Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

By Mark Helfen

If you have ever worked in marketing, you probably have noticed a certain disconnect between corporate marketing and the field sales organization. There is a “constant tension” between the organizations, according to Sandy Hawke, who is a Senior Director of Product Marketing at BigFix.

But Hawke has had some success in “bridging the gap,” and will share some of her strategies in a talk titled The Zen of Sales and Marketing Teamwork, next Monday at the October 12 SDForum Marketing SIG meeting (details here).

I spoke to Hawke on Wednesday, October 7, and asked her about her presentation.

She takes a broad view of marketing – and includes not only product marketing, but also product management, marcom, PR, web development, and lead generation – anyone who helps sales but doesn’t directly carry a quota.

Working well with sales, especially in these tough economic times, can help both your company and your career.

Hawke was once one of those quota carrying sales reps, and when she went from a field position to a product marketing role back at corporate headquarters, she vowed to “remember how tough the battle is.”

“The sales force is my customer,” she said, and described herself as their advocate.

She will use her first hand experience to help you “get inside the sales person head,” and understand what its like to walk in their shoes.

“You need to understand the challenges in another department that you rely on for your success.”

Hawke explained how she considers special product feature requests from sales reps, something that happens regularly in large, complex software products – she evaluates the revenue the change will generate for the company.

But as a former product manager, I pointed out that there is a weak correlation between the revenue a new product feature will generate, and the noise level the request generates from field sales. After all, sales reps are particularly good at persuading people to their point of view.

“I will say no, but I’m not Doctor No,” said Hawke. “You can still get along with sales without saying yes to everything.”

Some of her response is based on the personality and reputation of the person who is requesting the feature.

“Within a month I know which ones to believe.”

You can learn how to decide who to believe at next Monday’s meeting.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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