There’s an uncomfortable truth that we need to talk about as marketers.

But before we “go there,” we need to talk a bit about all of the time, effort, and spend that goes into a critical business function: the collateral that sales uses in order to sell.

We recently collaborated with Demand Metric on research to understand the state of sales content ROI. The resulting report, Sales Content ROI Benchmark Study Report sheds some pretty interesting light onto an area that a lot of marketers spend much of their time and effort: creating materials for sales. Here are the insights and stats I found most interesting from the report.

Four Sales Content ROI Insights & Stats from the Benchmark Study

Sales really needs content. Sales uses 6.7 pieces of collateral in an average sales cycle. Between presentations, videos, solution sheets, competitor comparisons, analyst reports, and white papers (to name a few), there are a lot of weapons in the content arsenal for sales reps to use. And Sales acknowledges the importance of the content in their selling cycles. The report shows that 83% of salespeople have a positive view of the importance of sales content.

Marketing is responsible for creating most sales content. In many organizations, there are several different functional areas that could be producing content. But Marketing (including content marketing and product marketing) is responsible for 84% of content creation, according to the report.

Marketing has no good way of getting content to Sales. Even though Marketing is doing the clear majority of the heavy lifting on content creation, it’s glaring that about half of the marketers surveyed had no good way of getting this content to sales. Furthermore, a third of respondents resort to one-off emails for content distribution. What a mess! I’ve spoken to marketers who are living like this and they say it feels like working at a 24/7 fast food drive-through window. It’s a hamster wheel existence.

Marketing doesn’t know if content is being used or if that content is even good. The report shows that less than 25% of respondents can determine sales content ROI with any precision. While this isn’t surprising (I mean, if you’re distributing content via one-off emails, how the heck are you going to have any idea of content is being used and whether it’s performing?), it’s kind of alarming. Marketing is acting as an order-fulfillment house, doing its best to deliver a perfectly hot meal after you pull up to the next drive through window.

The Elephant in the Room

I talk to marketers all the time who feel under-appreciated and misunderstood by their sales counterparts in large organizations. While I can sympathize with their plight—in many ways, Marketing exists to support the revenue engine in the best way that it can—I also think there’s something bigger going on.

I don’t think Marketing wants to be as accountable as Sales.

Now before everyone blasts me for saying this, please hear me out. For starters, sellers don’t have a choice in the matter—hit your number or hit the road. But for marketers, the stats above don’t lie. The majority of us are fulfilling a critical business function yet have no way of proving it or improving it.

Improving—that’s the key here. Sales has all of these fancy coaching tools and methodologies to help them to get better at their craft. Yet Marketing doesn’t. Why is that? Is it because there is too much art to content creation? Is it because those methodologies and best practices in design and storytelling haven’t been created yet?

I think it’s partly driven by fear of the truth. That some of the sales collateral Marketing spends a billion hours creating—heck, maybe even the majority of that collateral—kind of stinks.

Marketers who want to improve need to know how they are doing in the first place. It’s the only way to get better. You have to ditch the drive-through window mentality and want the spotlight of accountability on you. You have to want to show your value—not just fulfill orders.

Until marketers rally around that mentality, they will still be viewed as a cost center rather than part of the revenue engine of the company.