It’s time for marketers to have skin in the game

For sales and marketing teams to truly be aligned, marketers need to have skin in the game, argues Richard Hadler in this instalment of our Marketing Sells series. He outlines how if marketing and sales have the same goals - and incentives - it will bring the two divisions together.

I started my career as a salesperson. A salesperson who knew the harder I worked, the better the pay-off; I had skin in the game, and I was respected for it (mostly).

Should marketers work under the same gruelling pressure? I say yes.

I should caveat the upcoming blog post by saying that I know marketing teams can come under massive pressure at the moment. All-nighters before a big customer event aren’t unusual, especially if the plan has to be rewritten at the last moment on the whim of the CEO.

(I should also caveat that I’m talking about B2B marketing here; in B2C firms marketers usually have a much higher status.)

But as marketers reflect on all the long hours they work, they need to honestly ask themselves: am I getting the credit in the C‑suite for this hard work? If not, is it because the marketing function isn’t considered core to the business? And is that, in part, because of the way that I’m paid?

CMOs are typically given a bonus based on their marketing activities. Only the brave are given a bonus based on company revenue — in other words, what the sales team can generate based on the marketing team’s work.

At a roundtable held at Raconteur’s office a few months ago, one senior marketer said they got paid like this and got bombarded with questions. One other participant asked: “But doesn’t that mean you don’t get a bonus if sales mess up?”

That’s old-style, sales versus marketing thinking.

Marketers with skin in the game will make sure that sales don’t mess it up. That’s kinda the point. They’ll be using the CRM to monitor what sales are doing with the leads, and if there’s a problem they’ll offer immediate help instead of waiting for the head of sales to start having a meltdown when targets are missed.

That’s why, as I have already argued, it is time to stop thinking of marketing and sales as separate disciplines. Instead, think of marketing and sales as a double act where each brings their unique skills, like Bonnie & Clyde, Ant & Dec, Simon and Garfunkel… (ok, you get the point).

You can encourage change as much as you like, but to make it happen you need to give both sides skin in the game. This means two things:

  • Marketers should have responsibility for, and be measured against, seeing the deal through, not just handing over leads; and
  • Sales and marketing should have the same rewards and incentives

Don’t do what most businesses do when they try to incentivise marketing, creating a half-effective commission bonus structure that doesn’t make sense to anyone apart from the FD, with an uncertain link between pay and business outcomes. Define clear and concise success metrics and hold sales and marketing accountable using the same objectives and rewards. Get them working together on achieving results and the business benefits will soon follow.

They can also work together to remove old-style concepts such as “handing over leads” which implies a clear fault line between the two teams (which is one of the things I will write about next week.) 

Of course, all this relies on buy-in from sales. At least initially, there may be some bafflement and even hostility from the sales team that marketing is suddenly poking their long noses into “sales’ stuff”. Sales will also, inevitably, fear losing credit for deals. They need to realise that a bigger revenue line should mean more credit — both financial and non-financial — to go round. It also needs to have buy-in from above.

With the two teams having the same goals — and incentives — that’s a good reason for them to produce a single plan for 2020, which is what I blogged about last week. With skin in the game, they have a very good reason to make sure it’s a great plan that can lead to both sales and marketing beating their target. 

Ultimately, both sales and marketing need to believe it can be done — together.

Marketing Sells is our new blog post series dedicated to aligning sales and marketing. I will be posting a new blog weekly, for notifications when I post new content, you can sign up to the newsletter here.

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