Marketing Playing on the Sales Teeter-Totter

509 words, 2:32 minutes

Photo by BahadirTanriover/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BahadirTanriover/iStock / Getty Images

Whenever I get into a conversation about Sales and Marketing with clients and colleagues I am reminded of the George Bernard Shaw quote:

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

This is because Sales and Marketing are often two functions separated by a common goal – to generate profitable revenue for the company.  But the understanding between the two functions of how to achieve common goals is often not in line.

I used to work in B2B marketing at Sprint PCS in the late 1990s/early 2000s. PCS was the brand for the wireless service. At one point my job was to travel the country visiting Sprint stores and partners (e.g., Best Buy or Staples) to train sales associates about the first smartphones coming to market. It was very important to the business marketing team to capture share of this new, growing segment.

But I was marketing smartphones in a clam shell-phone world. This was way before the iPhone. Blackberry was starting to make in-roads. There were no app stores. Getting email on your phone required IT support. Wireless data speeds were, uh, lacking. As an added bonus, the early smartphones were horrendously expensive, were not subsidized and data plans required users to figure out exactly how much data they would use before committing to a plan.  And no one understood how to figure data usage back then.

Sales associates could spend an inordinate amount of time learning about these new phones that had a very low close rate and no added incentives.  They could sell 10 clam shell phones in the time it took to make one smartphone sale.  It wasn’t lucrative or easy to sell smartphones. Some partners, understandably, wouldn’t even let me take sales associates off the floor to explain the new devices. As a marketer, I did not understand how to support Sales to accomplish our mutual goals.

Understanding how to support Sales is simple, but not easy.  I’ve learned to equate success in support with leveling the “Sales Teeter Totter.”

The Sales Teeter Totter consists of the worth of selling on one side versus the ease of selling on the other side. Marketing should play an important role in keeping the teeter totter even.  When launching a campaign marketing should consider the following items in supporting Sales:


Does it help me keep my job?

  • Quota

Can I make a lot of money selling it?

  • Incentives
  • Promotions
  • Contests
  • Add-ons
  • Pull-through sales
  • Customer retention/satisfaction


  • Training
  • Collateral
  • Packaging
  • Offer (e.g., phone + data plan)
  • Above the line – advertising, PR
  • Below the line – direct response, lead generation

Too often marketers get fixated on the right side of the teeter totter, especially on advertising and direct marketing.  Don’t forget to spend time and budget on less sexy but highly effective tools such as Sales training and collateral (digital or printed).

Also, partnering with Sales leadership to better understand the quota and incentives programs and coming up with effective internal promotions will ultimately determine the success of a campaign.

So, fellow marketers, what are you doing to help make your sales team successful?