Marketing's Role in Sales' Success

Though I've spent most of my career in marketing, my first job was in sales. I sold Fuller Brush door-to-door, carrying a bag full of kitchen and bath cleaners, air sprays and vegetable brushes. I could demo furniture polish, tout the advantages of a horsehair shaving brush, and recite the lifetime replacement guarantee.

I also learned to handle the ignominy of doors closed in my face, right in the midst of offering a free coffee scoop or tea strainer.

I would like to think that these credentials might have bought me at least a bit of credibility with sales folks, who might otherwise think that we marketers spend all our time pondering taglines and tweaking the corporate color scheme.

For my part, the experience gave me an appreciation for how difficult sales can be, and how it requires persistence and confidence.

Perhaps it's that sense of confidence that makes it difficult for sales people to appreciate marketing's help. Ask a rep why they won a particular deal and you'll nearly always hear something about "the productive relationship that the sales executive established with the customer." Sometimes, they'll also cast a bit of credit to the demo person and to the legal team for pushing through the final contract.

A shout-out to marketing? Not very often.

Maybe this will change in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) world. For companies selling SaaS solutions, marketing is critical to sales success.

For one, success often depends on a higher volume of deals. Unlike the on-premise world of large, up-front license fees, SaaS revenues are spread over the lifetime of the subscription. Sales people usually cannot consistently rely on one or two "whales" to make their quarterly quota. They need to get into more opportunities, and they need for those opportunities to be warm. That's marketing's role, generating and cultivating qualified opportunities.

The SaaS model also favors closing deals more quickly. Because revenue can be recognized as soon as the subscription begins, a deal closing at the beginning of the quarter is worth more than one that closes at the end of the quarter. Marketing can help here by producing effective sales support tools - customer case studies, analyst recommendations, etc. - that accelerate the sales process.

Marketing can also help by extending the reach of sales into the current customer base. The SaaS business depends on renewals; current customers are also prospects. To the extent that marketing can take on the responsibility to "sell" to this target by building an informed and committed customer community, sales reps can focus their attention on winning new prospects.

For companies selling SaaS solutions, effective marketing is essential to success. Done well, marketing can help generate higher deal volume, accelerate the sales process, and handle the responsibility of selling to current customers. In the SaaS world, marketing has the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to measurably enhance sales success.