The new relationship between sales and marketing: it’s harder for the sales folks

Historically, sellers have been the one touching the buyer as marketers developed the brand awareness and hopefully brought buyers in – to be aware of the brand and trust it (or have some sort of mental relationship with it).

Marketing has never been hands-on the way that sellers were when they made cold calls or went to client sites to make presentations. Sellers worked more with the buyer; marketers worked more with the solution, the brand, and the general demograph of possible buyers.


We know that our historic sales/marketing jobs have shifted since the capabilities of technology are so ubiquitous. But what, exactly, has it changed to?

Believe it or not, this new relationship is making the seller’s job more difficult, and decidedly far less successful. With only assumptions to use when digital footprints are monitored as a prospect peruses the site (or whatever they’re following), they truly have no idea who is a prospect, and they absolutely have no idea how to create/develop trust over time. Not to mention they are leaving the sales folks to pick up the pieces too far into the buying decision cycle.

Here is a case in point. I recently had to download a trial copy of a software program I had purchased a couple of years ago: I suddently needed text in a program I developed and there was no other way to retrieve it but to download the originating software. But note: every day people who have not previously purchased software take trials with no thought to actually purchasing it.


From the moment — the very moment — that I downloaded the program, I began to get emails. Emails introducing me to additional capability that I could get if I purchased the entire program. Deals if I purchased NOW rather than waiting for the trial period to be over. Then I began getting emails from a sales rep, in a perky email voice, telling me to call him so he could explain all of the features of the solution. THEN I started getting a countdown to the days I have left on my trial, with deals to purchase at a great price. And THEN I got a call – ON MY PRIVATE NUMBER – that went like this:

“Hi. Sharon (and anyone who knows me knows NOT to call me Sharon)?? I’m Dan, your sales rep at X??? Hey. How ya doin?” And this is a direct quote.

After I told him I was busy and hung up (I didn’t even want to discuss how he got the phone number that only friends and family use), he began emailing me to pick up the conversation. And then he kept calling, without leaving messages.

This is all he has time to do? What sort of time does he spend following REAL buyers? And, if he follows them the way he’s following me, they are certain to find a different vendor for the annoyance factor alone. I actually feel stalked.


I’m not a buyer. This guy has me on his list of prospects – probably as a hot prospect since on his books I register as ‘interested.’ Marketing put up the trial and tracked me, then sent my name over to Dan. Now Dan is wasting his time following me up. Maybe even telling his boss he’s going to close me in 3 weeks.

How many ‘me’s’ are there, wasting Dan’s time? Before, sellers would get lead lists, or go networking, or do their research to discover potentially interested prospects. Now, they sit and wait for marketing to hand them ‘leads.’ And through all of this, only 50% of sellers are meeting their quotas. I suspect this is the reason why: they are wasting their time on unqualified leads that marketing is sending them. Not to mention the stalking feeling I got would have turned me off even if I were a real buyer.

Here are the problems: 1. Marketing has no means to know the difference between a good prospect and a bad one. 2. Marketing is making up in quantity what they are lacking in quality – and wasting a seller’s time in the process. 3. Marketing assumes that there are certain touch-points that determine a qualified buyer. But they are wrong: they are basing their assumption on potential need, not on propensity to buy. And they have no – no – idea the criteria buyers need to meet to decide to buy.

Yes. There is a way to enter the buying decision journey without stalking, without assuming need, without even discussing product.

Even if the marketing group hands over quantity rather than quality, there is a way to help buyers discover how to navigate through ALL of their decisions: it starts from the behind-the-scenes issues the person or team must navigate through…that off-line,personal, private stuff that goes on well before a solution is sought…and walks through the change management/buy-in cycle that’s a pre-cursor to a solution selection.

Sales doesn’t handle this. Hopefully, I’m helping this problem correct itself by placing Buying Facilitation™ into playbooks for a few sales enablement companies. But there is certainly a way to learn it for yourselves without having to purchase sales enablement software to use it.

To learn how to do this on your own (or with your team) if you’re not searching for in-house training (which of course we can do), take a look at my Learning Accelerators and the Guided Study program. And, for goodness sakes, if you’ve been enjoying these blog posts, at least get the new book Dirty Little Secrets and learn fully what I’ve been ranting about all of these years.


Find out more about Buying Facilitation™ digital selling.

4 thoughts on “The new relationship between sales and marketing: it’s harder for the sales folks”

  1. Sharon: Thanks for this post. IMO, it’s a really thoughtful take on the ‘state of affairs’. I’m especially struck by your observation that sales reps are paying price for the ‘improvements’ occuring around them. An even bigger price, in my view, is being paid by buyers. Your notion of the ‘stalking vendor’ is just the tip of the iceberg.

    One of my favorite questions to ask vendors is “what’s the hardest thing for one of your prospects to find these days?” It’s amazing how hard some have to search for an answer. It’s a question no one seems to be asking.

    My take on things: buyers struggle hardest to find HELP. Everyone’s too busy to be helpful. The irony in all this is that if only, internally, firms could stop sweating how busy they were reaching out to ‘targeted leads’ and focus instead on gauging how helpful they were to ‘interested buyers’, it’d be a game-changer. Buyers would get help they needed. They’d reward helpful Reps with their time + attention. With the buyer engagement triggered by their sales efforts, Reps would see + understand their Return-on-Effort. They’d see that what they do matters. Seeing that being helpful matters (heck, we’re getting more conversations every day(!)) would trigger timely, helpful, sales efforts to occur more often and matter more. There’d be a dynamic in which skilled people (sales reps) do work they’re skilled at doing (finding solutions to problems buyers haven’t the time to even imagine), with buyers who need the help.

    Does this make sense? If so, to the helpful will go the rewards. To the stalkers will go their just rewards. Those celebrating most loudly will be buyers.

    Hope this adds some value to your valuable points.

    1. Hi John: thanks for your thoughtful reply.
      To begin,my first name is 2 words – and I’m kinda cranky about it. So please call me Sharon-Drew. Thanks.
      Next: don’t ever forget that before we even get to this point, buyers must recognize and manage all of the internal decision criteria necessary to meet, and get the requisite buy-in, to ensure that everyone and everything is on board to accept a change. The sales or marketing or solution piece is the very very last thing needed. Sales and marketing acts as if it’s the ONLY thing, when in fact it’s only the last 10%.

      1. Sharon-Drew: sincere apologies for the oversight on your name.

        I agree with your take on the importance of buyers stick-handling change management issues. IMO, done well, there’s an enormous role for skilled sales people to play in helping them do so. I subscribe to Jill Konrath’s view that top-performing Reps, these days, are the ones most able to function as Business Improvement Specialists. It requires change, well managed as worth the risks.

        Again, hope this adds some value. – John

  2. John: Jill stuff is important and links well with Buying Facilitation(tm). Once you get a better understanding of BF, you’ll see how early it enters into the conversation/relationship – from the very first moment of interaction – and begins the decision making, even as to whether or how to start a conversation with you. With Wachovia we went from the first question: Hi – I’m going to be in your neighborhood and wondering if you’d be around Tuesday for us to stop by to show you some new products, to a Facilitative Question: Hi – How are you choosing to add new resource for those times you need additional support and your current bank can’t give you what you need?

    Here is my direct email address: But spend a bit of time perusing my blog and site.

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