TALKING SALES 172: "Why sales and marketing need to unite"

John Smibert

Sales +M 04 Gridirom example              "Sales & Marketing must team together to drive a shared outcome" - Interview by John Smibert

Most selling organisations that I come across struggle with the relationship between sales and marketing. They find that the two organisations are not aligned - have independently operating strategies and tactics that do not harness and focus the combined capability of Sue Barrett 2016 silver background American copy 400x590both organisations on generating opportunities, helping the customer form a decision, and achieving a winning outcome.

I ask sales leadership guru Sue Barrett to explain how she defines the role of both sales and marketing and to describe how she believes they need to be aligned. 

In simple terms Sue explained that "marketing talks to groups, and sales talks to individuals."

Sue told me "Marketing makes sure that it can look after the trends and the data and the behaviours that it's tracking, and then sales will provide you with that contextual relevant, really up close and personal information.

Clarity of strategy and role is vital to ensure the most effective use of our sales resources leads to sales and revenue growth.  See the full interview below to learn more.


Sue is an authoritative thought leader and an accomplished author on the selling profession. She's also founder and CEO of Barrett and


John: I'm delighted to have Sue Barrett with me again - welcome back, Sue!

Sue: Thank you, John!

John: Hey Sue, I want to talk about one of my pet subjects, and I know it's a growing subject in this day and age, and that's the area of sales and marketing, and their role of aligning to really improve sales. Can you elaborate on some of your thoughts on that area?

Sue: Okay. First, we have to make sure there's a clear definition for each of those areas.

John: Yes.

Sue: Because how many times, John, have we heard people call selling marketing, when in fact what they're talking about is selling.

John: Or vice versa.

Sue: Yes. So, the simplest way I can describe the two, without going into all the technical book jargon and all that sort of stuff, is that marketing talks to groups, and sales talks to individuals.

sales + Marketing alignment02 800x400John: Okay, and I'd be interested to delve into that further as we go into this discussion, because I've seen a lot of marketing people now starting to delve into talking to individuals via the social media and so on, so let's discuss that a little bit more.

Sue: Okay. So, with marketing what we're doing... Or let's rise above marketing and sales. We have to have a sound strategy and a purpose of what we're trying to do out there. What is our offer, what is our value proposition? What is it that we're trying to deliver of value? And then because with marketing it can actually get much closer to individuals, you can get much closer to smaller groups or micro-segments, like we've discussed earlier. But it is charged with telling the stories, it's charged with holding the brand currency, it's charged with to look at the big numbers, and crunch those numbers to look at trends or patterns and those sorts of things.

John: Sure.

Sue: It looks at that and makes sure that that's consistent, and they can actually make adjustments of course to different segments or micro-segments that are out there, to put stuff in front of people to attract them.

John: Okay, yes - that makes sense.

Sue: Salespeople or sales is about when we get up close and personal. We have an overarching promise as value proposition as an organisation. Yet, when I meet you, the individual, that overarching value proposition may not be exact for you and your situation. I'm not going to stray outside the premise of what we do, but my job is to understand you and what's important to you, to then be able to put forward a value proposition under the remit of what we offer that's relevant to you specifically.

John: Exactly.

Sue: Now, marketing might be able to get closer and closer and closer, but if it's not actually engaging and asking questions of people, and understanding the variables and situations which salespeople need to do, then...

John: They're not selling.

Sue: They're not selling, they're just pulsing stuff in front of people. So then the salesperson's job or sales team's job is to be able to engage a human to human situation, whether it's over the phone, face to face, chat room, live chat, that kind of thing, it needs to be able to actually then have those relevant, specific, contextual, customised conversations.

John: So you're saying marketing should never get to the stage of actually having that one on one, chat room discussion or all the rest?

Sue: Well, if they are, they're selling.

John: If they are, they're selling.

Sue: Yes.

John: And we need to understand that that's part of their role then, yes.

Sue: That's right. If they want to get involved with that, that's fine, but that's selling.

John: Okay. A lot of people are now talking about the buyer journey, and they're saying in the buying journey from 'whoa to go' there's a role for both sales and marketing, because Process Alignmentsales, yes, they're doing the face-to-face activity through that process... And there may be very little face-to-face activity in the early process as the status quo is upset and so on, and there may be no direct face-to-face contact, but as time goes by the salespeople get more and more involved. But a lot of people are suggesting, and I think there's merit to it, that marketing need to be with them as they go through the process.

Sue: Yes. Well, marketing need to know what we're trying to achieve out there in the world. They need to be able to curate information that's going to be relevant to those target markets that we're after.

John: And when we get into an individual opportunity, working with an individual customer, they need to understand where we're at in that process and make sure the right messages are going to the individuals that we're going to be working with in that company.

Sue: Correct. But also too, the challenge that we have is that if marketing then thinks it's doing something at someone else, they've missed the point entirely.

John: I totally agree.

Sue: So, there's all this stuff out there. I'm sorry to say there's too much information in that whole publishing space. How do you find information? How do you curate that information that's going to be relevant to that buyer's journey? There's too much to read, again, and so...

John: There is, and is directed out there to everybody in my target market. There's no way of directing it to individuals.

Sue: That's right. So, as a salesperson if I understand my clients, if I understand the people there, and if I know in our business at least I have a library of resources that marketing has helped create and craft and pull together for me, then I can curate the information and direct that too, so I can be involved with putting stuff in front of clients that I see as relevant and supportive. We have to work together, but it can't just be... I mean, who's your brochure written for, John? Most companies still to this day, their brochure or marketing literature; is written for the company, not the customer or the buyer.

John: I agree.

Sue: And I just think it's... It's such a waste of time.

John: I agree, I agree. So, marketing has to have those stories, the curation, and they need to have a strategy behind that that is aligned with the sales strategy, and the two go hand in hand, but it is quite an independent role, marketing versus sales.

Sue: Marketing makes sure that it can look after the trends and the data and the behaviours that it's tracking, and then sales will provide you with that contextual relevant, really up close and personal information that would be very hard - at least at this point in time, given the state of the world - to get that real nuance that you would get in a sales situation.

John: I think that's a good summary of what the sales and marketing alignment needs to be, and I thank you very much!

Sue: Thank you!


Past interviews with Sue Barrett:



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