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Ken Magill

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First, We Kill the Branders

By Ken Magill

Okay, so maybe we don’t kill the branders. But realign them? Certainly.

Freelance writer and author Geoffrey James had a thoughtful piece published on BNET recently explaining why he thinks attempts to align the sales and marketing teams are a bunch of bunk.

Essentially, he said that rather than align with sales, marketing should submit to sales. Why?

“The entire point of a business is to sell things to people,” James wrote. “There is no function more important than selling.  Even the CEO’s primary job is to provide a service to sales, because if sales don’t take place, there’s no business to manage.

“That’s why it’s totally ridiculous to ‘align’ sales and marketing as if the two groups were co-equal.  The only real and practical alignment is for marketing to step back, and respectfully ask the sales team what they should be doing to help.  Submission, not alignment.”

My first thought when I read James’s piece was: “Damn right.”

I have often expressed my admiration for sales reps. They make the free-market world go ‘round and they put up with an incredible amount of shit in the process.

I once worked for a publisher where a finance executive who was battling with ad reps over commissions decided to try and turn other departments against sales. He did it by disclosing sales’ salaries to editorial staffers. Not surprisingly, sales’ salaries were higher.

After finance guy worked his magic on editorial, a few younger reporters came to me to complain.

“It’s not fair,” they said.

To which I responded: “Not fair? Do you know how much crap those people put up with? Crap you never have to put up with, I might add. If you think you can do their job just go down the hall and ask [the sales manager] to bring you into sales. I won’t stop you. He’s looking for people right now.”

None of them took me up on the offer.

So, yes, my kneejerk response to James’s piece was that marketing should submit to sales. Then I thought a little further.

While brand marketers should probably submit to sales, direct marketers should not. Why? Because DMers are sales reps. They simply do it remotely.

As a result, direct-marketing departments are certainly co-equals with any field sales group and should be treated as such.

DMers certainly get the same amount of respect—very little—from the general public as sales reps. Effective sales and direct marketing can be pretty annoying.

In any case, yes, aligning sales and marketing as if they’re co-equals is silly. But I wouldn’t realign them quite the way James would.

In a world run by Ken Magill—besides having water fountains retrofitted to squirt beer, and preferably Sierra Nevada pale ale—brand marketers would be employed to serve the sales and direct marketing folks no matter how many advanced degrees the former tends to have and the latter does not. Branders’ sole focus should be to make products and services easier for the people sales and direct marketing to sell.


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