Marketing Departments: You Finally Got Some Swagga’!

By Brad Farris

Ok, you got some swagga’ – now what are you going to do with it?

Twenty years ago marketing departments didn’t have the cachet, or status that it has today.

Remember the famous Dilbert “Marketing: Two Drink Minimum” cartoon?

At that time marketing mostly reported to the vice president of sales.

Sales was the king-of-the-hill – marketing’s job was to support the sales team.

Sales had the big bonuses, the corner offices, the nice cars. The marketers sat in a cube and drove a mid-sized compact.

Things are Different for Marketing Departments

The Internet has turned the tables on sales people. Before they were the gateway prospects had to go through to obtain information about a company’s products or services.

Now the marketing departments give all that information (and more) out for free on the company’s website. Sales people used to be responsible for “hunting” down leads, and dragging sales in the door; but today, marketers are planting bait for prospects who then self-identify as leads.

Instead of hunting, the sales team is growing more dependent on the leads the marketing departments are giving them. Where before the marketing team reported to sales, now each of them have a direct line to the CEO. The marketers are getting to sit at the big table! Heck we’re calling them chief marketing officers, and they’re seeing the bonuses and perks too.

Be Careful What You Wish For

But all this clout doesn’t come for free. Now, when the revenue goals are missed, who does the CEO yell at? Okay, she yells at everyone; but who gets fired? That’s when the finger pointing gets intense!

The sales person wants to blame marketing, “Marketing didn’t give us enough good leads!”

The marketing people want to blame sales, “We gave them good leads, sales wasted them.”

Once the dust settles we know who’s responsible for sales, right? It’s the sales team. The marketers market, the sales people sell.

Here’s the other side of the coin, marketers. You want the swagger and clout that comes with a seat at the big table? Then you have to accept responsibility for revenue goals. You have to be willing to stand in that circle of fire and say, “If we execute on these strategies we will see our sales grow by X percent”.

To do that the sales and marketing departments have to work together. They have to have very tight alignment and coordination, which means they have to respect what each side brings to the table.

Taking responsibility for revenue goals means marketers need to up their game, making sure they are giving sales people the best leads possible. It also means understanding the role of sales, and how to give them the space to play their part. Lastly, it means blurring the lines dividing the two camps!

Build on Your Strengths

Marketers, you can analyze data like nobody’s business. You can find the unique selling proposition, develop the call-to-action, capture leads, and send them to sales. But you need to accept there’s more to a lead than contact information.

The sales person needs to know what the lead is interested in, and why, in order to be able to reel in the sale. Content marketing can generate a lot of leads, but they aren’t all good leads. How can we make them more strategic and more targeted?

Respect What the Sales Team is Good at Doing

Once we’ve done that, we need to make sure the sales people get to do their job. The sales person plays an important role in customizing the solution to meet the needs. They may not actually change the solution, but they at least focus the prospect on the sub-set of features and benefits that suit their needs. Sales people also overcome objections in a way that feels much more personalized than even the best marketing-automation enabled web experience can do.

Lastly, your sales team is talking to clients all day long. They are your eyes and ears to the marketplace. Yes, they are down in the weeds all day, so they have a hard time always knowing what the information means – but they get feedback everyday that you will never get through other channels.

Apply Your Skills More Broadly

Lastly, marketing departments recognize the business development process is just that – a process. Traditionally, sales people were wired and trained to think of themselves as heroes, the gladiator in the arena doing battle to bring in the business. Each encounter was a unique, one-off battle of wits and guile.

But you know winning new business is really more like a production line, with each person doing their part. The sales person’s part is important, but that part can be analyzed and optimized – each encounter is not a one off activity. Your sales team needs that perspective to up their game.

These changes in roles and status of sales and marketing are confusing to business owners and/or CEOs caught in the middle.

And they beg the questions: What should you expect from each role now? How can you get the most from both? And has there been a shift in who’s responsible for revenue in your company?

Brad Farris

As principal advisor at Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money, and enjoy life more. Brad also records a podcast at

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