I recently came upon a talk by Seth Godin on TED called “The Tribes We Lead.” This started me thinking about the challenges of collaboration between sales and marketing in a building materials manufacturing setting, i.e. sales and marketing alignment. Could it be that what can be perceived as obstinacy or complacency is really something much more innate? Is it really tribal conflict?
When we think of what defines a tribe – customs, language, social mores, and the like – there is an argument to be made for my hypothesis. Sales has a set of customs that differ markedly from marketing – they travel weekly (in most cases), they have an “office day”, they have annual sales meetings. Their language, too, is unique – there’s talk of pipelines, conversion rates and commissions. Marketing professionals are typically glued to their offices or cubicles and think (and talk) about things like branding and creative. Speak of creative or branding to a sales person and you get one colossal eye roll followed quickly by a heavy sigh. Further, what is socially acceptable for a sales person – working from home, maintaining a fluid schedule and being nearly entirely self-directed – are things that most marketing personnel can only dream of.
So what of movement between tribes? Ironically, there is only movement in one direction – from sales to marketing. Never the reverse, at least in my experience. Once the sales person migrates to marketing, we find (in the best of circumstances) they become essentially emissaries. Trying to translate the language, customs and social norms of the Sales Tribe in the hopes of it making sense to the Marketing Tribe. At worst, the migrant becomes an apologist for his Tribe of origin and works diligently to try and modiy the Marketing Tribe to better suit the needs of the Sales Tribe.
So, if there are really Sales tribes and Marketing tribes, what can we do to become better emissaries? Is it possible to achieve sales and marketing alignment in a building materials manufacturing setting without upsetting the tribal balance? And to what end? Will the state of alignment help us to be more effective, more efficient and to be able to measure the difference?