Rumor Has It (All Wrong): Answers

Recap: At her previous job Ashburn Technologies’ new CMO, Rhonda Botusky, introduced variable compensation for the marketing team based on the sales team’s performance. She planned to do the same at Ashburn. But, a sales rep overheard part of the conversation Botusky had with VP of Sales Devon Doray about her plan and set alight a rumor that sales would have to split commissions with marketing, who would have to take a pay cut and work on base pay with commission. There was an uproar before Botusky and Doray could present their far more equitable plan: Sales compensation remained the same; marketers’ bonuses were reworked based on a combination of deals closed and company profitability. Now Botusky had to dispel the rumor and get buy-in to the new plan.

October Winner ? Michael Smith, marketing designer, Tri-Win Direct
There is nothing too complicated here. Botusky needs to get all of the salespeople and marketing people into the same room and “throw open the kimono,” so to speak.

During the meeting, explain the new plan, provide handouts detailing the new compensation package, field the small tidal wave of inevitable questions, and close the presentation with a reminder about how information such as this will be disseminated from management, not a nosey sales rep.

Other responses

? Mark DiMassimo, CEO and creative director, DiMassimo Goldstein
Get everybody together, and make sure that everyone hears the rumor. Get it out straight and clear, with no spin. Let it sink in. Then, let them know it is, in fact, a rumor. After that, sell the real plan. If you don’t have all the details, sell the strategy and say as much as you can. Then, be open for questions and comments. In a vital company, you can expect some vociferous critics. Let them speak. If the questions touch on strategies or details that you’re ready to share, then answer them directly and clearly. If they touch on details that you don’t yet know, take notes and promise clarifications. That’s the best way. The next best ways are pale imitations of this approach, through other channels.

? Peter Mendelson, CMO, RaiseWorks
What a tremendous opportunity to bring sales and marketing together. Botusky should immediately schedule an offsite meeting with both sales and marketing to explain the way that Asburn Technologies is going to be even more successful with their help. Botusky and Doray should present the details of the new plan together, providing a united front.

Marketing will now be tasked with producing even better leads based on continuous input from sales. Sales will be tasked with closing more business based on marketing producing better leads. To reinforce the initiative, all sales and marketing personnel will see the KPIs of leads closed and daily leads worked versus logging into their computers each morning.

Botusky should provide a summary each Friday by email for both sales and marketing and set expectations for the following week. If all goes as expected, the marketing team should be enjoying an even bigger bonus than before, when it was based solely on company profitability.

? Ted Zollinger, VP, professional services, AccuData Integrated Marketing
The only way to truly dispel rumors is to address them head on and face to face with all of the involved parties. Rumors quickly spread like wildfire, and actual facts from the decision makers are the only real extinguishers.

Because Botusky and Doray had an almost-finished plan that would have satisfied the marketing and sales groups, the best approach would be to quickly wrap up whatever details were still outstanding and get both teams in the same room as soon as possible. By presenting the plan to both groups at the same time, there’s little or no room for dissent and side conversations that deviate from what will eventually be put in to place.

? Kevin McPherson
Botusky should quickly schedule a roundtable discussion with her team. She should start the meeting by outlining her idea and let them know that it is currently a concept. She can let them know that the details are still to be worked out and that she wants to hear from her team on their thoughts, questions, and concerns.

In addition, she can discuss how she implemented a program at her previous employer and why she thinks a similar program could help Ashburn. She needs to be careful that she doesn’t try to sell her idea and that she uses the time to get their buy-in to the concept. The team needs to walk away from the meeting feeling as though this is good for them as individuals and for the organizational alignment between marketing and sales.

? Lawrence A. Tillinger, proprietor, SFLI
New CMO Botusky has the successful experience to make the new compensation plan work for Ashburn, its marketing team, and its sales team. She should approach it like she did at her previous job.

In addition, on account of the rumor, Botusky should send out an email to each Ashburn marketing and sales employee, explaining the new compensation plan and how it is expected to work for the company. Then Botusky should follow up with two direct mail pieces—one at home and one at work—to every marketing and sales team member with the details of the new comp plan and how it works for each.

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