Blog post

We are NOT all Marketers

By Hank Barnes | December 17, 2013 | 8 Comments

go-to-marketFuture of Sales

Over the Thanksgiving break, I went on a “field trip” with my daughter and some other family members.  We went to see the cadaver she was working on for her first year of medical school.  Sounds pretty morbid, but it wasn’t. Although holding a brain or a heart  in my gloved hands was quite interesting (brains are really heavy, a heart is not).

The experience was eye opening. First, I have no idea how doctors and surgeons do what they do.  Second, the body is an amazing system—with seemingly innocuous parts (based on looking at them) playing a critical role in successful functioning.  Working together, they  make us what we are.

The experience brought to mind a personal pet peeve of mine.   Statements like– “Now, we are all marketers” or “Because of the Internet, we are all sales ” –drive me crazy.

They are hogwash.

An engineer needs to do engineering things.  An accountant needs to do accounting.   We all have jobs to do and need to do everything we can to get things done.  The last thing most organizations need is people neglecting their responsibilities, whether mandated or self-directed (which I prefer–I am not a hierarchy guy), because they decide to be marketers or sales reps.  Imagine if the brain decided it wanted to be the heart.  Or the heart wanted to be the skin. Sounds crazy, but that is how we sometimes act in organizations as we fight for more “turf”.

Remember The Lion King (a movie I must have seen 6+ times in the theater and uncountable times on tape with that same daughter many years ago) and its theme around “the circle of life.”  That is a better metaphor in my mind.

As employees of a company we all play a role in “the circle of customer value.”


That is where the focus of employee efforts should be–how do I help create value for a customer within my role and areas of expertise.  Period.  I am not advocating working in a vacuum (focusing only on your task and ignoring everything around you).   Nor am I advocating just doing “your job” and not helping others.  It is critical that everyone in the company understand the role they play in creating value for customers and how that links to other jobs.

But I do believe that it is not critical, and potentially damaging,  for everyone to think that  they are marketers or sales reps.  Provide your component of the value story, help make it easier for others to provide theirs, share your story and your company stories with others and great things can happen.  Neglect your role and the chain starts to break down.

Think about it.  Have you ever experienced a situation where you heard about an executive, or an engineer, swooping in to “win a deal?”  Stories like this abound.  But they aren’t true.

Deals are won or lost by sales reps that do all the little things to help a customers buy.  Executives come in for a meeting because the sales rep realizes the value they can provide.  Engineers are brought in to address a roadblock.  Yes, they help win the business.  But they don’t win the business.  Unless you are selling exclusively online, you need sales reps to close business.

If you don’t recognize this (that you contribute to their efforts, rather than replace them), then you are effectively denigrating the people in those key sales and marketing roles.

We are NOT all Marketers.  We are NOT all sales reps.  We are all part of the “circle of customer value.”  We need to understand how the circle works and focus our energy on customer value.



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  • Jay Oza says:

    We may not be all of those things but don’t you think we need to think like many of those roles today?

    I am not a CEO, but I have to at least think like one in order to understand what is important to him.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      I think it is important to understand other roles and to think about how your contribution meshes with others. Do you need to think like a marketer? Maybe not. Do you need to understand the impact what you do has on customer value? Yes. If that means thinking like a marketer, great. But sometimes that just means thinking like an engineer that really cares bout customer value.

  • James says:

    Will it ever be possible to eliminate the sales rep that cover the enterprise marketplace and move to a model where they solely purchase online?

    • Hank Barnes says:

      In my opinion…no. For complex enterprise purchases, buying is as much about confidence in the provider and the implementation team as it is about the product. Buyers still crave direct interaction with their providers and emotions are as big, if not bigger, a factor in B2B purchases as they are in consumer. For commodity purchases, sure online purchases are common and will continue to grow. But in the enterprise area, sellers will be needed for as far as I can project to help guide buyers to a purchase decision that they can be confident in.

  • Jay Oza says:


    In Dan Pink’s book “To Sell is Human,” he writes about this company Atlassian that has no sales people. The CEO of Atlassian informs Pink that all their employees are viewed as salespeople.

    Are you finding companies where they view most, if not all, their employees as both marketers and salespeople? Is your viewpoint for all companies or mostly large companies?

    • Hank Barnes says:

      I personally view the idea of all employees being salespeople or marketers as wrong. If that was the case, who is building the product? Who is providing support? Who is processing order or managing systems? Vala Afshar commented on my tweet about this post, “But we all represent the BRAND.” And I agree with that. Everything every employee do impacts sales and impacts marketing, but that does not make you a sales rep.

  • Carlos T. says:

    Thank you Hank for sharing this interesting article with us.

    I agree in many things told here already. However there’re a couple of things that haven’t been considered yet… For example the size of the companies or the type of services or solutions they sell, or the type of audience for their products.

    I understand that for a complex turnkey engineering solution, you need a team of experts specialized at the highest level in every detail of their responsibilities, I mean to have an technical manager – to run only the technical stuff; a product manager – to be in the middle of the chain between the engineers and the customers, a pre-sales & marketing team – to do all the market research, CRM and customer relationship; and the sales team to close as much business as possible (for example).

    On the other hand, the same business model cannot be applied to a small law firm with 20 lawyers where all of them are marketers and sales people, since they are more like consultants / marketers and partners.

    So, my question to you, would you reckon that this “we are not all marketers” philosophy will depend on many factors including the size of the company, type of product & supply chain and target audience?

    • Hank Barnes says:


      Thanks for the comment. I suppose there are situations in smaller companies when everyone has some level of marketing or sales responsibility as part of their job. My intention is for the majority of organizations where that is not the case.

      I am really not trying to argue every case, my bigger point is:

      1. Everyone in a company plays a role, usually a different one in creating value for customers.
      2. Claims like “we are all marketers” or “we all have to sell” devalues the complexities of those jobs.
      3. The combination of roles and activities is what drives value creation–everyone needs to understand that bigger picture and where they fit.
      4. As mentioned in an earlier comment, Vala Afshar commented to be on twittter that “Everyone represents the brand” and I could not agree more.