11 December 2015

Sales and Marketing Director? Split the roles...

Clare Methven
Written by Clare Methven

Clare Methven is the Co-Founder of The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. She has over 25 years’ experience working in PR and marketing agencies focussed on construction, financial services and travel companies.

Marketers find the leads; sales personnel convert them. Simple. But often in business, particularly early on, it can be tempting to simply hand over marketing responsibilities to your salesperson, they’re both in the results business, right?

Actually, combining the two functions can be a recipe for trouble, says The Marketing Centre’s co-founder Clare Methven (pictured below), particularly when relying on one employee for both. We asked Clare why businesses create joint sales-marketing functions, what problems this causes and what can be done to fix the sales-marketing mix.

The Marketing Centre: Sales and marketing are two specific disciplines, why are some companies tempted to give both roles to one person?

Clare Methven: When starting out, chasing sales is inevitably a key to growth, so the instinct of any business is to develop a sales function. This always comes first, and so a lot of businesses grow up with the marketing function hanging off the side of sales.

Clare Methven

Putting it very simply, the relationship between sales and marketing goes like this: marketing is responsible for generating leads, and then sales are responsible for converting them and turning them into business. Sales arrive first and then typically, as a business grows and develops, the role of marketing becomes more important. It's this transitional moment that's important to manage.

TMC: What are some of the key problems that come from combining the two?

CM: I think sales and marketing people are very different beasts. A good salesperson is an adrenaline junkie. They’re after the quick fix; they love chasing down and winning new business. A salesperson is therefore driven by very different motives than a marketer, who is often very analytical and who has their eye on the future; where the business is going and what the customer is really looking for.

You may like: What's it actually like working with a part-time Marketing Director?

So, yes, very different personality types. And that’s why handing responsibility for both functions to the same person rarely works. You’re asking one person to think short-term and long-term at the same time. You’re asking for a focused and analytical mindset whilst also demanding instant results and gratification. You might get one or two people that can partition their brains that way, but for the most part it’s impossible.

Once the business grows into teams, issues arise from the different approaches. In a sales-led team, if something works – a certain sales or marketing promotion, for example – the team will seek to do loads more of that one thing, dropping everything else to chase after their immediate need. This tends to lead to a lot of haphazard activity: everything being less planned and a little less structured, and therefore less repeatable or scaleable.


Brain power: A sales brain and a marketing brain are very different

Yes, you win the quick sales, but it's not clear why or how, and therefore how to replicate that success. That's what marketing people are really about.

TMC: Have you seen any examples where sales guys have damaged marketing potential, or the other way around?

CM: Not consciously, of course, but in my estimate and from what I've seen, I think most people end up more sales-focused – particularly sales directors who've had marketing tacked onto their role. This can be a real problem. They see they're really good at the sales and get their kicks out of them, so the marketing stuff tends to sit at the bottom of the queue. It's not sexy and it's not immediate, so they never quite get round to doing it. It's always last in line, and simply doesn’t get done or isn’t done as well as it should be.

For this reason, the sales-marketing person carries the weight of knowing they should be doing more but they're not. When they begin working with us, there’s a palpable sense of ‘how fabulous; I've got somebody who can actually make this happen for me.’ I've come across this a few times. The moment clients start hearing what we do and the type of people we have on The Marketing Centre team, they visibly sigh in relief. It's almost as though they realise they can stop pretending now, because they will have been on one side of the marketing or sales fence the whole time.

TMC: You’ve said that startup businesses often put sales first and let marketing follow. Can you identify a point where the marketing needs to break away and work as a separate function?

CM: Although every situation is different, there are some good studies on making the transition. One in the Harvard Business Review starts by defining the current relationship between sales and marketing, and then gives practical steps on separating or remoulding the two.

And Chief Outsiders’ Art Saxby  makes the difference between the two areas of the business very clear. Sales teams sell what’s in stock and marketers look outwards to the marketplace, preparing their business for the future. This is a good foundation to work from; a simple way of setting the priorities for separate sales and marketing functions.

For help managing your sales and marketing functions, call Clare and The Marketing Centre team. We’re experienced marketing directors helping businesses like yours on a smart, part-time basis. Click to find out what we do.



Photo credit:

Spoon schizophrenia by Thomas Timlen via Flickr. Under CC license 2.0


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