Should Sales Report to Marketing? Or Marketing Report to Sales?

We recently added our first full-time sales person to our team here at Verblio (formerly BlogMutt). Although we’ve grown fast, we’ve done it all with someone only handling sales as something of an afterthought. We just tried to do a good job with our blog and serve clients the best we can with great writing. But now we have so much inbound interest in our services, that we needed to get one person who has the whole job of working with those who’ve expressed an interest in Verblio, and guiding them in the process to become customers.

So with that, we hired someone who has sales, and nothing but sales, in his job title. Once we found the right person, we needed to make the next decision: should the sales department report to marketing, or should marketing report to sales? In some senses, it doesn’t matter a ton. We’re a very tight-knit crew at Verblio, and we don’t stand a lot on formality or on reporting structure. We all just work really hard every day to make sure that our thousands of customers and professional content writers are taken care of.

But, we’d like to lay the foundation now so that it will be easiest to grow, and we want to be sure to avoid the feuds between marketing and sales that cripples so many growing companies.

2-bison-butting-heads-and-fighting
This is the kind of head-butting between marketing and sales you should avoid at all costs.

(Photo by me at the National Western Stock Show.)

The Case for Making Sales Report to Marketing

Because Verblio is a marketing type of organization, this was our first thought.

Business blogs are, at the end of the day, a marketing function. They serve at the heart of the one-to-many relationship that is blogging, and they help with brand building, SEO, and just general awareness. So if we live in the world of marketing, shouldn’t our head of marketing have responsibility for it all? Shouldn’t sales just serve the function of having marketing that works for everyone?

That’s certainly a reasonable case to make. It would help to guarantee that the sales department never gets too pushy, working too hard to get in the face of prospective customers. Sales would want to be sure to do everything that’s consistent with the brand of Verblio.

That sounds pretty good, right? Let’s consider the alternative.

The Case for Marketing Reporting to Sales

While Verblio lives in the marketing world, there’s a common line of thinking that every organization needs to be a focused on sales all the way through from top to bottom.

“You know what happens without sales?” the old saying goes…And the response: “NOTHING!”

And there is truth to that, especially for businesses like Verblio that don’t have the backing of venture capital. We pay writers, and ourselves, using only the money that we collect from customers, and so with no customers, there’s no business. So while it’s not practical to have the head of, for example, engineering report to sales, it could make sense to have marketing report to sales. That would send a strong signal that all marketing needs to pay attention to sales first and foremost. It would ensure that there’s no “brand awareness” efforts that make marketing look good, but don’t result in any growth to the business.

Marketing is about bringing many people into a business, and if marketing reports to sales, then all marketing efforts will be geared toward finding and converting new customers. That sounds pretty good, too.

So, What Did We Do?

We decided that the best course of action was neither of these choices. Sales and marketing both report directly to me.

Why?

This could seem kind of silly given that “sales” is exactly one person right now.

But after talking to lots of smart folks and reading a ton of stuff, I decided that we needed to bake those two departments in as separate units right now, while we are still small. The reason is the nature of the relationships. Sales is essentially a one-to-one relationship, where a human being at Verblio is connecting with a human being at a small business or an agency that serves small business. The Verblio sales efforts need to be set up to meet each of those prospects where they are, and help each one to get where he or she wants to be.

Marketing is a one-to-many operation. We need to craft our site and our messaging to make sure that everyone who is in need of great blog posts finds us, and then is impressed with our site. When you name yourself after a dog of unknown lineage, you need to be overly impressive in your visual appeal and brand messaging.

We also want to make sure that everyone is in a spot to do what they do best. You can often tell when a company has marketing reporting to sales. That’s a company that has a giant “Buy now!!!!” button on the top of the home page and every other page. And when sales reports to marketing, inbound inquiries go for days without a response while people are crafting just the right message.

We’ll be avoiding both of those crippling problems, and we’ll all still be working to build the best possible Verblio.

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