The gap between sales and marketing silos is perennial and pervasive. I was at a branding conference recently and heard three different presentations within one hour that bemoaned the incompatibility that these two functions experience. There was a CMO who said you need to find your sales advocate to embrace your agenda. There was a CSO (chief sales officer) who said that the leads generated need to be better. And there was a CEO who said you need to find ways to bridge the gaps between the siloed departments.
As the president and cofounder of a technology company, I am fundamentally invested in closing deals — in my mind, that had always meant sales. So, as we grew, I hired more salespeople, and our team grew larger and larger.
But if you dig deeper, statistically, most cold-call leads take an average of eight attempts to reach a prospect, and 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. Meanwhile, 80% of sales require five follow-up calls after the meeting, but 44% of sales reps give up after one follow-up. You don’t need to actually do the math to know that this is not optimal.
So, this position that I’m taking is probably going be heresy to all salespeople: Let’s not try to make this model work. Let’s not try to fix or link the “silos.” Let’s not keep the status quo. Let’s stop thinking individualistically. Let’s get rid of commissions and salespeople. Let’s reward performance for the company overall.
The marketing department is not a support department. It is a strategy department. It’s responsible for articulating the brand. If every company’s goal is about growth and reducing the risk around anything that threatens that growth, what is really driving the growth: the thinkers or the doers?
At the end of the day, is closing the deal more important than opening the door? I don’t think so. Without an open door, there would be no deal to close. So, let’s flip this hierarchy on its proverbial head.
In my opinion, marketing often — dare I say, always — gets the short end of the stick. The department can always be blamed for misdirection and ineffectiveness, but the fact of the matter is that without it you actually have nothing.
As a business owner, if we’re not getting the results we want, I would rather have people who can create, communicate and optimize something over people who complain about having something that they can’t sell because if the latter is the case, then you have a product problem. But if the former is the case, then you have a path to a solution.
A team that can articulate your brand, craft messaging and communicate it is invaluable; now all they have to do is learn how to close it. At our company, closing the deal is now a part of everyone’s job. There’s no need for commission. You are bringing a new client into the fold for the financial betterment of the company for which you work. This eliminates the cherry-picking of prospects and the competitive nature of salespeople. Business development is now a part of everyone’s responsibility, and if you bring in a new client or upsell a budget level, bonus rewards will be given. Gone are the entitlement and phoned-in commission payouts.
Put the drip CRM campaign on automation, and focus on enabling your marketing team, your thinkers, to lead the charge. In this transition, I’ve found it helpful to not hold marketing fully accountable to close deals, but to encourage them to keep finding opportunities. A good marketer understands that to communicate is ultimately to sell, but that to shill is ineffective.
I’ve had to adjust my expectations. But in reality, I’ve also adjusted payroll downward — and we’ve closed deals. I think the marketing team finds it exhilarating and liberating. Yes, the scope of work has evolved and increased, but so has their impact and empowerment to affect change.
Ultimately, in my mind, sales and marketing are not equal. Sales is a function and KPI of marketing. And marketing needs to own the results — but not by having to pass it off to another department to be potentially squandered or to wither and die. And you know how I know this is the right direction? Because it’s working.
As an agency — or, technically, a technology company that delivers marketing and media solutions for brands — we aren’t actually selling anything. We are marketing our products and services. We don’t need salespeople. We are in the business of persuasion.
You don’t have to bridge gaps, break down silos or create alignments. Just change the model to a smarter one.
At another conference recently, I had a lengthy and engaged conversation with someone from a well-known brand because my CMO had made a connection with them through dialog about business and shared insights — not a sales pitch. A door was opened; now we have the opportunity to close it.
This approach may not work for everyone, but it certainly is working for us.