Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Should you replace your sales team with marketers?

Last updated on August 18th, 2015 at 04:34 pm

My company held a Marketing Speed Dating event earlier this year. We had a lot of business owners attend to ask us their questions about B2B marketing. We’ve written about a couple of the popular topics so far. One of the questions we were asked was how to get management buy-in for marketing and another was where a B2B company should start with their marketing.

In this post I‘ll cover a question asked by a CEO of a B2B services company in a mature industry. The question was, “I currently have sales people doing cold calling, but I’m wondering if I should switch them over to doing marketing.”

This is a really interesting question. It’s one that we’re hearing more often because of the change in buyer behaviour, which I talk about in my book, The Radical Sales Shift. Outbound selling and tactics like cold calling don’t work as well as they used to, so companies that use these tactics struggle to grow. This leads to the question, should we change our outbound selling methods into inbound marketing methods?

There’s no single answer to this question. It depends on a company’s specific situation. However, these are some considerations to answering the question for your business:

  1. Does your inside sales force team have the skills or ability to quickly adapt to marketing?In the situation I mentioned earlier, the owner was asking us if he should switch a person from a sales role to a marketing role. That is a very difficult thing to do. People who’re good at sales and have no marketing background might have a difficult time becoming inbound marketers. There will be a six-to twelve-month learning curve. This is of course assuming they have any appetite to make the shift at all.

Net/net, I’d be very cautious about trying to make this kind of shift. It’s possible for people to transition from sales to marketing, but it’s not common. If the owner of the company were to think of replacing the ineffective sales caller with a marketer, that would be more likely to be successful.

  1. Is there a trust factor involved in selling your services or products?We are finding that in industries or businesses where there’s a high degree of risk for the buyer (this is particularly true for services companies), tactically, cold calling is very difficult. Cold calling doesn’t allow for a relationship to be built and trust to be established. Conversely, marketing enables that trust factor to be built. This means it’s difficult for cold calling salespeople to be successful.

Marketing is about thought leadership and sharing expertise so that the buyer can find out about the company, gain trust and become engaged. So, if you’re operating in an industry where a high trust factor is involved, then yes, marketing will deliver better ROI than a sales force will.

  1. How difficult is it for you to find sales reps?I’ve seen a lot of companies hire sales people and then churn through them because it’s difficult to find cold callers who can be successful. If you’re in that position, where you’ve hired a large number of salespeople in the past 3-5 years and churned through them, then it’s reasonable to think that switching to marketing will be more effective. The biggest issue here is to be sure that you’re being realistic in your expectations of marketing. Marketing is a longer time-to-result function than sales. You can put someone on the phone and book meetings, and you’ll have results at the end of week two. That won’t happen with marketing. Marketing is about building awareness in the market, growing a pipeline and staying in touch with past customers. It takes time. Marketing is a cumulative process. The results aren’t highly visible in the early stages, but over time the results are bigger.
  1. You can only add or switch to marketing if you have other salespeople that can close the leads. Marketing is about building awareness and a pipeline, generating leads and keeping customers engaged. But it’s not often a closer for B2B companies, so you still need a sales force to handle closing. If the front end of your revenue generation efforts is currently handled by sales people and you want to switch to marketers, that’s okay as long as the bottom end of your pipeline gets handled by a proven sales force.

I like this question because it encapsulates everything that’s going on now in the shift in control from seller to buyer. It captures what many companies are experiencing. The traditional ways of selling are not working the way they used to and B2B companies are wondering if marketing is the solution. As I’ve alluded to above, in many cases marketing IS the solution. But it isn’t a magic pill. It takes time, the right skills, and commitment. There’s a learning curve, and switching from sales to marketing can be more complex than many companies expect. But, there are ways to get help. Think about using outside companies who offer marketing consulting or other support services to help jump start your company’s marketing efforts.


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Lisa Shepherd
Lisa Shepherd
Lisa Shepherd is the author of two books on B2B marketing (The Radical Sales Shift and Market Smart). She is founder of The Mezzanine Group , a B2B marketing company based in Toronto that has worked with over 200 B2B companies in the last decade. Lisa is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution and was the youngest female CEO to appear on the Profit 100.