For the benefit of my undoubtedly youthful readership, The Odd Couple is a television comedy that ran for several years in the early 1970s. The show is based upon the play written by Neil Simon.

The stars of the show are Felix and Oscar, two divorced men who decided to share an apartment in New York City. Felix is neat and tidy while Oscar is super casual and a bit of a slob. The obvious clashes in everything from their attire to their dining preferences lead to some truly funny television.

In the business world, marketing professionals and salespeople often behave a bit like Oscar and Felix, unable to collaborate or agree on much of anything. Does it really have to be this way? Is the blame game around the quantity and quality of leads versus the timely and professional follow-up on those leads inevitable?

I don't think so. In fact, I think there is a pretty simple recipe for getting everyone on the same page.

Now before I divulge my secret formula, I'd like to share something with my fellow marketing brothers and sisters. I believe Peter Drucker said it best when he described the role of marketing. "There will always ... be the need for ... selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him (or her) and sells itself."

In other words, the role of marketing is to make selling easy by focusing on the needs of the buyer. Interestingly, recent sales methodologies could be described in a very similar way. So is the difference between sales and marketing merely semantics? Once again, I don't think so.

Convergence

I believe sales and marketing are on a collision course. Both disciplines are hurtling toward each other at the speed of light, and the ensuing explosion will be a brilliant display of enlightened engagements, customized products and tailored solutions for customers everywhere.

Why? Well, in the age of hyper-educated buyers, salespeople have to demonstrate tremendous listening skills. They must tune in to social channels, email opens, website visits, and any other potential "interest" signals. Sounds an awful lot like marketing, doesn't it?

Similarly, marketing professionals must personalize their messaging for the unique needs of the prospect. Sounds an awful lot like sales, doesn't it?

So in the end, marketing and sales may not be so different after all. The real question is how this odd couple can team up to meet and exceed customer expectations and deliver on business objectives. Here is the recipe I would recommend.

Recipe for Sales and Marketing Alignment

  1. Listen intently to interest signals and personalize messaging to suit the buyer profile and the stage of their buying journey.
  2. Plan and build common objectives and compensation models as a team and make performance against those objectives highly visible.
  3. Specialize your lead qualification, prospecting and sales teams. Choose what's best for your business--opportunity size, geography, vertical, etc., for your segmentation model.
  4. Add structure and accountability into the lead management process. Be sure to "mind the gap" for handoffs between marketing and sales teams.
  5. Train, work and play together. Educate and enable marketing and sales together as if coaching a team.

In Malcolm Gladwell's terrific book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he notes, "Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good." I couldn't agree more and it applies to marketing and sales in a profound way. Setting common objectives and practicing together is the key to developing any good team.

Fueling sales acceleration is undoubtedly a team sport, but far too many organizations fail to look at it that way. In fact, many businesses pit marketing and sales against each other rather than focusing them on delighting customers at every stage of the buying cycle.

I believe the odd couple can work together and prosper together. If your company can align sales and marketing using the recipe I've outlined above, then your business will benefit from increased revenues. In addition, your customers will benefit from engaged sales and marketing teams that provide truly personalized experiences based on their unique needs.