A Brutally Honest Discussion About the Responsibilities of Sales and Marketing

sales and marketing

How integrated are sales and marketing? They should be tightly integrated because marketing should tee up sales – right? What are the performance objectives for sales executives? Marketing executives? Well for sales executives, that is pretty easy – sales and margin. For marketing executives, that is not quite an easy answer. We could say brand awareness, lead generation, loyalty, and advocacy. But at the end of the day (or quarter) most CEOs judge their marketing executives’ performance on sales.

Now on one hand this makes sense. A company survives on profit from sales. All marketing efforts, if successful, should result in sales. But here is the rub … the functions of marketing are different than sales. And more importantly, customers and clients do not want to be blatantly sold to. They want to develop trust and relationships with the brands they purchase.

So let’s go back to sales objectives and marketing objectives. The sales executive has one simple job function – close the sale. Marketers’ job functions are different. They need to build awareness, interest, buzz, reputation, and overall an awesome customer/client experience with the brand. If we agree that marketers need to build trust and win over customers to build solid relationships, can’t that relationship be hurt if the target audience feels like they are being sold to? And if at the end of the day the marketer’s success and future with their company is going to be judged by sales, are we not creating a dilemma? Not just a dilemma for the marketer, but a potential problem for the customer as well?

As I said, this is an honest discussion with no simple answer. But I suggest that we need to change the objectives of marketers. My suggestion is not driven by a desire to ease the responsibilities of marketers, but is driven by the target audience behavior that marketers serve. The audience does not want to be sold to and at the same time they want to believe in the brands they purchase. And from the company perspective they need sales to survive.

If we look at the sales marketing funnel, most consumers traverse from awareness to consideration to sale to post-sale loyalty and then advocacy. Can we agree that the four phases besides sales (awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy) tee up sales? If so, let a marketer’s function and responsibility be teeing up sales and a sales executive be responsible for closing the sale. Measure marketers on awareness consideration, loyalty, and advocacy and not hold them responsible for sales. Is this distinction possible?

I believe the digital world has put much power in the hands of consumers and clients. They can get more information then ever before. They can share their opinion to a large audience and their news travels fast. Behaviors as a result of digital technologies create the case for truly separating marketing and sales objectives.

Here is an interesting analog … For a long time, The New York Yankees were blessed with having Mariano Rivera as the relief pitcher that would be put in at the end of a game to seal a win for the team. It did not matter if the starting pitcher was having an amazing outing. If the starting pitcher had a big lead. The Yankees’ manager would put Rivera in to close the deal. The Yankees had great “tee-er-uppers” and a superb closer. Metaphorically speaking, marketers are starting pitchers. They get momentum and set up the win for the closer. Sales executives come in in the late innings and seal the deal/win.

Yes, I know sales/marketing objectives are a complicated issue, but I think I have rationalized the need for change now. Many have talked about this for many years. Social and digital technologies have really created the customer/client behavior to drive a need for change now. Please add your voice and opinion to this vital topic.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under marketing, sales, Social Steve, SocialSteve

6 responses to “A Brutally Honest Discussion About the Responsibilities of Sales and Marketing

  1. I don’t know if it’s a “brutally honest discussion” or more of a “fundamentally honest discussion.” Either way, your comments are critically important for any company’s success.

    In our talks and lectures, my partners and I come across this issue quite often. The analogy I use is a pair of circles – one being Marketing, one being Sales. Ask any SMO and they’ll say, “overlapping circles.” But the truth is more like the MasterCard logo: Sales and Marketing overlap, but not as much as Sales would wish. We say, “you come back from lunch and there are two messages on your office phone. One is from Joe Blow at Famous Corporation and the other is from Joe Blow at Unknown Company. Which call are you going to return first?”

    Marketing’s job is to make your company the call they want to return first.

    Good post!

  2. Jim Matorin

    Great post. Old, tired topic. So many thoughts Steve: 1.) I have only witnessed a handful of successful companies align Sales & Marketing to be on the same page, similiar objectives. They were all organized where Sales & Marketing reported into one person, hte head of Sales & Marketing. 2.) In today’s world, ideally if a company is social, Sales & Marketing should be aligned, but the silos continue thanks to bad leadership/communication.

    On a personal note, the new buzz word of SMARKETING, the convergence of Sales & Marketing has help build my company’s awareness since people contact me and tell my my company’s name SMARTKETING (with a T) is being stolen. C’est la vie. No need for legal issues despite being protected by a service mark.

  3. Great post, Steve. Brands lose something fundamental to their long-term health when marketing is measured in the same way as sales teams.

    To extend your argument event further, I think that turning a company’s customer service reps into sales reps with service goals is dangerous. We saw this recently when Comcast suffered am embarrassing PR situation with the release of a phone call where a customer could not cancel his service. In that case, the customer rep was clearly not being evaluated as a customer care professional but as a sales professional, and Comcast suffered as a result.

    Great companies are like a great team where specialized players perform and are measured on their unique contributions. If the leadership is good, there is a fit between the specialties that results in success. In the same way not everyone can be the quarterback and head to the ball the moment it is snapped, not every part of the organization can or should be the sales team and held to sales goals.

    If customer service is the sales team, then no one is paying attention to the needs and loyalty of the current customer. And if marketing is the sales team, then no one is paying attention to the long-term reputation and value of the brand. In some organizations that are driven by direct marketing, I see where these distinctions get fuzzy, but too many brands are failing to evaluate their marketing team on–as you point out–awareness and consideration. If everyone is obsessively focused on the bottom of the funnel, it should come as no surprise when the top of the funnel (and the entire funnel) suffers.

    Thanks for the post!

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