Sales & Marketing—Separate But Equal

Sales and Marketing

Over the years, we’ve worked with companies large and small in a great many different industries. It’s been a good vantage point, and one of the things we’ve observed is that combining the Directors of Sales and Marketing into a single position is usually not a great idea. Merging these two fundamentally different functions under a single leader can even undermine efforts in both areas.

A wise business consultant we know puts it this way…sales is about the present and marketing is about the future. While it may be easy to quibble with some of the implications of that statement, it does capture an important truth. Sales professionals are, by necessity, focused on the near-term. They are generally working with ambitious goals and tight timelines, and they simply have little room for long-term strategic thinking.

When salespeople do become involved in marketing decisions, their focus is often—if understandably—on a few items they hope will drive people to take action now; making the headline louder or the logo bigger, for example. What they tend not to consider, however, is that each piece is part of a bigger plan that could be undermined by a short-term perspective.
Perhaps a certain subtlety in messaging or design reflects the polished, understated image that a company needs to differentiate itself from the competition. Making the logo bigger might (or might not) get more people in the door on a given weekend, but it can easily undermine a refined brand image that has been established over time.

A true marketing professional understands this, and concerns themselves with building a lasting relationship between their company and its customers and prospects. This requires not only a different skillset from sales, but also a different mindset. Positioning a product or service correctly requires a thorough understanding of the entire space in which a company operates.

Knowing how competitors try to sell their products and services is key in creating an effective marketing strategy. While a good salesman will no doubt know how to sell against major competing products, he is unlikely to have the time or resources to develop that knowledge into a strategic plan of action. That’s where marketers earn their money. By analyzing the current landscape, they identify and emphasize the key differentiators that become effective selling points.

Asking one person to manage all that responsibility while running a successful sales engine may seem to have short term benefits, but it’s a recipe for sub-par results in the long run. That’s why many organizations have shifted from a having a single Director of Sales and Marketing to focus on improving the working relationship between the two departments. When the Director of Sales and the Director of Marketing jointly assess and align their departments’ efforts, they are better able to achieve the company’s overall goals. The payoff can be huge. According to a recent report by the Aberdeen Group, 74% of the organizations classified as Best-in-Class share the commonality of strong sales and marketing alignment.

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