We posted a survey to find out what marketing and sales professionals think about the idea of paying marketers a commission on the sales that result from their work.
Because in growth-minded companies that engage in effective modern marketing, the marketing function directly contributes to revenue.
So if the sales team receives a commission on the deals it closes, shouldn’t marketers get a commission for bringing those leads into the revenue funnel? After all, the sales team doesn’t have any leads to work on unless marketing does its job right.
We think it’s an intriguing concept. So we asked Marketri site visitors to weigh in on the idea.
Judging from our (not-statistically-significant) survey, most marketers don’t receive a commission on the leads they generate that convert to sales…but most believe they should.
To Pay or Not to Pay
Our survey drew responses from 54 marketers and 7 sales professionals.
- 53 of the 54 marketers said they don’t receive a commission or bonus tied to sales results.
- Of the marketing professionals who answered our pivotal question—whether marketers should earn a commission or bonus on sales results—the majority (36 of 39) believe they should.
For some, it’s about the role that growth marketing plays in attracting leads into the revenue funnel and nurturing them throughout their buying journey, until they’re Sales Qualified Leads that are ready for a sales touch. With much of the B2B buying journey happening online now—and leads moving much further down the revenue funnel before they’re willing to interact with sales—growth marketing is responsible for a huge percentage of the buying journey today.
As one respondent described it: If marketing develops the strategy and content that fills the funnel with leads, then nurtures them until they’re receptive to sales, and those leads turn into customers, then marketing played a key role in those closed deals.
Here’s how another marketer made the case: “The work a marketer does generates the phone call, the walk-in, or the website form fill to land a salesperson the lead.” They see that work as “100% grounds” for collecting a commission on the sale.
When marketers wear multiple hats (as they often do) and they’re asked to engage in sales activities too, the issue becomes more complicated. One marketer told us they split their time between marketing and sales activities, and they receive a commission on the outcome of their sales efforts but not their marketing efforts. It makes you scratch your head and wonder why!
Their Sales Colleagues Agree (Mostly)
Five of the 7 sales professionals who weighed in agree that their marketing peers should be compensated in some way for leads that convert to closed sales.
As one sales rep emphasized, marketing produces and nurtures the leads that the sales team depends on, providing significant value throughout the sales cycle. Another rep noted that marketing has a stake in the organization’s goals, so they should be rewarded for generating productive leads.
It’s a Common Theme
Not only do most marketers who responded to our survey not receive a commission; but most said their colleagues in other companies aren’t compensated that way either.
One respondent told us about two situations they’re aware of where organizations pay marketers a commission or bonus tied to sales results:
- One company pays marketers commission on leads that convert to sales that don’t require a sales rep’s involvement, like when a buyer responds to a mail-in offer.
- Another uses a tiered, flat-fee bonus structure that compensates marketers for sales that result from marketing-generated leads, based on various sales milestones.
In businesses that pay marketers bonuses, they’re almost always tied to broader business objectives—not to sales that can be attributed to marketing.
- One marketer receives bonuses based on metrics like revenue, department budget efficiency, and lead quality.
- Another noted a similar situation, where marketing bonuses are based on overall company performance vs specific marketing or sales key performance indicators (KPIs).
The Opposing View
Only 3 marketers and 2 sales reps said they don’t believe marketing should earn commission on leads that turn into sales. We think their reasons are wide open to challenge!
- Attributing results to marketing is too difficult. Actually, it’s not. And if your marketing team tells you otherwise, it means they’re very likely engaged in task-based marketing—doing activities for the sake of activities—instead of measurement-based marketing. Professional firms like Marketri can help shift your marketing organization to a measurement-based focus: aligning marketing actions with your business goals and strategies, setting concrete metrics, and using technology tools to measure how well you’re achieving them.
- The role of marketing isn’t to generate sales. Again, we beg to differ. Growth-minded companies recognize that marketing can and should contribute to generating revenue—an approach we call profit center marketing. A well-developed strategic marketing plan can direct your resources to marketing efforts that support your business goals and directly contribute to top-line revenue growth. Developing and executing strategic marketing plans that generate growth is exactly what Marketri does for B2B middle market companies!
- I don’t want my compensation dependent on things outside my control. If marketers believe that generating and nurturing the leads the sales team uses to ultimately close deals is outside their control, then those marketers are probably in the wrong profession. (Sorry to be so blunt, but if you hear this kind of thinking among your marketing team, you might want to start recruiting new talent!)
- Closing sales is harder than generating leads. This is the kind of us vs them mentality that’s sadly common in some organizations, especially those with a strong sales culture. The reality is, your marketing team and sales team both do challenging work that directly supports your business goals. One discipline isn’t more difficult than the other; they’re just different. When they’re aligned to the same objectives and priorities, the combination of a strong marketing team and a strong sales team is unbeatable.
We suspect the idea of compensating marketers with a commission on leads that turn into sales won’t take hold in the near term, but there’s enough discussion about the concept that it might start to gain traction in the future.
In the meantime, whether you do or don’t include results-based commission in your marketers’ compensation package, you absolutely should expect your marketing staff to engage in strategic marketing efforts that directly contribute to revenue growth. The experienced team at Marketri can help!
Our Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) services and Fractional Chief Growth Officer (CGO) services can get your marketing organization focused on the all-important goal of driving aggressive revenue growth for your B2B company. Contact our CEO Deb Andrews for a free consultation to learn more!