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If you ever watched Married with Children, then you’re familiar with this Frank Sinatra classic:

Love and marriage, love and marriage/They go together like a horse and carriage/This I tell you, brother/You can’t have one without the other!

These lyrics also ring true for companies – if you substitute “sales and marketing” for “love and marriage.” 

No two departments are more intertwined than the creators of the messages for a product and the sellers. That’s why “sales” and “marketing” are often expressed as a single phrase.


Guest Post from David Satterwhite, CRO, and Michelle Huff, CMO, at Act-On Software.


Nevertheless, this relationship isn’t always harmonious. Though they share a common goal – revenue – teamwork between sales and marketing can be a challenge.

One common hurdle is the cultural differences that stem from one role being a headquarters function and the other serving on the front lines. Indeed, in the worst cases, sales and marketing chiefs can even end up as adversaries rather than partners.

Despite differences in agenda, however, when both parties assume positive intent and choose to see the glass as half-full, they can collectively improve the overall business and deliver outstanding results.

The business world no longer has a place for an adversarial relationship between the CRO and the CMO. In today’s digitally-driven marketplace, with so much of the buying process taking place online before a prospect even talks to a sales rep, a disconnected sales and marketing team is simply not an option; the two teams must work hand in hand as they guide the customer journey.

As chief marketing officer and chief revenue officer at a B2B software company, we have found that a successful sales and marketing alliance shares a remarkable number of characteristics with a good marriage.

Here are the six shared characteristics we find most important:

An “us against the world” mentality. We’ve fostered a bond around a common objective – generating more profitable and longer-lasting customers – and we consider each other equal partners in achieving it. We value our symbiotic relationship. And though we may not necessarily agree on everything all the time, we’re united when it comes to the big picture. It’s never “Michelle’s pipeline” or “David’s funnel” – it’s ours. We have each other’s backs.

Good communication. How often do you hear that a successful marriage begins with strong communication? Or that, conversely, poor communication can doom a couple? It’s the same with marketing and sales leaders. At our company, we spend hours and hours discussing what’s needed to attract and grow customers. We talk on the phone; we sit in each other’s offices.

Collaboration is impossible without communication.

Empathy. It often feels as if “Sales is from Mars and Marketing is from Venus.” Sales reps have one of the highest-pressure jobs in the world, constantly trying to close deals that are their company’s (and their own) lifeblood. Marketers must combine their knowledge of buyer behavior with insights from the field and consistently produce effective content that shows how the brand meets customer needs.

Sales and marketing are complementary but different disciplines, and each tends to have its own culture and language. Since we have shared goals despite these differences, it’s critical for marketing people to try and understand a sales rep’s day-to-day reality, and vice versa. This empathy provides the foundation for lasting alignment.

Sticking together when times are tough. Sure, it’s easier for sales and marketing to be in synch when things are going well, messages are resonating, leads are flourishing, and customers are buying. It’s when a company is in turnaround mode or going in challenging new directions that the relationship is truly tested.

Without trust and strong communication, sales and marketing leaders may start pointing fingers at each other. To withstand such difficult times you really must build a trusting, synergistic bond.

Developing common interests. In a marriage, developing common interests might mean going hiking together. For sales and marketing, it means coming up with systemic ways of working together. For example, we’ve had teams composed jointly of sales and marketing people collaborate on important projects. We also have marketing people attend the weekly sales call.

Ensuring that sales and marketing work together, as a matter of course, strengthens the notion that sales and marketing are unified.

Chemistry. All sales leaders seem to think they’re paired with either a great CMO or a terrible one. And CMOs say the same about sales leaders. There seems to be no in-between. This situation can have as much to do with interpersonal chemistry as it does with business considerations.

Answering the following questions can help you figure out if the chemistry is there with your current partner: Would you mind being stranded at the airport for a few hours with this person? Does collaborating with this person feel like fun or a chore? Do you make each other laugh?

Here’s how it should be: When the sales leader-CMO marriage partnership is going well, it just feels natural.

How well CMOs and sales leaders are able to cultivate these six traits in their relationship will determine their ability to collaboratively fulfill customer needs and drive growth.

Companies with CMOs and sales leaders who don’t work well together are missing a huge opportunity. And, like the song says, “You can’t have one without the other!”

Image Source (Creative Commons): Crosa.


Michelle Huff_Act-On CMOMichelle Huff is Act-On’s chief marketing officer and oversees the company’s brand, demand, and customer expansion marketing efforts. Michelle comes to Act-On with more than 17 years of experience helping market leading companies – including Salesforce and Oracle – connect customers with technology solutions to grow their business. 

David Satterwhite_Act-OnDavid Satterwhite is Act-On’s chief revenue officer. He brings over 20 years of sales leadership in enterprise technology to this current role. Starting his high-tech sales career at Oracle and having run and led sales teams for various stage businesses – from pre-revenue to $100M+ – David has a solid track record of successfully building and scaling worldwide sales, services, and business development teams. 

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