Should marketing report to sales? Aaack to that!

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) thinks it knows how to solve the problems with sales and marketing alignment. According to a just-released report, within 10 years, marketing will report directly to sales.

“For too long, the trend has been towards separate marketing and sales,” said David Thorp, CIM’s director of research and professional development, in a new “Marketing and Sales Fusion” white paper. “We believe that, in the next decade, more and more companies will see reintegrating marketing and sales as a smart move that brings real rewards.”

Could it be true? I hope not.

Nothing in my three decades of experience in B2B technology marketing suggests that this notion has merit. And since I personally ran a combined sales and marketing organization for five years, I know firsthand that fusion of the teams creates more problems than it solves.

The reason is simple. The marketing function influences markets full of buyers. The sales function influences one buyer at a time. The skills and timing of activities that influence markets have nothing in common with those that influence individual buyers. Combine the functions under one executive, and the focus inevitably shifts to individual buyers for near term revenue. This is vitally important, but when the company's ability to influence the market is lost, so is its future.

Admittedly, the problems between sales and marketing are real and deserve attention. However, I find it unconscionable that an organization like CIM, which is celebrating 100 years as “the world’s largest organization for professional marketers” would just throw in the towel.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on the full report yet, but the CIM report overview makes their position clear enough:

“Marketing as a discipline has its roots in sales. Over time, due to the ambitions of the new science of marketing, the two became separate and in many cases, estranged. In our centenary year, we believe it's time for The Chartered Institute of Marketing to say mea culpa and to try and make amends… We feel there's no time to waste in burying the hatchet so that marketing can evolve from a discrete, some sales professionals might even say elitist, discipline to reunify with sales. There is inescapable evidence why businesses will benefit enormously if we bring them back together.”

Inescapable evidence? This U.K. based organization can’t seem to send me a PDF of the report – I need to wait two weeks for a print copy. So I haven’t seen their “evidence” yet. But I can tell you that during the five years when I was SVP of Sales and Marketing at a technology firm, my marketing team suffered. Even as a career marketer, I found that the pressure to achieve 90-day quotas whittled away at my bone-deep commitment to strategic marketing.

Just a few weeks ago, a speaker at the Sales and Marketing 2.0 conference, Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20) of Selling Power, forecast that: Of the 18 million salespeople in 2011, only 3.6 million will be needed by 2020.” This radical prediction resulted from a report by the Sales Executive Board that said that buyers are 60 percent of the way to a decision before they ever talk to a sales person.

I’m not sure that I agree with Gerhard's prediction, but I do know that the shift reported by the Sales Executive Board is forcing companies to learn how to engage buyers on their own terms.

Engaging buyers requires a department or function to be the buyer experts – a feat that can be accomplished only by interviewing buyers, looking for patterns and trends, and grouping buyers into buyer personas according to their findings. Then, this function needs to develop marketing content that those buyers find helpful. I wrote about this role for marketers in my e-book, The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

Frankly, I’ve never met a sales person who wanted this job. That’s because it’s a marketing job.

Then, someone needs to be there to help the buyer travel the final 40 percent of the buying process, answering the questions that are unique to each account.

Now, that’s a sales person’s job.

What do you think? Should sales and marketing remain separate or become one department?

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @buyerpersona and join me on Facebook.

Topics: B2B marketing, Buyer Personas, CIM Marketing and Sales Fusion, Product Marketing Redefined, sales and marketing alignment, Uncategorized, Who Needs This


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