Tom Turner | Crain's Boston

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tom Turner


BitSight, a Boston-based cybersecurity ratings company, has announced plans to quadruple its Raleigh presence with a new downtown office on Glenwood Avenue. BitSight also plans to double its Raleigh workforce by 2019.

The Mistake:

Getting caught in the sales and marketing blame game.

My background is an interesting one. I didn’t begin in business; I began my career as a teacher. At my first job outside of teaching, I worked for a software reseller in the marketplace. The job was an entry-level marketing position at a reseller that sold software and service to mechanical and civil engineering markets in the Northeast.

I would sit in on sales meetings and never really had anything to say. I was at the meetings because I had a boss at the time who ran marketing. Not too long into my career at the company, the marketing person who usually spoke at the meeting wasn’t there. Our sales team was clearly bothered by something that the marketing team had done at a recent trade show – the way the company’s name was listed in the directory. I felt like it was a bit of an ambush. I wasn’t personally responsible for the mistake. I felt the reaction was really overblown, so I went to my boss afterward. I remember him looking at me and saying, “So, you would like me to fix this for you?"

It all comes down to good measuring and good tracking. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

The Lesson:

The takeaway was that I didn’t handle that situation very well. Our marketing group was not seen as a contributing team with value to the sales team and I wanted to change that. The efforts that we did should be recognized, as well as the things that we could do better. Marketing had to have a seat at the table, and I had to earn it. I was also the youngest person in that meeting – and on the team – at the time, and if I wanted to be respected and have a seat at the table, I learned I had to bring the focus to what the marketing team was doing that was helping the sales team.

The broader message here is that the dynamic that exists between sales and marketing teams is very important. Sales and marketing teams can sometimes be like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s quite straight-forward: If the conversion rate isn’t what you expected, then you can look at the message or the campaign. It’s a bit of a forensic exercise.

It all comes down to good measuring and good tracking. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

It’s really simple but yet really hard to do sometimes. It’s the shared conversion rate. Pick a point. There’s a funnel where you put people who are interested – customers and buyers – they go on a journey. They go from being interested in a solution to actually buying a product and putting it into their use. It’s important to pick a point so you can measure things objectively and have really transparent conversations about whether sales are engaging potential customers in the right way.

Marketing typically thinks everything they do is wonderful. And sales thinks every deal is solely from their efforts. Now I run sales and marketing, so I insist that my sales leader and my marketing leader meet. You have to objectively measure the efficacy of the various marketing activities and how well the sales people are benefiting from that. If a marketing campaign isn’t producing results, perhaps it’s best not to do that marketing campaign again. If there are things that are being put into market, but sales isn’t able to convert it, perhaps you should re-evaluate.

Tom Turner is on Twitter at @TomTurnerro and BitSight is at @BitSight.

Photo courtesy of BitSight.

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