Applying the Olympic Model to Marketing and Sales Alignment


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There are a lot of bloggers currently using the Olympics topic as “linkbait”. For a good explanation of what the term linkbait means, read the excellent blog post by Olivier Blanchard titled 10 Digital Content Strategy Lessons from the Olympic Games. The way Blanchard sees it, the big problem is that people use a hot topic (e.g. Olympic Games) in the title to capture attention, regardless of whether the substance of the article backs up the reference.

However, unlike those miscreants, I have a takeaway lesson from the Olympics that is highly relevant to B2B marketing. In the past, I’ve written about the importance of aligning marketing and sales departments. While watching the Olympics these past few weeks, it struck me that the individual and relay events were very different in a couple of significant ways that contain important lessons for marketing and sales professionals.

In the individual events, it is possible for one athlete to achieve fame, glory and financial compensation as a result of winning an event where his or her teammate fails to medal. In this sense, Michael Phelps’ competition on race day was not only the swimmers from rival countries, but also Ryan Lochte and the other U.S. swimmers. Although they are friends and teammates, it is not hard to imagine that Phelps and Lochte secretly hoped that their countryman would swim just a tad slower than them in the big show.

Contrast this with a relay event, where either every person on the team medals or no one medals. Even if you run the fastest split or swim the fastest lap among all competitors, it counts for very little if your teammates don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Also, everyone on your team gets the same medal. The fastest swimmer or runner doesn’t get a gold medal while a lesser performer settles for a bronze. The team succeeds together or it fails together.

The B2B marketing and sales arena is much more like a relay event, in that every member of your team relies on each other. The marketing department builds awareness and generates inquiries, then hands off qualified leads to the sales department who applies their magic to convert these leads into customers. Instead of blaming marketing for not always passing the baton (leads) properly, sales works with marketing to ensure they are receiving a smooth handoff. The end goal for each department is the same – but each participant in the process knows exactly how they contribute to generating revenue.

The well-oiled B2B marketing and sales machine is a thing of beauty. It can transform nail-biting quarters into predictable and positive outcomes. It is much easier (and more enjoyable) to achieve the gold medal of B2B marketing and sales if all members of your team work in a cooperative and efficient manner. Bottom line: at the end of the month, quarter or year, you want the whole team to be standing on the marketing and sales equivalent of the medal platform.

If you want more information on this important topic, please read our recent article about How to Achieve a Healthy Marketing and Sales Balance.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. Chris, I agree with you that marketing and sales should behave more like they’re in a relay event. But I wonder how many see it that way.

    Instead of focusing on winning the overall “race” (closing sales and increasing revenue) it’s more like each group (demand gen, inside sales, field sales, etc.) is running their own “leg” and not worrying about what happens in the rest of the race.

    I think the Revenue Performance Management concept is one way to address this, but requires a leader/coach to focus the team on the big goal.

  2. Thanks for the comment Bob. I agree that too many individuals don’t want to either hand off the baton or accept the baton from their colleagues. This creates the opposite scenario from the “well-oiled” machine. Also agree that the RPM concept can go a long way towards addressing these issues.



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