The Biggest Mistake You Will Definitely Make When Hiring Your Next Head of Sales and Marketing

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As an executive marketing recruiter, there’s one critical error I’ve seen happen time and again when businesses choose to hire a new VP or Head of Marketing and Sales. It’s a critical ROI-killing oversight that stunts growth and holds businesses back from fulfilling their growth potential, and yet it’s nearly ubiquitous among any organization choosing to fill this position.

The mistake is a simple one, and it has nothing to do with hiring the wrong person or going about the recruitment process incorrectly or failing to equip the executive with the resources they need to succeed. It’s a much more fundamental problem.

The real mistake here that happens time and again is choosing to put a single person in charge of both Sales and Marketing in the first place.

Putting Nails in the Coffin of an Archaic Business Model

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Too many organizations today are still trying to stuff their Sales and Marketing into the same silo under the guidance of one set of leadership. A quick search for “VP of Sales and Marketing” turns up thousands of results on LinkedIn alone. That’s a crucial error in business organization that is harming far more than it helps.

Perhaps once there was a time where the two disciplines were straightforward enough that they could be lumped together without a major loss in productivity and effectiveness. But if there was such an era, it’s far gone.

The truth is; the state of both Marketing and Sales today finds them far too complex and sophisticated to be effectively run as a single entity. Furthermore, the professionals who are mentally equipped and wired to be especially good at one are usually poorly suited to succeed at the other. If you’re relying on one leader to run both business units, you’re setting yourself up for mediocrity.

Distinguishing Two Complimentary but Fundamentally Different Disciplines

A surprising amount of companies fall into the Sales/Marketing bundle trap.

To a relative outsider with a background in Operations or Finance, they may appear very similar. After all, they share the common goals of generating revenue and growing the business.

But that’s where the similarities end. The way they contribute to the conversion process and the expertise and methods they employ are entirely different. Big-picture Marketing functions on a strategic level, are forecasting far into the future and orchestrating long term campaigns and brand vision. Most Sales planning and execution has to be tactical, focused on short-term conversion of the opportunities in front of it and managing resource distribution.

Ultimately it makes no more sense to combine Marketing with Sales than with Accounting, HR or Operations. While the two can (and should) operate in sync and support each other, they also need enough separation and boundaries to operate on their own without tripping over each other or having an impossibly broad mission scope. The leaders of both likewise should work side by side to drive growth and provide a seamless experience, but expecting one person to be able to successfully manage both is asking too much.

Making More of Diverging Paths

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Modern Sales and Marketing have both changed astronomically in recent years, with no signs of slowing down. New strategies, tools and technologies emerge on a constant basis.

It’s hard enough for anyone to stay on top of one, let alone both. Today’s marketing moves far too quickly for experts to be dividing their attention, and only top marketing headhunters are able to keep up. Sales challenges are just as serious and need laser focus. When it’s already near impossible to stay ahead of shifting trends and cutthroat completion in one of these fields, it’s unrealistic to think that anyone could productively balance both.

Yet if you’ve been in the professional world long enough, you’ve almost undoubtedly encountered someone with the title VP of Sales and Marketing on their business card. All too often you’ll find some successful, ambitious Sales executive who is put in charge of Marketing, or vice versa. But a great marketing mind simply won’t translate well to Sales, and the reverse is true as well.  The fields require different attitudes, experience and education to consistently perform at a high level. If you’re hiring high-performing salespeople to do marketing work you’re wasting their talent.

A Sales manager might think he or she would make a good VP of Sales and Marketing. But in the best case scenario they’ll do a passable job at one and a poor job at the other. More likely, both of their responsibilities will suffer as the executive is stretched too thin to give either discipline the attention it needs.

Many organizations are hesitant to invest the resources needed to acquire new leadership and manpower necessary for independent Marketing and Sales operations. That’s especially common among small and medium sized businesses. However, at a time when marketing spend has never been more trackable and demonstrably profitable, this hesitation is ultimately unwarranted.

As long as your marketing executive search partner is bringing you the right people and you’re giving them the appropriate support, they should be able to prove the ROI of your commitment.  Your sales team should also see improved productivity as they’re finally able to actually do their jobs. They’ll be able to focus more on what they do best; converting leads and closing deals.

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