Earlier this year I organised a TMIG* “Sales v Marketing” event that explored the relationship between sales and marketing, and why it was often fractious. We had two presentations followed by a stimulating discussion.

Rally Crew Credit: cameracourage.com

Several people tried to describe the relationship between sales and marketing teams. A ‘three-legged race’ was one suggestion, which didn’t appear very positive, with both sides slowing the other down. Another suggestion was a rally driver (salesperson) and co-driver, or navigator (marketer). This is a more positive analogy of the relationship, and perhaps one worthy of more exploration.

Even great rally drivers will fail if they don’t get the right information, at the right time. Their job is to remain in control, and proceed as rapidly as possible. The co-driver needs to map out the route and plan the campaign, but not just in an abstract way; the instructions and helpful suggestions need to be precise and in detail. Their timing must be perfect; late calls don’t help.

Similarly, salespeople need to focus on the here and now, with some visibility of the future (salespeople are notoriously bad at forecasting, but that’s for another discussion). Marketers can balance this by taking a longer view, focusing on the overall picture and how to overcome future obstacles. They need to make it easy for the sales person, not point out the tactical errors after the sale is lost.

It’s the co-driver’s responsibility to ensure the paperwork is kept in order, to keep a close eye on time, and to follow the rules. Marketers need to ensure the product is right for the customer/market. Salespeople, understandably, don’t want to get deep into a sales cycle, only to discover that the product hasn’t been approved for this market, or is incompatible with the customer’s infrastructure.

If something goes wrong – for example, the car is damaged or goes off the road – the driver and co-driver will work together to get it going again. It’s a team sport. If a sale is in difficulty, the marketer should be looking for compelling ways of getting it back on track. This means being in the sale not a critical spectator!

According to Motorsport, “Being a co-driver is just as important as being a driver; one simply can’t work without the other”, “[in addition to having] the ability to plan for every possible scenario, co-drivers also need to be able to keep a clear head and be ready for the unexpected”. The sales and marketing analogy fits with those statements, although “the key trait is the ability to deal with car sickness” reminds us that analogies are just that!

*TMIG – CIM Technology Market Interest Group