New Approaches, Old Arguments

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Is it really marketing's fault that sales can't close deals? Is it the sales team's fault that marketing collateral goes unused? Ultimately, the blame lies with senior management.

Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News
Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News

In “Leadspotting,” PointClear President and CEO Dan McDade shares a client story about the vast discrepancy between its VP of sales' and head of marketing's views of the number of leads the marketing team provided to the sales organization—zero versus 9,000—the past year. Certainly, these two senior leaders should be communicating regularly, and agree on what constitutes as a qualified lead.

That led me to think about a blog I read recently that cited marketing as a primary cause of sales teams' woes. I felt exasperated after reading it, and penned the following, which coincidentally originally appeared on Viewpoint, PointClear's blog:

Is it really marketing's fault that sales can't close deals? Is it the sales team's fault that marketing collateral goes unused? Choose a point of contention. Who's actually at fault?

Ultimately, the blame lies with senior management. As is often said, you get what you pay for, what you measure, and what you expect. So if senior management wants to end the bickering between sales and marketing, and instead wants to foster constructive collaboration, those executives need to align the two teams' goals and compensation.

But wait, you say, they have different objectives.

Actually, both teams have a unifying goal: revenue growth. Sure, each team has its own objectives, but those goals need to roll up to joint goals for revenue growth. As they say, start with the end in mind, then work backwards to determine what each team needs to contribute to make it happen. It may come to light, for example, that the sales team needs only 50 leads a week to achieve its revenue goals (versus the 150 that were mostly ignored), which may change the marketing team's focus and priorities. The way you hunt for elephants is entirely different from the way you fish for salmon.

Collaboration works

Let's look deeper. Do you want marketers to care about lead quality? Then stop offering incentives on lead quantity alone and compensate those marketers on sales performance. If marketing brings in leads good enough to close, give them a slice of the variable compensation pie. Do you want salespeople to use collateral and content? Give them a voice during the creation process to ensure that what marketing is going to the expense and effort of creating is something that sales needs.

Mitel CMO Martyn Etherington is one senior executive sold on the value of sales and marketing collaboration. His approach is outcome-based marketing; in other words, “the result of any marketing program—be it revenue growth, channel growth, or improved customer satisfaction—needs to be identified and clearly defined,” he explains in the DMN series “Diary of a CMO.” When the Mitel sales team puts in a request to marketing for a new initiative, marketing will ask how much revenue each team needs to drive. Then, it uses that information to determine the proper cost-per-lead and the optimal marketing processes to achieve it and the revenue goals. The marketing team also uses that information to measure marketing performance. In these ways, goals are aligned and outcomes are more predictable.

Does it work? Mitel has achieved a 100-fold increase in qualified leads and a 20% increase in year-over-year demand over the past year under Etherington's leadership.

The time for the squabbling to end is now. As the line between sales and marketing continue to blur, ensuring constructive collaboration has become a strategic imperative.


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