Let’s merge Sales and Marketing for Growth

Roll over CMO – welcome, CGO!

Let’s merge Sales and Marketing for Growth

When I joined Infosys in 1998, Marketing and Sales had different bosses. After a couple of years it changed with Sales and Marketing having the same boss. The squabbling came down quite a bit, though not entirely.  

Philosophically I was never a big champion of reporting to sales. I felt that reducing all of marketing to measurable immediate revenue does not do justice to the power of the function. But as long as it is understood that all marketing activities do not have to be directly linked to the lead pipeline, I think it is time to reconsider my position.

Here’s why. As more of marketing becomes digital it is also easier to track the customer journey from awareness to acquisition. Yes, some non-digital marketing elements like billboards and print ads will still be hard to attribute, but not all teams use those tools.  And those who do can keep those metrics separate. 

Secondly, it would be awesome to stop squabbling over whose fault it was that there wasn’t enough revenue. And resolve once and for all whether the problem is poor quality leads, poor quality conversion, or, horror, poor quality product or pricing?  

The final reason I am changing my mind is that selling hasn’t changed much, but the way customers buy has. Potential customers can now research and learn everything they want to about your product online, without any direct contact with the company. Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action is one of the oldest and simplest marketing models. It was created by St Elmo Lewis in 1898 to explain the personal selling process. At this time sales and marketing were not viewed as two separate and distinct functions. It was the job of sales to work the continuous process from awareness to action. If the first three steps were done properly, action was the logical consequence.  

aida model

As things got bigger and more complicated, specialists evolved who took charge of specific aspects. And a broad distinction emerged – marketing’s role was perceived to be the first three steps ie Awareness, Interest and Desire, and Action emerged as the key job of the sales team.  

Sales engages one-on-one with potential customers to close the deal. Often the key element of their job is to understand their requirements and present the appropriate solution set. Marketing does the one-to-many communication and typically does not enter the field. This model is essentially a hub-and-spoke one – marketing sits in head office and the sales teams are distributed, closer to the market and customers.

But what if you don’t have to meet your customers? What if sales is essentially self-service and customers can be educated to select the right solution set? Do you still need two separate teams? 

Lockdown 2020 has had a huge impact on most businesses. Only digitally delivered services and those deemed essential continued to market and sell. Since the sales team could not physically meet with customers all sales had to be done digitally via email, phone or video meetings. And surprisingly the results did not suffer. So the long term trend is likely to be the decline of physical sales and the rise of digitally enabled buying. 

It’s not just B2B – even high involvement purchases like jewellery are being purchased online with little to no intervention. Sure there is a friendly chat window available for those who need a little help, but it’s a far cry from the opulent furniture, refreshments, and classy sales team in a typical jewellery showroom. 

Each element of AIDA requires a different skill-set. Whether it is advertising, media buying, influencer relations, pricing, product design, PR, solution design, each is now a specialised field. So rather than divide them into two distinct units ie Sales and Marketing a better way is to look at a “Growth Department” which encompasses all the required skillsets and addresses the complete value chain from Awareness to Action. 

How will we measure success? I would suggest three big metrics.  

Metric 1: A-I-D should result in a healthy BANT qualified pipeline. If your BANT qualification is rigorous sales conversion should be high
Metric 2: Revenue growth. If marketing and sales are working well in tandem and this includes aspects like pricing, product design and customer experience, the company ought to grow.
Metric 3: Cost of sales. Over time this ought to decline helping the organization to scale and increase profitability.  

Are companies doing this? Yes, it’s a hot title. According to Singular’s report, “Chief Growth Officer 2019: The State of the CGO,” 14% of companies in the United States have a CGO, 29% of companies have a VP, director or head of growth, and 41% have a growth marketing manager.

Give it a shot. 


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