Here are 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 brand is the manifestation of this in the marketplace. It reflects identity. It makes emotional connections. It engenders trust that this can actually do that. It builds loyalty.
  3. The strategic marketing program is the plan by which this does that. It’s the what.
  4. The tactical marketing program comprises the means by which the strategic plan will be actualized. It’s the how.
  5. Lead generation is the first sales activity. By it, suspects are identified.
  6. Qualification is the second sales activity. By it, suspects become prospects.
  7. Conversion is the third sales activity. By it, prospects become customers.

Even if most companies get steps 1 through 4 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. 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. We don’t expect prospects to contact us because we don’t assume our outbound communications are irresistible. We don’t think marketing and sales are inbound activities. And we initiate contact with prospects because we realize the odds of their initiating contact with us are against us.

We also recognize the burden we place on the VP of Sales and Marketing is 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 us to realize gravity can’t, after all, be defied.