Is Sales Dead?

I remember when Bill Lee’s post in Harvard Business Review came out in August 2012. There was outrage in the marketing community. Well, how could there not be outrage? The title of his post was “Marketing Is Dead”. He was right – traditional marketing is dead.

This is where I diverge.

Mr. Lee notes “Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead.”

It is not that advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications are dead but the reason in which they were used is dead.

Marketing was on a path believing that “if you build it, people will come” and sales would be won.

That is clearly not the case.

Buyers are smarter and in fact, they are driving Marketing and controlling the conversation. They are telling marketers to “help me help you”.

Whether it is in online communities, on social networks, or via other channels, marketers have a job to do and that is to listen to prospects and customers, engage with them to initiate a relationship and continue to build the relationship by providing prospects/customers with the help they want.

Are marketers really listening? They have to.

Yes, marketers must be great story-tellers. I have written about great story-telling before.

The method is a three-point process: (1) Lure your audience in, (2) Keep them engaged end-to-end and (3) Get them to take some type of action. Marketers must go beyond storytelling to push people to their website, convert visitors to leads, convert those leads to customers and convert those customers to brand advocates.

However, marketers have to be listener, storyteller and empath at the same time.

It takes a large investment on a marketer’s part. Are marketers ready to invest? And are they willing to start and continue to nurture the prospect/customer/brand advocate? Nurturing is an always-on, never ending, continuous event.

That’s where Sales comes in.

Marketers must be willing to take on more of a Sales role. It is Marketing’s increasing role to help buyers along their buying journey. Marketers must be willing to travel with buyers on this journey. In the tech world, this is happening.

In fact, a marketer’s role is to go beyond nurturing, as Brian Kardon notes in his post on PandoDaily. He says “Today’s marketers are going beyond the traditional creative work and nurturing of prospects. They are tied to a revenue number. They own more of the funnel, and analytics technology is following them, allowing marketing to better predict when potential customers are ready to buy – all before sales ever touches them.”

But this is a good thing.

According to Bizo COO Brian Burdick, “buyers have done 90% of their research before calling Sales”.


Is Sales Dead?


Before analytics, Sales was manually handling relationship development. Now, analytics enables companies to effectively manage many relationships through all phases of the buying journey.

Analytics is growing by leaps and bounds every day. Gartner projects that by 2017, the CMO will outspend the CIO.

If Marketing can understand the buyer’s behavior through (1) analytics and (2) listening to Sales, Product and other departments (who are on the front lines to prospects and customers) on what is going on in the marketplace, then Marketing can get these “hot” leads (which they now have become) to Sales to convert into customers much quicker.

For this reason, I proclaim:  Sales is not dead. But, the traditional sales department is dead.

Here’s why.

When I was in Sales, for the most part, Sales and Marketing operated in silos. Sales contacted prospects, developed and nurtured the relationship, and converted leads into customers. The only sales enablement going on was Marketing or Product Management providing Sales with a data sheet and key messages to get into the sales pitch. And all the lead-chasing was done by the sales team through phone calls and email.

With all the information immediately available to buyers and decisions being made very quickly, there is no room for that today.

So, with that I say, goodbye Old Sales, hello New Sales.

What needs to happen is that Sales must evolve in a very similar fashion to the evolution that has been happening with Marketing.

How can Sales evolve?

Bust the marketing/sales silos.

Both groups need each other. Sales is on the front lines and does the “recon” on a daily basis. Marketing needs this data to craft better personas, content, etc. But Sales needs Marketing’s analytical data so they know when a lead is “ready”. This alignment will narrow the space between what separates an “MQL” (marketing qualified lead) from a lead.


Though some may disagree, the fact of the matter is that marketers are openers and sales are closers. But, each must contribute to the other’s success. Sales and Marketing need to align on goals and roles. Yes, there must be clear ownership and accountability established, but roles should be more blended so Marketing is out in the field more and collaborating on solutions a prospect needs, and Sales is more involved in content marketing, marketing program development and other areas.

Marketing must treat Sales as their “internal” customer.

This goes over and above sales enablement. I see sales enablement in many organizations stop at a point. For Marketing to be successful here, they must walk in Sales’ shoes, understand their goals and help them achieve those goals.

If Marketing and Sales don’t become partners for the greater customer good, everyone fails. But, if Marketing and Sales align, and Marketing can help Sales do their job and help them evolve, then everyone wins.

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