build resentment within your work force is to imply that one department is more important than another. While some divisions more directly impact the bottom line than others, all your employees should feel that their work is equally important and valued by the company.
  • Trade places. Make your marketing people accompany your salespeople out in the field. Pluck a salesperson for office duty with the marketers. Fostering an understanding of what each team does can lead to stronger working relationships and more effective cooperation.
  • Streamline systems. While it's important to quantify your business's activities and requirements regularly, evaluate the number, complexity and need for forms and reports at least twice each year. While the quickest fix is often another form or policy, most businesses already have too much unnecessary paperwork. See if you can streamline your systems through less frequent reporting, using e-mail, or some other mechanism.

One company I worked with had no fewer than a dozen forms for salespeople to complete each week--forms which the salespeople rarely completed. Because the company valued hard data, the marketing department was responsible for creating new ways to capture that information--which led to more forms for the sales staff to fill out. By working with the company to decrease the number of forms and making the remaining ones more meaningful, as well as adding quarterly discussions between sales and marketing, we were able to improve the flow of information and the relationship between the two departments.

  • Check personality issues at the door. While many workplaces are relaxed in tolerating employee individuality, progressive managers may encounter employees that cross the line of professionalism. Make it clear that your employees should keep their personality issues in check. While abusive, racist, sexist or other inappropriate behavior should never be tolerated, simple personality conflicts run amok can also wreak havoc on your employees' productivity.

Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author ofCreating Successful Small Business Advertising($39.95), available by calling (800)247-653. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them in can of Entrepreneur.

Understanding The Species

Marketer (humanus promotus)

Characteristics: Charged with reaching the greatest possible number of prospects at a respectable frequency within or under budget, this creative strain of employee often craves order. Tends to be fond of forms and procedures to manage a heavy workload and make sure that nothing "falls through the cracks."

Most frequent complaint about salespeople: "They just don't understand what goes on in here."

Salesperson (humanus buyfromus)

Characteristics: Constantly under the pressures of meeting ever-growing quotas, this employee needs to make the customer happy--fast. Often has reams of paperwork that still need to be filled out, so the last thing he or she wants is another form, policy or procedure.

Most frequent complaint about marketers: "They just don't understand what goes on out here."