Are You Marketing-Focused or Sales-Focused?

By: Guest | January 5, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Rich Burghgraef.

If you were to sit in on one of our internal meetings at Randolph Sterling, Inc. you would more than likely hear someone on my team ask me to provide more content for our blogs, social media, and other marketing efforts.

I don’t have a problem sharing my ideas and I enjoy writing. The problem is making the time to do it.

I run a sales company and as such I am sales-focused. When I think of the time it takes for me to write an article or to discuss the website, my first thought is, “How many sales calls could I have made in that time and would that have been more productive?”

I am not in the minority with this thinking…I may not be completely correct, but I’m not alone.

For the first five or so years of my business’s existence, our ideal prospects were other sales-focused companies. Usually we were brought in to help with sales issues such as covering an open territory while they hired a replacement, handling the “top of the sales funnel” while the in-house team focused on the leads, or assisting simply in cleaning out their databases.

This was, and is, great business for us, but we noticed these firms, much like us, did not place as much value in marketing as they should. Sometimes just cold calling or dialing for dollars does not allow us to reach every decision maker. Therefore, we often suggest they also invest in marketing programs, even if it means just helping them connect to prospects on LinkedIn.

Conversely, we had a tough time working with marketing-focused clients. These were companies who I lovingly refer to as “if you build it, they will come” prospects. Most of their budget would go to developing inbound marketing programs through social media and SEO, designed for their prospects to find them. Like sales-focused companies, these companies are missing opportunities.

In today’s “new economy,” it is important to have a mix of sales and marketing efforts, each supporting one another, if you want to be able to reach people.

Integrate Sales with Marketing

We recently spoke with a marketing-focused client who used his website to grow his business. He has a sales team in place, but the team is really not much more than order takers. Enough orders came in each day to keep them pretty busy.

Yet, they didn’t realize they were missing out on a large portion of business because they were not following up with people who had questions. Nor did they follow up with people who visited their website but didn’t purchase. Subsequently, we worked with their marketing and sales teams to develop a follow-up plan and became, in a sense, their inside sales team for this project.

This plan immediately yielded results. We not only made their sales team look better by increasing revenue by thousands of dollars each week, but the marketing department was able to secure additional funds for more marketing programs.

Despite success stories like this, I still share a reluctance (like many sales-focused people) to spend that hour between meetings writing a blog instead of making sales calls. Luckily, I have people on my team who do see the value in those things and can point out when I should be doing more.

So, let me ask you, what type of company are you? Are you sales-focused or are you marketing-focused? What efforts are you making in the other domain?

Rich Burghgraef is the founder and CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @RandolphSterl.

  • I think what it really comes down to is building trust among the people. Give them the information they need. Doing this not only increases awareness but it creates brand loyalty. Then the sales will come. This is my approach mainly because the whole aggressive sales pitch part is just not my style.

    This seems like it is the perfect topic for @TheSalesLion to weigh in about.

    • RichBurghgraef

      Anthony, good point. I saw Jeffrey Gittomer many years ago and loved his pholosophy of “people hate to be sold, but they love to buy.” That comes with building trust.

      Much like the kid who gets an “A” on his report card, but the teacher GIVES him a “C,” People buy things they like and are sold things they don’t. Ever notice how most people were sold a car?

      • @RichBurghgraef Unless its a 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT. Then you’re buying that baby!

        • RichBurghgraef

          Anthony, that’s not a car, that’s a classic!

      • @RichBurghgraef@Anthony_Rodriguez One area where I might take issue is with the description of inbound marketing as an “if you build it they will come” approach. Any social media person or inbound marketing person worth their weight will not go at with that approach. Like @ginidietrich I’m not a fan of cold calling, but inbound marketers understand that social has to be built and cultivated. You just don’t sit there and wait. And I know there are those who do that.

        I agree, there needs to be a solid mix of the marketing and sales, and like Gini, I’m definitely more marketing based in my approach.

        • RichBurghgraef

          @KenMueller@Anthony_Rodriguez@ginidietrich When I refer to those I have worked with who took the “Field of Dreams” approach, they generally put too much stock in the ability of their marketing efforts to close the sale. That is very similar to the sales oriented companies who set up a “boiler room” of salespeople who call and call, but the company has no marketing to help develop the brand they are out selling and they do not differentiate themselves.

          The more marketing and sales work together, the better chance of reaching the buyer in a way he wants to be reached.

        • RichBurghgraef


          Unfortunately, too few companies look for the right balance, let alone find it. It’s like the company who spends $30,000 going to a trade show but then never follows up on the leads. Some call it a success because they “got their brand out there.” I still don’t know what that means. Isn’t the goal here to actually turn those prospects into clients?

        • @RichBurghgraef@Anthony_Rodriguez@ginidietrich agreed. which is why that new book from Gini and Geoff will be important!

        • @RichBurghgraef I think that would come from 2 different depts, the marketing dept gets the brand awareness up, the sales dept does something with it…. make sense? Of course, some companies (like mine) have to handle that all from one person 😉

        • ginidietrich

          @KenMueller@RichBurghgraef@Anthony_Rodriguez That drives me crazy. We work with a client, who when we started working with them, measured results that way. This year, I’m proud to report we helped them generate nearly $8MM in new customers from an integrated approach.

        • RichBurghgraef

          Exactly Keith. Both sales and marketing should be playing roles in building brand awareness and doing something about it. The sales team builds brand awareness by leaving thoughtful messages for prospects while marketing efforts provide a call to action. Other times the marketing is building brand awareness while sales follows up on the leads it generates and closes deals.

          The whole, when working together, is better than the sum of its parts.

  • ginidietrich

    Hiiii! You know I’m not going to let this go without a comment from me. As you well know, I am marketing-focused. I’m much better at it. The idea of cold calling and databases and culling lists frightens me. Perhaps it’s partly because I’m an introvert and partly because I hate to get those calls/emails. I know they work, which is why people keep doing them, but I prefer the less sales-y approach.

    That said, you definitely have me thinking and I agree there needs to be a combination of both. But let me ask you this. How do you find the right sales people for a small business? If I could find the right sales people and focus on what I’m really good at (marketing), we’d be golden.

    • RichBurghgraef

      Gini, First off, thanks again for allowing me to be your guest today. I would have replied sooner but I got stuck on one word in your post. Does introvert mean something different than I have thought it meant all this time? 🙂

      I’m with you that nobody likes getting those unprofessional cold calls that unfortunately it seem dominate the industry. When I think of a good inside sales approach, I want the call to be less “Hello Ms. I Don’t Know You, I’m now going to tell you what you need and how I am going to sell it to you” and more about developing a relationship. The people who call me and want to share knowledge with me about how they helped someone similar to me and want to learn more about my business to see if they can help will get more of my time than the ones who try to “push product” on me.

      As for finding the right salespeople for a small business, there are a few ways to go but in my mind, outsourcing is great for a small to mid sized company. (Full disclosure, this is part of what we do at Randolph Sterling,but then again, we wouldn’t offer it it I didn’t believe in it.)

      • RichBurghgraef

        Here is why I like outsourcing. Often times small businesses will spend the money to hire a salesperson and have them also handle other jobs to spread out the cost. Now they are spending part of their time hearing no from potential clients (I wish it didn’t happen, but if this stuff was easy, I’d be out of a job) and part of their time doing things that offer less rejection. Where do you think they are going to spend the majority of their time?

        By outsourcing, you can hire a sales team to work 20, 40, 60 hours a week (depending on your budget) and only focus on sales. 100% of their time selling. The outsourced company provides the salespeople and the management of their team so all you are paying for is relationship development time. If you have a big project coming up or a trade show you are going to, ramp up your efforts with more hours then when things get back to normal you can go back to the normal amount of hours.

        The added benefit is that you also do not have to pay for vacations, employee taxes, or other employee benefits.

      • ginidietrich

        @RichBurghgraef Yeah, I know. I am an introvert. It simply means that I get my energy from having alone time (which I desperately need after the holidays) and that I hate making cold calls or going to networking events alone. So, when you think about it from that perspective, you probably see it makes sense.

        I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I don’t know if it makes sense to outsource new business development for Arment Dietrich, but it may for Spin Sucks Pro…especially if the outside sales team has contacts where we need them. Very interesting fodder.

        • RichBurghgraef

          Gini, I think all of us need to gain that energy from the alone time now and then. I just wish it wouldn’t come at 4 AM when there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it!

          Let’s chat more about the new business development efforts for Arment Dietrich and Spin Sucks Pro.

    • hey gini dietrich great points! I strongly prefer network or warm referrals and in fact most of my business comes from Social Networking referrals (no direct solicitation on my part). Am starting to feel like maybe someone is failing “if” they have to resort to cold calling these days… Thanks for the forum & debate.

      • RichBurghgraef

        Josepf, I’m not sure if I would call it “resorting” to cold calling.

        Although inside sales efforts often get a bad rap because people think of the guy who calls to interrupt their dinner, professional inside sales efforts, in my sales oriented opinion, are still the most cost effective way to develop a relationship. Heck, I have had clients that I left messages for every other week for 2 years before getting an opportunity. When they did finally call back to take the conversation further, they talked to me like they were my best friend (although I had never actually spoken to them live) and mentioned how much they appreciated the follow up.

        Most said that with so many people wanting their business, they knew it mattered to us because we didn’t give up and always left information they found helpful in their message..

  • JamesBSchultz

    @RichBurghgraef why do some small businesses make the mistake of combining the role of sales and marketing? I see it all the time. When the role is combined, the manager will focus on either sales OR marketing. The challenge for any small business, is defining the work in sales AND marketing and making sure he/she has the resources (either internal or external). Sales + Marketing = Revenue Department.

    • ginidietrich

      @JamesBSchultz@RichBurghgraef THAT is a great question! They’re not the same and, when combined, marketing is typically relegated to being the internal Kinko’s for the sales team.

      • RichBurghgraef

        Gini, you are so right. Marketing is typically relegated to being the internal Kinko’s for the sales team OF A SALES ORIENTED COMPANY. They simply do not understand the value of it.

        Conversely, in the marketing oriented company, they figure anybody can take an order that was generated through their marketing efforts. For example, we worked with a very marketing oriented company where we uncovered $350,000 of lost revenue IN THE FIRST WEEK because their “order takers” did not know the right questions to ask or simply didn’t follow up at all.

        Hopefully we can work to better educate the sales company on the value AND EQUALITY of marketing, and educate the marketing oriented company on the value AND EQUALITY of sales!

    • RichBurghgraef

      James, you are so right. Too many small companies combine the two, usually because they do not truly understand the difference between the two. They get lumped into “stuff we do to get people to buy from us,” and inevitably they focus on one or the other, depending on the culture of the company.

      If a company only has the budget for one resource, I’d rather see them split that into two part time positions with experts in each doing what they do best and working together.

  • The companies that I was working with were sales/ networking focused. But these days they are more marketing focused. I guess this also depends on the type of business they are into.

    • RichBurghgraef

      Raj, tell us more. Under what circumstances did they change their approach?

  • I love this post Rich. I have 14 years of B2B direct sales and a Finance Degree. Now I am in Advertising/Marketing. My experience has always been they are separate silos and that shouldn’t be. Marketing efforts should be Sales focused. And Sales efforts should include Marketing.

    I used to get leads from Marketing that were horrible. And yet nothing ever changed. Marketing would tell upper management ‘We scored X number of leads’ and were done. We would tell the boss only 4% were worthwhile and then keep doing our direct sales thing. No one ever said ‘lets sit and a room and fix this’.

    Yet I had a friend in sales selling ATT phone systems in the 90’s and he said he never had one cold call. He was booked with appointments because their marketing department set them up for him. There was a reason the ATT reps always hit quota and the places I worked always struggled to get 50% of us at quota.

    Today there is no excuse for not integrating with all the tools out there.

    • RichBurghgraef

      Howie, so what made you make the change from sales to marketing? Have you found that your sales experience has been helpful in the integration of sales and marketing in your current role?

      We say it all the time, our job is not to get you an opportunity, it is to find THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY. X number of leads does not matter, X number of good leads does.

      We have a client that asked us to develop a PITA score for them as we develop new relationships on their behalf. They don’t want to waste their time with a seemingly good prospect who is not going to appreciate what they bring to the table so having us determine that someone is not a good fit is equally important to them as is finding the good ones.

      • @RichBurghgraef I was in industrial sales Rich. My last work was in Aerospace, Military, Medical Devices, and Automotive. Advanced science type projects. I liked the projects but the people were a bit stuff and boring and way to male dominated the industries. Prior to that I was in Petrochemical, PowerGen, Semiconductor, and similar industries. So I wanted a new challenge.

        Now I do B2C consumer stuff. But my sales background makes me a thorn in the side of my peers. When Chrysler and VW had hit commercials that won awards in Advertising for the Superbowl. I slammed them for not selling the product and thus wasting client money. And I have a heavy ROI focus and like measurability/accountability.

        I have worked with some stellar sales orgs before and good ones know how to bring in the right opportunity. I can tell you are a good sales org from your post and response.

        • RichBurghgraef

          Thanks Howie! With your experience, I’m sure you have a lot more to say on this topic and I’m sure the readers would like to read more from you.

  • ReelSurfer

    @ShellyKramer Still would be great to connect if you are interested

    • ShellyKramer

      @reelsurfer You’ll have to stalk @katywrites .. that’s how you make that happen :))

      • ReelSurfer

        @ShellyKramer @katywrites That is never a problem :). Katy – nice to meet you

        • KatyWrites

          @reelsurfer You, too! I’ll DM you my email address and we can chat, if that sounds good!

        • ReelSurfer

          @KatyWrites Perfect, looking forward to it

  • ArthurAnswers

    I personally think my company does a good bit of both. We do exactly as you say, spend the majority of the day taking orders and a even share of time doing inside sales. I’ve seen a lot of businesses who fail to see this and it is indeed difficult to justify putting those few hours in. The best way to ensure that you aren’t completely wasting your time is to make sure that the time spent marketing is done with a very targeted community/tribe of people, and that the content you are generating is valuable and thus worthwhile for the influencers and audience who see it.

  • hildyg

    When we stop thinking about the tools – sales, marketing – and start thinking about engaging conversation – everything changes. It’s a lot more fun for both parties. And people would rather buy from people they enjoy being with.

  • MelissaBreau

    @mdr2writes thanks for the RT 🙂

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