Growth Insights for CEOs

Revving Sales into Fourth Gear

Posted by Clay Spitz


Why do the Marketing and Sales departments always have to be at odds, blaming each other for poor results? That’s the way it is in so many businesses. But it doesn’t have to be. As a company leader, you just want them to work together and get more sales, right? When the two symbiotic functions are working properly, they mesh like gears - Growth Gears - cranking out more sales power than either can produce separately. Take a brief ride with me to explore a model for making this work.

The democratization of marketing technology has made marketing tactics at almost any size business accessible and measurable. At the same time, the Buyer’s Journey has changed, increasing marketing’s role in prospect engagement. As a result, the success metrics for marketing have become increasingly blurry. Are marketers responsible for attracting eyeballs or reeling in likely prospects? Investment out or revenue in? And who owns the company’s go-to-market strategy?

Because a marketer’s traditional currency has been eyeballs or lead volume, the sales department often complains that too many of the marketing-driven leads are unqualified. And maybe the sales folks are right! When unfocused and uncoordinated tactics (I’ve often called them “random acts of marketing”) don’t result in the volume of qualified leads the sales department needs to meet its goal, the marketing department is the convenient pariah to blame for poor results.

Company leaders often struggle to clearly define marketing’s role within the organization, and mistakenly lump Marketing in with Sales. The thinking goes, marketing’s job is to drive leads, so it is merely another component of the sales process. Hence, the VP of Sales and Marketing title you see at many midsized businesses. In truth, Marketing and Sales are very different disciplines and skill sets. They should be separate but interdependent functions in a business organization. That is not always possible in mid-size companies due to budget constraints. There is where a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can be of great impact.

Successful companies have to end this push and pull between marketing and sales, aligning them on a similar path to growth without lumping them into one. This challenge prompted the leadership at Chief Outsiders to develop a simple and understandable model of what is really a complex and detailed process for Strategic Marketing.

The Growth Gears Model

The Chief Outsiders’ Growth Gears model, as explained in the recently released book, The Growth Gears; Using a Market-based Framework to Drive Business Success , authored by Principals Art Saxby and Pete Hayes, asserts that, like a bicycle with one speed, if you only have one gear your only option is to pedal harder to go faster. Such is the case with purely tactical marketing. If the only gear you have spins out tactics like advertising, sales collateral, trade shows, events, search engine marketing and the like, you’ll have to spend more to get more – and at some point you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns.

Adding gears to your bike allows the rider to go faster without having to pedal harder. Let’s apply the analogy to marketing: 

  • Consider your first gear, Insight. If you don’t have a clear understanding of yourself, your customer, your competitors and your market, you may be working hard but getting nowhere fast. That knowledge is what turns the next gear.
  • Once you have the Insights, they form the basis for the next Growth Gear, Effective Market-focused strategy is really about offering the right products and services to the right customers at the right price, positioned in a clearly differentiated way that your customer understands and values.
  • A well-developed Strategy Gear drives a much more effective and efficient Execution Gear. With the benefit of the insights and strategy, the marketing department can now choose the most appropriate marketing and communications tactics along with focused messaging to generate those all-important qualified leads. All these activities should be constantly evaluated using metrics to determine what is working and what is not, and what should be changed to produce a more effective, efficient result. 

Revving Up The Fourth Growth Gear: Sales

I recently conducted a workshop for a group of company owners and executives in Vistage, a company that organizes Peer Advisory Groups for business owners and executives, about "The Difference Between Marketing and Sales.” While discussing the Growth Gears model, a CEO of a mid-sized company asked, “Where does sales fit into your model?” 

I explained that Sales is the fourth Growth Gear. Like the Marketing Execution Gear, if the Sales gear is turning alone the results will be less for more. With the first three gears properly applied, however, the Sales gear turns more efficiently and effectively. Marketing, using the first three gears, delivers the sales team qualified leads, productive conversations with the right prospects and enables sales to increase closing rates on profitable business.

All Gears Lead to Revenue 

Even the best Salespeople and Sales Department will be much more effective at bringing in profitable new revenue if they are driven by a true understanding of the customer and market which is then used to create a clear and focused strategy along with effective and efficient marketing execution that delivers truly qualified leads.

Are your Growth Gears cranking out the leads and sales you need to achieve your growth goals? I welcome your comments and thoughts. 

To learn more about the Growth Gears, visit or the Chief Outsiders Website at or contact Clay Spitz at

Topics: Sales and Marketing Integration, Growth Gears

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