From the March 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Is there a disconnect between the marketing and sales functions in your business? If so, you may be wasting thousands of marketing dollars and employee time to boot.

According to IT market analysis firm Aberdeen Group Inc., as much as 80 percent of marketing expenditures on lead generation and sales collateral are wasted because these efforts are ignored by salespeople. Marketing teams make an equally damaging blunder by overlooking critical input from salespeople regarding customer data and needs, causing salespeople to spend as much as 40 to 60 hours per month creating their own customer-relevant collateral materials. Even worse, this problem may go unrecognized for years, causing a downward spiral in sales results.

The bottom line is that marketing exists to support sales. Your marketing department can develop a great product strategy, but it's up to your sales staff to implement it. And when the marketing and sales departments (whether they consist of two people or 200) fail to share the right information, the company suffers.

It's easy to see where the disconnect starts. Salespeople are required to spend the bulk of their time in the field meeting with customers, in the office on the phone, or at the computer. In retail organizations, a salesperson's entire day is generally spent in the store with customers. The sales staff's income can be affected dramatically by the quality of leads or foot traffic generated by marketing, and they're on the front line when it comes to hearing all the positive-and negative-input from customers.

Marketing staffers, on the other hand, are under pressure to solve challenges quickly and creatively while analyzing the available information on the competition, the marketplace, the company's products and services, and the target audience. They rarely interact with customers, unless it's through second-party reports from surveys or focus group research. They're almost always juggling tight budgets and countless vendors, from ad agencies or media reps to printers and the press.

With both groups constantly under pressure, frequent, scheduled face-to-face interaction is imperative, even in the most closely knit companies. To succeed, your marketing people must get the sales staff involved in the development of new programs and materials from day one, and keep them apprised of all activities from product launches through promotional campaigns-because if the sales force is not on board, chances are, your programs will fail. And the sales staff must share customer insights as well as candid information on the usability and effectiveness of marketing tools and campaigns.

Here's what each of your teams should bring to the meeting table.

Marketing should present:

  • An overview of current business conditions your company faces, including new technological breakthroughs, competitive product launches, and government regulations that will affect customer relations
  • Promotional and advertising programs in the works
  • , their central messages, key features and launch dates
  • A description of the marketing programs of your major competitors
  • Details about upcoming press coverage
  • Insight gained from customer feedback via your Web site and research

Your sales team should report on:

  • Any changes in customer demographics or hot buttons
  • The quality of marketing leads
  • The effectiveness of special promotions
  • Objections raised by customers, and the sales strategies and tactics used to overcome them
  • Feedback on how well your marketing messages relate to customers' needs
  • Competitive product or service comparisons as they relate to the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Feedback on the usability of sales tools and materials

When you ensure vital information flows between your sales and marketing teams, the resulting marketing campaigns and materials will be right on the money.