Sales Pros More Likely Than Marketers to Win the CEO Seat


Marketing and sales are infamous for their ongoing rivalry. But could their competitiveness escalate all the way to the C-suite? Marketing and sales automation provider CallidusCloud surveyed global employees from both professions to find out. The results of its “Sales and Marketing Sentiment Survey” (rounded to the nearest whole percentage) may surprise some marketers: 43% of respondents say that sales professionals are more likely than marketers to earn the title of CEO; only 21% of survey participants thought marketers would surpass their sales comrades.

Despite the odds weighing in sales’ favor, CallidusCloud SVP and CMO Giles House suspects that the scale would tip more towards marketing were the automation vendor to conduct the survey again next year, mainly due to the department’s increased focused on business outcomes.

“There’s an accountability to have the leads and processes in place [and] to make sure that the deals are getting done,” he says. “That’s something that hasn’t been prevalent in the marketing role for a number of years, but it’s starting to come into that.”

Still, 36% of respondents believe that marketing and sales professionals have an equal chance of securing the CEO position. And to be honest, neither division is perfect. Consider the following: About 9% of marketing and sales professionals say that they’re very satisfied with their counterpart’s performance, versus 37% who claim to be somewhat satisfied. What’s more, about half of respondents (52%) say that their sales or marketing team is only somewhat successful at achieving sales goals and that they meet or exceed objectives occasionally. In fact, 20% say that their counterpart is somewhat disappointing in terms of their effectiveness in meeting sales goals, claiming that they infrequently meet or exceed expectations.

Marketing automation is one area in which both departments need to improve. According to CallidusCloud’s data, one third of respondents have less than 25% of their sales and marketing processes successfully automated.

“I think that we’re just at the beginning of it all,” House says. “A third is a good start. But even in that third, I think that it’s pretty basic entry-level alignment processes. The technology that’s out there, certainly in the marketing space, far outstrips what people are ready for.”

Indeed the increased reliance on data and technology has caused marketers to shift from simply fulfilling a creative role to serving more of an operations one, he says.

“It’s not, who’s a hardcore veteran of the industry who has been doing demand-gen programs for 10 years…? It’s more, who’s analytical enough to pull together the reports and shift through the data? Who’s got the program management skills to be able to put these integrated campaigns together?” House explains.

One challenge marketing and sales teams face in terms of collaborating is that their teams take a siloed approach to technology. According to CallidusCloud, 41% of respondents have separate applications in sales and marketing, versus 31% whose company has a single integrated sales and marketing suite. Additionally, 16% of survey participants say that one department has automation while the other operates manually or uses spreadsheets and 12% say that both departments run this way.

Data analytics is another area in which both departments face challenges. Although 36% of respondents say that analytics has changed their team’s marketing or sales practices significantly, 28% of respondents say that others in their company don’t understand the value of data, and 23% say that they can’t make their data actionable. Furthermore, 22% say that they can’t guarantee the quality of their data, and 20% say that they don’t have the right skills to analyze their data.

Marketing and sales alignment is essential to tackling these challenges, and data accessibility is at the center of this alignment.

“Being able to pull the data together, being able to get at the data easily, and consistently having the data available [are] the key[s] to being able to understand it,” House says. “If every week you’re looking at a different set of data [or] format and there’s no connection to the other things–[such as] the other programs or other tactics that are happening–then you’re really kind of shooting in the dark.”

CallidusCloud’s data suggests that marketers are doing well in the data sharing realm. About half (48%) of respondents share some reports between sales and marketing, and 37% say that their data is fully shared across the two divisions. However, 14% admit that their data is siloed between the departments.

And although 56% of professionals surveyed say their marketing and sales teams are somewhat aligned, House suspects that “they’re probably not as aligned as they could be” and that there’s just likely “some basic stuff going on.” Being fully aligned, he says, is ensuring that all of the lead processes, definitions, and priorities are in sync across departments and match up with customers’ behaviors and conversations.  

“It’s having the whole lead management process buttoned up,” he says.

Granted, becoming a fully-aligned organization doesn’t happen overnight. However, House advises marketing and sales professionals to spend a day walking in the other’s shoes, such as by having marketers hop on a few sales calls. Doing so, House says, can provide a good source of honest, anecdotal feedback.


“The campaign people should still try to join sales calls and see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears what’s working in the field [and] what challenges customers are having,” he says, “because the best source of information about your customers is from your customers.” 

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