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Marketing Strategy  |   Hiring a Marketing Team  |   Executives and Leaders  |   Inbound Sales

Sales or Marketing: Who Should You Hire First for Your Growing Company?

Marcus Sheridan

By Marcus Sheridan

Nov 4, 2020

Sales or Marketing: Who Should You Hire First for Your Growing Company?

When a business is growing and scaling up, hiring becomes an ever more pressing issue. You want to be able to get the right people on board, and into the right seats, as quickly as possible — while making sure company culture stays intact. You don’t want under-staffing to be a hindrance that holds back your growth. 

My colleagues at IMPACT have written a great deal about hiring tactics, culture fit, and other aspects of hiring the right person.

Today, I’m going to focus on the other side of the equation: knowing which seats you actually need to fill — especially when those are new seats for your organization.

In The E Myth, small business guru Michael Gerber advises that SMBs should hire for the company they want to become, not the company they are right now.

So, how do you know the structure of the company you want to become? That’s a balance of reflection and aspiration. Here’s how I would advise to hire for rapid growth.

Starting from square one

When you start your business, every job, every title, gets attached to your name. You’re the founder. You’re also the head of marketing by default. As well as the head of sales, product development — you name it. You’re the one who does it all.

As you grow and hire, your new colleagues take over various responsibilities from you. You might be naturally more inclined towards marketing, or towards sales, but you’ll eventually relegate the bulk of those responsibilities as you grow. If you’re like the founders of most businesses, gradually your role narrows to focus on strategy and larger initiatives. 

So, exactly how should you do it?

Whether you’re an entrepreneur hiring your first few employees or a larger business scaling up to meet demand, there is some wise advice to follow to ensure your team is well balanced. 

Hiring for marketing makes a lot of sense for a growing business

For years, I’ve spread the word about They Ask, You Answer, a business philosophy that urges companies to obsess over their customers’ questions. At IMPACT, we teach our clients that trust is the foundation of every sale, and that you should do what you can to build trust with your audience. This means openly answering customer questions on your website.

Today, buyers make the bulk of their purchasing decision long before they talk to a sales rep. They consume information online (that is, marketing materials), which helps them learn about your product or service offerings. 

We believe you should address the topics buyers are sure to be interested in, but that many companies avoid talking about. 

All buyers want to know:

  • How much does this thing cost?
  • What might go wrong with it?
  • How does it compare to other alternatives?
  • What do previous buyers think?
  • What are the best options for me?

Hiring marketers means you can address these questions directly in your marketing materials, making your prospects better informed about your offerings.

Without content that answers these questions, your sales team is forced to spend more time educating buyers and answering these questions over and over. 

At its best, marketing serves as the ambassador for sales. Spreading awareness, building trust, and informing buyers. 

For a growing business, marketing is essential.

...but you need to hire for sales

With all that having been said about marketing, it’s a luxury compared to sales.

If your business doesn’t have money coming in the door, you can’t pay your workers and you can’t keep your lights on. This is especially true for younger businesses that don’t have cash on hand to fund their operations. They need a steady stream of income in order to survive. Without revenue, a business quickly finds itself in a downward spiral toward demise. 

Therefore, while hiring for marketing is important, hiring for sales is vital. 

Marketing is an important investment in the future of your business, but it takes longer to work. Sales will keep your business growing and thriving as you plant the seeds for marketing. Then, when both teams are robust and functioning properly, you can align them to build a “revenue team” that ensures what marketing produces is exactly in line with what sales needs.

It would be nice if you could hire a marketer who would come in and immediately produce sales-enablement materials, but that’s sadly not often the case. 

Good sales reps create sales opportunities

There is a misconception I’ve heard that you should only hire another sales rep if you already are overwhelmed with leads. I don’t think that’s good advice. 

If you have leads that are not getting followed up with, you definitely should hire for your sales team. But you don’t need a surplus of leads to hire more salespeople. The best sales reps research and prospect, creating sales opportunities that can then turn into leads.  

🔎Related reading: 18 interview questions for sales reps so you always hire the right people

Finding the right balance between marketing and sales

Every company needs to find its own balance between marketing and sales, but I find that the vast majority of businesses out there have too many sales reps and too few marketers

For many businesses I present to, they’re employing 20, 30, or 40 sales reps for every single marketer. 

To me, those are unhealthy numbers. I like to see companies operate more in the 7:1 neighborhood. That is, somewhere around seven sales reps for every marketer.

If your marketing team is tasked with producing the content that those salespeople need, a healthy ratio means that that content production can be responsive and nimble. With too many sales reps, that’s not possible. 

What’s more, your marketing team can produce the top-of-the-funnel content that will drive traffic and leads to your website, building brand awareness and initiating sales conversations.

At IMPACT, we publish about 20 pieces of content each week — in the form of articles, podcasts, news reactions, videos, and more. Our content drives nearly a million visitors to our site each month.

The majority of our leads come from visitors who find us through organic search.

They come to us by way of the content that our marketing team has produced. By the time they get to our sales reps, they’ve already gotten to know our brand. They’ve derived value from the content they’ve consumed, and they’ve begun to trust us as a resource. 

This way, marketing and sales work together to bring revenue into the company. The process would not work without both teams. 

Scaling up your business

For businesses standing on the cusp of prodigious growth, you face an exciting and difficult future. Scaling your business can be hard. How can you be sure that you can keep your culture intact as you create new roles and hire new people? How can you be sure to deliver the same quality and customer service at a larger scale? 

A common planning strategy is to start with the end in mind. If you know the type of business you want to become, you can begin to imagine the steps that will get you there. 

If you know a healthy sales-marketing ratio — and sales-marketing relationship — you can hire the employees who will embrace your vision for an integrated team that works together to bring a customer through a purchase.

Both sales and marketing are essential, but you need a steady flow of cash to grow your business — and sales is going to assure that income in the short term. At the same time, marketing is an essential investment in your future. You need to be seen as the best teacher in your industry in order to win customers. Therefore, make sure you’re working to be found on the internet, and that prospects are entering your sales process with more questions answered and more trust built. 

It should never be sales or marketing. It should always be both/and — in a ratio that makes sense for your goals. 

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