Big S, little m--What is the Right Mix of Sales and Marketing?

Don't worry; this isn't going to be an article about Sado-Masochism! Well, come to think of it, that term may apply to what some founders and senior managers in startups are doing to themselves and their companies. What I'm referring to is the VP who gets hired to manage both the Sales and Marketing functions. Oftentimes this turns out to be a job we call "VP-SALES & marketing". Thus the phrase "Big S, little m". The position is usually offered to a crack sales guy or gal, who also happens to have a marketing title somewhere in their job background.


To high tech insiders the meaning is clear. The anointed candidate will be expected to go out and beat the bushes for customers, and bring in new orders quickly. Oh, and by the way, Mr. VP, you'll also be in charge of producing data sheets and attending a few trade shows. You know, all that marketing stuff!

In most of these cases, I would recommend that anyone being approached for a job like this run in the other direction as fast as possible. These positions are usually classic "traps". The attitude is "We've got a great new technology; all we need is someone to go knock on a few customer's doors and bring the purchase orders back to headquarters".

Hopefully, most of those reading will recognize that this is a recipe for a very unhappy outcome. The founders and senior management will be unhappy with revenue and profits, the VP will be unhappy because he's likely to get fired in 9-12 months. The other employees will be depressed and talking about how "Sales & Marketing" is the weak link in the company. And the investors, of course, will be very, very cranky.

Why does this occur? It often occurs when the key senior decision makers (CEO, CFO, Founders, etc.) don't have a background or appreciation for the difficulty of the sales function. And it's even more likely to happen when there is no key decision maker with a background in Marketing. The decision maker's attitude often includes an over-confidence in the role that superior technology plays in the overall success of a company.


Certainly having a defensible technological advantage is a major factor in the success of a high tech company, especially when that company is in startup mode. The problem arises when management believes this is enough to "win". How hard is cold calling and knocking on doors for a sales force with an unknown company name? Not to mention an unproven product, which may solve a problem the customer may not yet know exists? I'll give you a hint--it's really, really hard!

Likely there is a lack of understanding of the crucial role marketing plays in establishing a new product in the marketplace. There may be a view that marketing is some theoretical, squishy function that is a waste of money, or maybe something that has value but the company just can't afford. Management thinks, we'll introduce the product, sell a bunch and build the marketing function later. Unfortunately, that thinking is as backwards as can be, and will usually lead to the unhappy results discussed earlier in this article.

Why IS marketing so important, and why is it such a critical mistake if it isn't a major part of the new product process? It's because marketing is crucial in every phase of introducing and growing the revenue of new products, from conception until end-of-life. In the beginning, an engineer may come up with a great new technology that appears to allow someone to do an existing task better. Or maybe it allows someone to do something that wasn't even possible before. But that's really just the beginning of the product development process. Product engineers aren't trained to closely match customer needs with the features of this whiz-bang new technology. Often they think it's easy - you just go ask the customer what he wants! But customers often don't tell you the truth; sometimes they lie, and sometimes they don't even know what they really want (this is the topic of a future column). And even if they tell you the truth, it's important to make sure that what these customers are telling you is representative of your entire target market segment. This is a task that looks intellectually easy on the surface, but for a lot of reasons, it's very difficult to get right.

Sometimes companies do get it right even without an experienced, professional marketing function in place. Let's assume for a moment that they do. There's still a very long way to go before those purchase orders start pouring in. The product must be positioned properly, relative to the direct and indirect competition in the market. It needs to be priced so that the market is willing to take a close look, but not so high or low that it retards the product's long-term profit potential. Will it be distributed only through the company's direct sales force, or should we court VARs, distributors, retailers or OEMs? What kind of pricing can we offer those partners without creating gray markets or channel conflicts? And please, let's not forget about creating a bit of demand for those poor guys and gals in the sales force. Cold calling really does suck! It's not good for anyone, the sales reps or the company's profitability. It will "burn out" your sales force in no time.

Marketing programs that generate hot leads, or even complete sales, are much more cost-effective than relying on highly paid (but beleaguered) sales reps to do their own inefficient "door to door" marketing. And how should we generate those leads? Via PR, Advertising, Direct Marketing, Partnering, Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search Engine Ads, Trade Shows? The Marketing folks are the strategic quarterbacks of the organization who should be driving the answers to these questions--as well as executing the strategy within the required parameters.


So does "BIG S, little m" NEVER work? Well, in some cases it not only works, it is even appropriate. Take the example of a semiconductor company selling a very niche chip to a vertical segment. They might have only 50 potential customers. In this case you REALLY CAN go ask the customer what he wants, and easily ask enough of them that you will end up building products that will apply to your entire target segment. With respect to lead generation, the target market is so small that traditional outbound marketing programs don't make sense anyway, and that "door to door" marketing by your sales force might work just fine.

But I propose to you that this example scenario is the classic "exception that proves the rule". In many, if not most cases, "BIG S, little m" will lead to failure - or at the very least, suboptimal performance. That's my view--as always I'm very interested in hearing yours.

Sales And Marketing Recruiting Business Growing Rapidly

Here at Cube Management the demand for our recruiting services has risen rapidly over the last several months, and we expect for it to continue to grow. Why? Many of our clients have a hard time finding and retaining top sales talent. So we're focusing on helping them through that process as an engine for growth of their companies. On the other hand we also have found that lots of top candidates are having a difficult time finding great job opportunities, and so the mission of helping people to find great work is one that's important to us - we like helping people find great jobs.

There are lots of people out there searching for top sales and marketing jobs right now who come to us because we're uniquely positioned as a sales and marketing recruiting firm. The reason why they come to us is because we also provide sales and marketing consulting, outsourcing and interim management, and so our recruiting services fit very nicely with the rest of our service offerings, focused on helping companies in the technology, manufacturing, health care and business service sectors.

We expect the economy to continue to stay on an even footing and move even closer towards full employment, which means that more and more companies are going to be fighting for fewer and fewer sales and marketing people who are actually looking for jobs. Candidates who are engaged in a job search are going to find it easier to entertain multiple offers, which means that they can be more selective about the kind of positions that they are looking for and how well those positions match their core skills and core interests.

Since the job market is going to stay tight like this for the next several years, what it means is that companies that are looking to recruit salespeople, marketing specialists or marketing management are going to have to do a better job of finding, locating and extracting potential employees from their competitors or from other companies. This means that they're going to need to engage executive search firms, recruiting and staffing firms that specialize in sales and marketing to do this very job. Candidates as they become more selective are going to want to spend more time focusing on points of leverage in their search. A great point of leverage that search firms can offer is that they have multiple job opportunities under one roof, where a candidate can interview once and then be considered for a multitude of positions.

That's exactly the situation that we have going on at Cube Management right now...we have several searches going on for senior sales representatives where we're able to interview one candidate for multiple job opportunities and then place them accordingly.

So, the landscape has changed a lot when it comes to recruiting and staffing in sales and marketing. The economy is roaring and we don't expect it to change anytime soon. Cube Management is strategically growing it's sales and marketing recruiting functions in order to keep up with the demand and also fulfill this important mission.

How a Better Economy Will Affect Sales and Marketing Jobs

It started the first day of the New Year when my company got in more hiring inquiries in a day than we have since I was working out of an apartment. We totaled in at the double digits.

This is great, but the most telling thing was the types of jobs that were coming in and what they were paying. All of the sudden, the "70k's became 90k's and the 90k's became "We'll pay market price if the person is worth it."

What Is the Effect?

For the most part, a heightened employment rate brings positive change, but for many it can also bring a heightened amount of urgency, thus creating a heightened amount of stress and tension to get the right person hired.

Moreover, it can also change the scope of many sales, sales management and marketing jobs.

What Are the Changes?

Sales - A better economy obviously means more sales opportunities, but it also means that small, cheaper competition is going to try to push itself into the market.

Also, sales professionals typically deal with bosses inflating their expectations, usually in the form of a quota much more than what is humanly possibly.

After all, many sales managers feel the pressure from above and are not economists. I cannot judge, as I slept through economics in college (if it was such as perfect science, world hunger would not exist).

Regardless of quota changes, sales personnel are going to make more money both in base salary and in gross take-away.

Marketing - Marketing personnel are one of the last to be hired and first to be fired, and consistently ignored during bad economic times. Companies who are short on cash need quick fixes via hiring sales professionals with a Rolodex, not reprogramming their website.

I am an outlier who believes marketing should always be at the forefront. But if you have to choose between marketing and sales, marketing is not going to pad a bank account during tough economic times.

Marketing jobs are not popping up readily as of yet, but my firm is working on a few high level marketing jobs, which is a lot better than last year which was all sales.

Management (Sales and Marketing) - If the job market continues to improve, then management is going to shift from hybrid sales and sales management roles to more pure management positions. The more subordinates a manager brings on, the more need for day to day management functions than if the individual is only responsible for a handful of people, thus needing to moonlight as a sales or marketing rep.

Therefore, in this type of economy, many management jobs and, subsequent day to day activities, shift towards recruiting employees, training new employees and ensuring proper management of the ones that are under him or her.

In the End

I do think that hiring will continue to improve just yet, at least not drastically. But then again, I'm not an economist. But even yet again, does an economist know better than someone who lives and breathes the job market for a living?

Be Your Own Boss in Sales and Marketing Jobs

Being your own boss, it does sound interesting? Well a sales career can actually give you the autonomy to make an impact, be independent and decide your pay check. India is fast rising as the corporate hub of the world and marketing is an important aspect of all companies. The opportunities in the field of marketing are abundant with so many multi nationals and domestic companies vying to dominate the market with their products and services.

The jobs available in the field of sales and marketing are marketing executives, market researchers or analysts, sales marketing manager, brand or product manager etc. One can reach the pinnacle with hard work, dedication and the enthusiasm to sell and the want to serve.

A sales or marketing professional must possess the ability to sell his ideas, tangible products, services or business to business (B2B) sales that include pharmaceuticals, health-care, insurance, manufacturing etc. Good executives sell what the customers really need. Some companies also deal in direct selling that is a marketing medium to bring products directly to consumers through demos. Rejection, disappointment and failure are a part and parcel of the field of marketing but a can do attitude helps to sail through.

As the career graph rises one can become sales manager. The sales managers job is to organise and lead his team by encouraging and setting precedents. Most managers have entire area under their command where they have to reach set targets with their teams. Once the seniority increases sales marketing managers also get involved with product development, tapping new business opportunities and developing strategies.

A Sales marketing manager must be aware of the latest trends in the field. Nowadays every company is using the medium that everybody is hooked onto i.e. the World Wide Web. The advancement of technology has opened new channels of interface with the customers.

Marketing through Internet sites, portals, blogs, search engines and the popular social networking sites is a big rage. Social media marketing can nurture relationships as well as provide quick solutions to any issue. Mobile marketing can also be a useful marketing tool but the path needs to be chosen carefully. A sales marketing manager while devising strategy should be aware of these latest fundas without forgetting the basics of the field i.e. to forge strong ties with the clients.

A career in marketing can be very rewarding and the incentives astounding based on individual performances. Although companies need qualified marketing executives with an MBA, B.Com or M.Com, yet a graduation in any stream can get you a job in marketing. However, you must possess social skills like the ability to communicate well and study intently the needs and trends of the market.