Credit where credit is overdue

How over-attribution causes dissent between marketing and sales. 

Imagine the big football game is over. 

(Yes, we’re about to use a sports metaphor. Please just bear with us…)

The home team caught a last second Hail Mary to pull out a miracle victory. The wide receiver who caught the ball sits down at the press conference. He waves off questions and declares, “This win was 100% me.”

The reporters are confused. They ask, “What about the quarterback who threw the 80-yard pass?”

“Who? It was just me out there.”

“What about the coach who called the play? The offensive linemen who kept the pass rush at bay? The defense that kept the score close in the fourth quarter?”

“Nope, nope and nope. The credit belongs right here, with this guy.”

(The wide receiver proudly thumbs his own chest.)

Odds are, that wide receiver is going to be hunting for a new team Monday.

In sports and in life, we’re expected to share credit. But in business, the reverse is often true. In today’s hyper-measured, attributive world, the glory goes not to the team that earned the sale, but to the person who reported it.

And with glory comes bonuses. And budgets. And promotions.

No wonder dissension is all-too-common in organizations without strong direction, clear priorities and a culture of celebrating team wins.

Three sources of friction between sales and marketing.

There are a few reasons departments squabble. But the good news is, once you fix them you’re likely to see not just a kinder workplace, but an immediate lift in profit as well.

#1 Division of labor

The lines between marketing and sales used to seem clearer. (Didn’t they?) Marketing drove awareness and collected leads. Sales sorted through those leads and closed the most promising ones.

Ah, the good old days…

Then the Internet scrambled the path to purchase. A customer might find your product on a Top 10 listicle, reach out through a form fill, abandon his shopping cart halfway through the sales process, and remember it halfway through a commercial.

(Side note… As long as we’re talking about form fills, you can click here to get in touch with estound.)

This jumbled cycle means both sales and marketing play a role in the Shopping and Assessment phases of the buyer’s journey. 

#2 Contrasting paradigms

Salespeople tend to have a scarcity mindset. The most important lead is the one on the phone. Closing it means everything. 

Marketing teams generally operate from an abundance mindset. After all, if a prospect responds to a marketing message, they’ve qualified themselves. So the more leads, the better.

#3 Mixed up metrics

Sales teams tend to have one metric. Sales. (Who woulda thought?) Sure, you can slice it different ways – bigger sales, more sales, sales lift, repeat sales and so on. But at the end of the day, they care about closing.

Marketing teams often choose to operate on a lot more data. Some of this data gets a little messy, like “form fills” or “social shares.” Other metrics are downright squishy, like “awareness” and “sentiment.” And these numbers occasionally tell conflicting stories, pointing up when sales are down and vice versa. 

Good marketers understand how to ladder individual metrics up to strategic goals. But even the best often get lost in their own stories, celebrating the stuff they create instead of the results they achieve.

And there’s a fourth problem: Glory

Businesses – like sports teams, rock bands, and all the other organizations out there – pay a lot of lip service to teamwork. People work best when they’re rallying for a common goal.

Resentment happens when burdens are shared equally, but successes aren’t. In this context, the culprit is probably the sales department. 

(Ouch, we know. But it’s true.)

Sales closes the leads, earns the commissions, and buys steak dinners with their bonus checks before the rest of the team even knows they have a customer. This is not to say salespeople have poor ethics. The flaw lies with the process, not the people.

What’s the answer? The one that works best for your business!

The most obvious path – and an option we like a lot – is to weave together the compensation plans for the sales and marketing teams. For example, tying part of sales compensation to marketing metrics and vice versa. That’s a step in the right direction, giving everyone a stake in the cumulative success of the team. But it also requires careful and sometimes sophisticated budgeting.

Another thought would be to create a more regular cadence for not only collaboration but celebration between the sales and marketing groups. Closed a big deal? Let’s all celebrate it. Hit a revenue target? Let’s celebrate it. Successfully completed a strategic objective? Celebration! Creating opportunities for teams to share in the glory and accolades is a great way to honor everyone in sales and marketing that contributed to those wins.

There may be other ideas rolling around in your head, based on your unique business. But whatever method you choose, it’s important to make sure every sale is considered a team achievement. And that salespeople generously share the credit. Instead of acting like the football receiver we mentioned earlier, who grabbed the microphone and claimed he somehow magically managed to throw himself the ball.


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Drop us a note and we'll coordinate a time to discuss where your marketing has hit a wall and how UMS might help you break through.

The UMS method has transformed our business. The discipline it gave us helped us survive through tough times and then thrive with years of double-digit growth. This process works and we are evidence of it.

David DeCamillis
VP Sales & Marketing, Platte River Networks