I think we are entering a new era looking at the marketing and sales disciplines and how they are organized within companies nowadays. One of the signals I noticed is the upcoming position of the Chief Revenue Officer. In some places, this is just a more contemporary name for the former Chief Commercial Officer but in other areas, it is the inception of an entirely new approach for the commercial organization covering both marketing and sales. Looking way back (20+ years) there was a time marketing and sales were integrated like a marketing & sales department. At a certain moment in time technology was injected by companies like Siebel and later on Salesforce focussed on salesforce automation (CRM). Lots of attention towards the digitization and automation of sales processes. About 15 years ago technology also entered the marketing arena with marketing automation vendors like Eloqua and Marketo.
Does it make sense to keep these two disciplines separated?
With this development, the gap between marketing and sales became even bigger. Today both are serious disciplines with lots of technology and data involved. When a company was able to adopt marketing automation to its full extent this gave them a competitive advantage. Today most companies are on par once you talk about digital marketing. Times are over when there is a hard cut between marketing and sales and a lead is handed over from one to the other. In many cases, we experience that this way of driving the sales pipeline is over and better collaboration between marketing and sales is needed in order to be successful. Does it make sense to keep these two disciplines separated? Or are we at a moment in time where it makes sense to go back to where it started: marketing & sales. I think in the next couple of years a new role will emerge: the Chief Revenue Officer covering what we used to call marketing and sales including maybe also customer success.
Should we consider sales as a media channel?
In the last decade, we have seen that buyers in general are far better informed when reaching the stage of buying something than ever before. Whether you talk about consumers or business buyers, both have the ability to spend hours on the web to explore and find a solution for a problem that they have or something that fulfills their needs. Especially within the business-to-business arena, we have seen that once you are able to influence potential buyers in the exploring phases of their buying journey this can have a positive impact on the number of deals closed by sales.
The gap between marketing and sales has become bigger but the need for better collaboration between both of them has increased
But I think we are facing a problem. The gap between marketing and sales has become bigger as described in my intro but the need for better collaboration between both of them has increased. Why? Because nowadays more than 50% of the buying journey is covered by marketing trying to engage with the market and specific audiences until a lead has been generated. A business or sales development representative (SDR/BDR) picks up this lead trying to convert this contact into an opportunity and finally a deal. In order to achieve high conversion rates it is all about creating higher quality leads and developing the skill sets of these SDRs and BDRs to the next level. And in my experience I see many things going wrong.
The volume but also the quality of leads is decreasing. Best practice lead nurture programs have had their best times, everybody is doing it, there is an overload of content and people are simply not willing to share their contact details anymore to get access to this content. Marketing is under pressure and wants to keep up with the lead volumes and therefore qualification conditions are applied less strictly. Sales are demanding more and better leads but at the same time, I see less interest from sales to genuinely understand the variety of storylines that are plugged into the market by the marketing programs run by their marketing colleagues. Sales have become something at the very end of the funnel which is about closing deals and reaching their commission plans. I think we can do a far better job than that.
Sales have become something at the very end of the funnel which is about closing deals and reaching their commission plans
At what other moments in time should we make use of the unique skill sets of our sales colleagues? Why shouldn’t marketers expose sales professionals at an early stage in the buying journey making themselves known just to offer help? Why do we hand over the responsibility of treating the lead from marketing to sales? How do we make sure the sales colleagues truly understand the marketing spend that has been done to create this lead? Why shouldn’t both marketing and sales carry this responsibility of the lead until the end? As marketers, we have many means and media channels to reach out to our audiences, touch them and have interactions. We try to orchestrate the buying journey, recognize certain behavior, and identify interests and intent. Shouldn’t these orchestraters be able to identify that specific moment to decide if marketing programs or salespeople is the next best action?
Revenue streams and multidisciplinary teams
In my personal experience tactics like Account Based Marketing (ABM) also demonstrated the gap between marketing and sales. Many initiatives which started with great enthusiasm ended up in teams looking and finger-pointing at each other. The reason why? Bottom line there was a conflict of interest because both sides had completely different KPIs. Defocus came into play and people were distracted due to changing circumstances. The lack of that common goal or at least super-aligned goals created room for noise.
Many initiatives which started with great enthusiasm ended up in teams looking and finger-pointing at each other
I also noticed there are many ‘inside-out reasons’ why teams are organized the way they are. Company history and lack of skill sets or capabilities are in many cases used as arguments to leave things as they are. I prefer to organize teams from an ‘outside-in perspective’ in order to make sure that the people are one-on-one connected with their audiences. All these other stuff are things to work on and to solve but are in my humble opinion no reasons to not change. I like to talk about revenue streams. Implicitly it tells us that such a stream generates revenue. For me generating revenue is key in order to create a sustainable business to live the values of your company and contribute to society. The other way around you fool yourself and the market, this is how business works. Money makes the world go round.
Your value propositions, ideal customer profiles (ICP), and personas need to meet each other in a natural and authentic way to deliver revenue for the company. I very much like to take a multidisciplinary approach here. In the last 12 years of my career, I gained a lot of experience building such teams within marketing. Adopting the scrum framework made teams extremely agile and made every single professional excel. I am working towards that moment in time where we hook up our sales and later on customer success colleagues. A self-sufficient team that has everything on board in terms of resources like skill sets, capabilities, and funding to cover the entire life cycle of a customer. Going from acquiring, onboarding, and expanding the relationship with your customers in a meaningful way to add value for both sides.
For me generating revenue is key in order to create a sustainable business to live the values of your company and contribute to society
The brand marketer and deal closer are no-go areas
What does it take to lead such revenue streams? A blend of marketing and sales skills in a person that has an eye for the customer, their journeys and behavior, processes, technology, and data with a performance-driven mindset. The ultimate orchestrator, the conductor. I think these types of persons can come from both sides although I think that a brand marketer pur sang or a typical deal closer is not the first preferred candidates in line. There should be a good balance between both marketing and sales capabilities in a good marriage. The Chief Revenue Officer is born! Let’s see how things will work out in the upcoming years. This kind of change goes slowly and needs a lot of effort from some of the front runners amongst us who believe in this and make it happen. In my own professional life, I will endeavor to build teams based on this concept. Hopefully, 5 years from now, I can again share some experiences about this journey!