Why Sales Teams and Production Teams Can't Seem to Get Along

2020-09-12 15:39:03 | #professional development #advice #work | Part 3 of 3

It's the age-old struggle. Sales promises everything under the sun. Production complains that there aren't enough resources to make good on those promises. Sales doesn't understand the production pipeline. Production doesn't understand the needs of the customer. It can get toxic very quickly.

Why can't sales and production seem to get along? Why are their roles at such odds with each other? To answer these questions, we need to understand how the nature of each role contributes to this conflict. When departments clash, oftentimes, their goals don't align, or they lack perspective or understanding.

"Sales teams will try their best to buy producers time to evacuate the blast radius, but they will always detonate the bomb to make the sale."

Open Communication and Flexibility is Key

Open communication and flexibility are the two pillars of a healthy team dynamic. Every other piece of advice is secondary. If you come out of this article just understanding this one point, and ignore the rest, you will have solved 75% of the issues between sales and production.

Communication standards must meet the following criteria:

  1. Two-way
  2. Open
  3. Respectful
  4. Clear

These communication standards allow information to pass freely, without fear of criticism or suppression. Just to be clear, I'm not saying without criticism, but without the fear of criticism. Differing views and opinions should be embraced in order to allow the best solution to rise above others.

Any form of top-down, dictatorial communication, without taking into account the input of the production team puts the deadline at risk. Unfortunately, top-down dictation can be very hard to avoid because the client is where this communication starts. The client has a target to hit and the business goes to the agency/vendor that can deliver. The client doesn't care how it gets done and won't sympathize with production, and they shouldn't.

So how do we succeed when the two most vital pillars of communication are missing at the core of our business? We move those pillars outward, and build the strongest possible support system along the edges, where our domain lies. A team that supports each other is the scaffolding around the rocket that launches to the moon.

It starts with a sales team that has a direct line to the production team. Sales needs to understand exactly what they are promising and set realistic expectations with the client. And sales needs to nurture that relationship so the client can be less rigid and trust that certain compromises are for the benefit of the product and their customers. But even then, as a developer, expect to be asked to do the impossible. Sales teams will try their best to buy producers time to evacuate the blast radius, but they will always detonate the bomb to make the sale. Once the deadline is set, all bets are off, and anyone that doesn't provide support is at odds with the business.

"Sales promises a set of unrealistic, idealized expectations gift-wrapped with confidence and decisiveness."

The crux of the issue is that both sales and production are in a tug of war for the support required to thrive in their respective roles. Sales promises a set of unrealistic, idealized expectations gift-wrapped with confidence and decisiveness. Production is its hesitant, compromised, DIY, rigged, duct-taped execution. Compromise must come from somewhere.

How Sales and Production Can Work in Harmony

Sales and production work in harmony through effective management and resource allocation. If sales promises beyond capacity, finance has to allocate more budget/resources to production and management has to keep morale high by aligning the business goals with employee motivations. Without these adjustments, employees burn out and the quality of the product suffers.

It is also highly fruitful for sales and production to understand each other's day-to-day. Summoning the will to compromise is much easier when you understand its benefits to the overall health and happiness of the company.

Preparing the production team as early as possible for projects coming down the pipeline is also advantageous. There's nothing worse than knowing production could have started two days earlier on an already short deadline because the requirements weren't communicated soon, enough.


Remember, at the end of the day, the client is all that matters. Without a happy customer, there aren't any battles for sales and production to wage against each other. Unrealistic demands start with the client, because their sole purpose is to satisfy their customers with as low a budget as possible. Any stress that's derived from this is inherited by sales who do their best not to pass it on to production. The true struggle is not with each other, but with how to compromise, as a team, to ensure the client is happy.

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