And The Winner Is…Sales?

During a recent conversation with a passionate and knowing Marketer, he observed:

“I can be talking with senior management about frequency, reach, market share or branding, but if someone brings up the word ‘sales’ the conversation immediately changes, and I have lost control.” 

In a short statement he captured Marketing’s position today.  Marketing is an adjunct, a companion that is needed, but is really seen as overhead.  Sales is revered because they are perceived to operate in a black or white world.  Either the sale is made, or it is not.  When the sale is made, the sales person is rewarded.  When the sale is lost there are a million reasons; the price was too high, the competition was installed, it wasn’t a qualified lead, competition had the features the customer wanted, etc. etc.

Because senior management is under pressure, especially as we face the second half of what appears to be a down year, they want immediate up-to-date tactical reports on sales.  While they appreciate the Marketing efforts, they perceive that sales, not marketing will make the year.

While some prognosticators would have us believe that all sales will occur over the Internet, this will not be in our lifetimes.  The role of sales in the immediate future will remain roughly the same.  The role of Marketing has to return to where it once was.

In successful companies, the role of Marketing is viewed on an equal basis with sales.  Reviewing Marketing’s responsibilities:

Product Management – is responsible for providing sales with the right product, at the right time, and at the right price.  And, if the company is using multiple distribution channels, the right products, at the right price points.

Product Marketing – is responsible for developing and delivering all the activities that surround the product, focusing on the 12-month financial year.  This includes all activities relating to branding, promotion, lead generation and nurturing, sales training and pre-sales support.

The recent fascination with Social Media has taken attention away from the fundamental nature, scope and responsibilities of Marketing.  The new social media tools are necessary to reach a customer base that is more empowered and knowledgeable.  They are, however, tools to use in customer communication.  None that I have seen takes the place of a Product Manager thinking through how to best price and position his/her product(s) or Product Marketing laying out a 12-month campaign, with specific goals and objectives.  (And, I agree that information gained through the social media tools can aid the PM and the PMM).

As the success of well balanced Marketing becomes more obvious, the perception of Marketing will re-emerge from being viewed as overhead, and my friend will be no longer have to worry about someone saying ‘sales’ while he is trying to push his agenda. 

As we move through the balance of 2011, it will not be difficult to compare the successful companies with coordinated Marketing departments, to the struggling ones who operate with Marketing being a sales support function.

Is your Marketing organization viewed as overhead?  Does Sales call all the shots?  Who is looking 18-24 months out, or doesn’t that matter?  In your company, does Marketing report to Sales, or do they both report to senior management?  Answer below.


RHM  6/16/2011

2 comments to And The Winner Is…Sales?

  • Jim Matorin

    Having been classically trained as a Product Manager I think you raise some valid points here how sometimes marketing is viewed as overhead.  Bob, in keeping with the times, I think a new position is evovling if you listen to the latest buzz du jour: Content Management.  The next time we speak, please tell me how that is any different from Product Marketing. 

  • Robert Mannal


    To me, Content Management focuses on developing and disseminating original content, an important part of social media. Product Marketing, sometimes called Product Marketing Management focuses on a 12 month window, and is responsible for correctly implementing all the tactical tools that are available, mixing the right mix of new tools (social media) and old tools (direct mail, trade shows, etc.)

    In addition, in many companies, Product Marketing or PMM is responsible for sales training and pre-sales support.

    So, while Content Management is important it is only part of a PMM’s scope of responsibilities.


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