Higher and Hierarchy

I recently became aware of a consulting company that compels its clients to begin strategic business planning with a sales and marketing review. That’s the rough equivalent of compelling architects and contractors to build skyscrapers from their lightning rods down. And it invites five perennially perplexing questions, as intriguing as they are troubling and, as yet, unanswered:

  1. Why do so many organizations create the position, VP of Sales and Marketing?
  2. Why is the VP of Sales and Marketing typically a sales person?
  3. Is the chief responsibility of the VP of Sales and Marketing sales or marketing?
  4. Why do we persist in giving one person two sets of responsibilities?
  5. Why do the people we saddle with those two sets of responsibilities always seem to struggle with both?

The answers are in the Strategic Hierarchy — or the lack thereof.

The relationship between sales and marketing is perennially misunderstood and consistently misaligned. That’s because the Strategic Hierarchy is equally misunderstood and misaligned. And it’s a wasteful shame because it should be this easy:

  1. The organization strategy is the organization’s reason for being. It’s the dream. “We recognize that, and we can capitalize by creating this.” It’s the why.
  2. The marketing strategy marketing program is the plan by which this does that. It’s the what. It’s the creation of the (realization of) the need.
  3. The sales strategy is the plan by which the fulfillment of the need is delivered. It’s the how. (Remember: Marketing is not a sales-support function. Sales is a marketing-fulfillment function.)
  4. Prospect qualification is the point at which prospects’ needs align with their desire to buy.
  5. Conversion is the point at which qualified prospects become become customers.

Even if most companies get steps 1 through 3 right (many don’t), dysfunction sets in between steps 4 and 5, after which business-generating activities come unglued because the gap between strategic marketing and feet-on-the-street sales is never bridged. Confusion reigns. Finger-pointing begins. Circular firing squads are assembled. And lost opportunity multiplies.

With the Strategic Hierarchy established and employed — with the organization and its activities structured in accordance with it — the gap starts to close itself, one unmade mistake at a time. The organization doesn’t expect prospects to contact it because it don’t assume its outbound communications are irresistible. The organization doesn’t imagine marketing and sales are inbound activities. And it initiates contact with prospects because it realizes the odds of prospects initiating contact with it are against it.

With the Strategic Hierarchy in place, organizations also recognize the burdens they place on VPs of Sales and Marketing are unrealistic. It requires the position to serve two masters and master two disciplines. It lets sales drive marketing. It tries to establish momentum from the bottom up.

And it forces organizations to realize gravity can’t, after all, be defied.

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