“We built the best deck ever, and sales just insists on changing it, they can’t stay on message” – Head of Marketing

“That marketing deck is out of touch, our audience just doesn’t want to listen to that” – Head of Sales

Sometimes, as a consultant, I just want to go all Rodney King on my clients and scream – WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!

The truth of course lies somewhere in between, as it usually does.  Marketing, for it’s part, needs a story that scales.  They need to grab attention, keep it and create sales opportunities, real ones.   And while we can tailor our message by audience and industry, the number of variations we can effectively create and manage is by the very nature of marketing, somewhat limited, by bandwidth, budget and media channels.   And while Account Based Marketing and sales, buyer persona driven marketing, and technology driven personalization let us do more, we are still at the end of the day more like Classical Composers and conductors, writing and conducting the score to a large audience.

Sales on the other hand needs the story that wins NOW, with this customer, in this industry, against this competitor, in this economic environment, it this part of the buying cycle.  Now, this conversation, not tomorrow’s or next weeks.

While at the Topo Summit last week, I was chatting with my friend Paul McGee, founder and CEO of sales enablement vendor Sharper Ax about sales and marketing messaging, and how they differ.  Paul and I had done some previous work together for Sharper Ax and Paul had come up with the metaphor that great sales reps are like Jazz musicians, they know a lot of riffs, and they play the ones that are right for the small intimate audience they are performing for that day.  Great sales reps are Jazz Musicians.

Great marketers are Classical Music Composers and Conductors.   

Great sales reps are Jazz Musicians. 


To succeed we need to both understand and learn from each other.  Here’s my ideas for how we can bring our sales and marketing music into pure Go To Market Harmony –

Marketers MUST understand that sales is a performance more akin to Jazz and Improvisation than scripted set pieces.  While marketing needs classical music to do their jobs, sales performers need small repeatable riffs that they can string into story and on the spot performances that resonate with their audience of the moment.  Providing sales with these riffs; be they stories, value statements, silver bullets and the like, is a critical sales enablement task for marketing teams.  So when supporting sales, stop just writing symphonies and novels, and start writing musical riffs and poems.

Sales professional MUST understand that without classical training, your jazz improvisations will fail.  Take the symphony (“The Deck”) as a work of art, worthy of respect. Before you start riffing on your own, master the classical version.  Only then make it your own.   Respect the effort and thought that goes into the deck,  find the value, and then amplify it with you improvisation.  And rather that telling marketing they “don’t understand” the audience, teach them by constructively telling them which riffs and passages are getting the most applause from the buying audience. Be a partner so they get you better raw material to build your performances from.

We all must understand that to win, we need both Classical and Jazz music performers and performances in our Go To Market approach, then we can all get along!

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