The VP of Sales & Marketing Fallacy

I seem to see more and more job listings for a Vice President of Sales & Marketing.  Not a Vice President of Sales and a Vice President of Marketing, but combining the two functions into one job.  I suppose this is a result of the weak economy and companies merging the two positions to reduce salary expense.  This is understandable, but companies must understand they are doing this with downside and need to manage this risk.

Marketing and sales are two different functions and require two different skill sets.  In the business-to-business world, marketing focuses on understanding the needs and wants of a target market; determining how the company’s current or proposed products and services meet those needs; and communicating this to the target market.   Sales focuses on positioning and possibly tailoring the company’s products or services to an individual customer’s needs and wants; communicating with the individual customer; and making sure the customer’s needs and wants are met.

When a company seeks a Vice President of Sales & Marketing and puts equal emphasis on both functions, it is looking for someone who can manage and lead a group responsible for research, product development, communications, account targeting, pipeline management, customer relationships, order delivery, customer satisfaction, and possibly other responsibilities.  It is a tall order and I wonder how many of these people exist.

I have typically seen that a sales person becomes the Vice President of Sales & Marketing and relies on a strong marketing person to lead the marketing group.  I was in this position with a professional services firm.  It worked well because the head of sales and marketing was more comfortable and focused on sales and trusted me to run the marketing operations.  If either of the executives I worked for at this company had micro-managed the marketing operation, it would have been a disaster because they didn’t have the necessary skills (nothing personal guys, if you’re reading this).  But to their credit, I think they realized this.

In most of these situations, a sales person gets the Vice President of Sales & Marketing position because companies put more weight on sales than marketing.  Second, and related to the first reason, sales is easier to measure so it is easier for companies to say the person earned the position based on past performance.  If any of you know of a marketing person who holds the Vice President of Sales & Marketing position, I would love to hear about it.

The economy may have forced companies to make tough choices about how many senior positions they can afford.  The Vice President of Sales & Marketing choice may be just the one I am most familiar with because of my focus on branding and marketing.  If companies have to go this route, they should seriously consider putting a marketing person in this role to send a signal that marketing is equally as important as sales to the company’s future.  Failing this, the company should make sure the Vice President has a strong marketing person in a lieutenant role and should groom him or her for the Vice President role.

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