Sales AND Marketing?

One of the things that has always puzzled me are position descriptions for a “Sales and Marketing” VP. The fact that sales and marketing are often mentioned in the same breath demonstrates a lack of understanding of the fundamental difference between sales and marketing, particularly in smaller firms. Having worked with both domains extensively for years, I continue to be surprised by the extent of the number of people at a senior level who don’t understand the difference.

There are lots of analogies at play here, the best I’ve come up with (so far) is the race car model. If Sales is the guy driving the Formula 1, Marketing designed the engine, built the car, paved the road, went out and got sponsors, provided detailed performance specifications on the other cars and drivers, and provides pit crew support (including spare parts, personnel, and fuel).

Designed the engine. In most companies Product Management resides within Marketing. This is the function that essentially tells engineering what to build through process-centric deliverables such as Product Requirements Documents (PRDs), and Market Requirements Documents (MRDs). The MRD/PRD is based on market requirements driven by extensive research on customer needs, competitive offsets, channel requirements, etc. They are generally long, very detailed, and updated continuously in parallel with engineering development efforts.

Build the car. What defines the user experience? How easy to use and intuitive is the product or service? What does packaging and pricing look like? Product Marketing owns this function, and again, serves as a strong bridge between end-users and engineering. The work is (like most marketing efforts) very detailed and surprisingly technical.

Pave the road. Arguably the most complex task. Raising awareness of your product/service requires reaching out to potential customers, channel partners, analysts, journalists, bloggers, as well as competitors (whom you’ll reach whether you want to or not). This is where the analytic aspect of marketing kicks in; Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, optimizing landing pages, creation and tracking of microsites, multi-level, multi-touch rich media outreach campaigns, portal placements, using blogs as media advisories, the list goes on for quite a while, and each aspect has a detailed metrics component that needs to tie into profitability analysis both for the individual product and the overall product portfolio. This particular aspect of marketing has become incredibly more complex as the Internet grows into a major distribution and information channel for most companies.

Get sponsors. One of the most valuable assets in a marketing portfolio is a happy customer who is willing to serve as a reference. This is one area where sales gets involved (since they own the customer), but Marketing spends a lot of time cultivating and grooming the customer champion for events that include analyst and media interviews, participation in webinars and public panels, guest blogging, etc.

Competitive analysis. Who is sales going to be going up against, and how are they likely to be attacked? What is the best offense to counter their defense? Detailed, continuous due diligence on competitors and their ecosystem is the province of marketing, and is one of the most useful tools supplied to sales reps before they walk in to speak with a prospect.

Pit crew. Marketing provide sales with a steady stream of qualified leads, provides all support materials they need (both on-line and off-line), schedules participation in industry events–as well as pre-show promotion, post-show follow-up, plus managing the show itself and all the leads that are generated.

All of this is very different from a Sales skill set. Sales has always been more about relationship management (herding the rabid cats), which has an entirely different set of requirements. The main difference? Sales is difficult, Marketing is complicated. I would also point out that Sales is by far the most critical role in a company. No sales, no revenue. No revenue, no company. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your engineering is, or how clever your marketing is, if people aren’t buying, none of that matters. However, sales cannot succeed without marketing; finding someone with the skill set to manage both functions is nearly impossible, because the skills required are so very different. On the other hand, finding someone who understands both functions and is smart enough to hire genuine experts at each should (in theory) be more straightforward, and can provide a genuine framework for success.

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