Sales vs. Marketing: Battle of the Plan

We watched Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview last night. In this 1995 interview, he described the product group that came up with the MacIntosh as a group of superstar innovators who came together and created magic. His metaphor was a tumbling machine, a gadget that tumbles rough rocks together in order to smooth each other out. He also compared Apple to companies such as Xerox that began to focus less on product and more on sales and marketing and how that prioritization leads to decay of the product, loss of the technical staff, and so on. This morning, Fred Wilson of writes in a similar vein,

One of the things I have observed over the years is that a hard charging sales oriented founder/CEO can often hide the defects in a product. Because the founder is so capable of convincing the market to adopt/purchase the product, the company can get revenue traction with a product that is not really right. And that can hide all sorts of problems.

In my corner, I experience a more localized battle: the one between sales and marketing. What does this battle look like? Marketing owns the marketing plan and budget, tracking the sales force’s activities and expenses. Sales may want the freedom to gallop along, buckling under the transparency of a log of activity and expenses. Sales may want to forego the plan entirely, preferring to roll along and pursue opportunity spontaneously, with little regard for the cost of pursuit. (Most sales efforts are judged more by top line revenue than profitability.) Marketing can be flexible, but has to be accountable for the budget. When a sales and marketing budget has been tallied as a single budget in the past and due to the company’s growth, becomes split into two budgets, what may ensue is the Battle of the Marketing Plan.


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