The VP of Marketing vs. the VP of Sales

vp of marketing vs vp of sales

Marketing vs. sales. This is a common workplace battle. The VP of marketing in one corner and the VP of sales in the other, both ready to face off. But if you stop and think about it, this fight is almost comical. The two roles are fighting for the same exact thing — to grow the business. So, why does it seem like these two are always squaring off?

Usually, the tension erupts because there is misalignment over how the product or service is being marketed and how it is being sold. And that results in poor performance.

More often than not, you see this at companies that are not clear on strategy. Without a clear direction to follow, people end up working towards different goals — focusing on what they think is most important for the teams, rather than banding together around one shared vision. And when the VPs of marketing and sales are not aligned, that conflict trickles down to the teams.

Drama starts brewing at the end of the quarter, especially if the sales team is struggling to meet quotas and starts blaming marketing for a lack of qualified leads. Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that we do not have sales teams at Aha! and no one receives a commission-based salary. But I speak often with folks who work within more traditional sales structures, and I have seen the conflict that often follows firsthand at previous companies.

I have also seen the tactics teams use to successfully move past this conflict. Of course, it works best in healthy organizations, where there is a clear vision and strategic direction. But it also takes senior leaders — the VP of marketing and VP of sales — being in sync on the strategy for growing the business.

Here is what the VP of marketing and VP of sales relationship looks like at its best:

Business-driven goals
For marketing and sales to make a significant impact on the business, both VPs need to have business-driven goals that are complementary to each other. Ideally, the company will have one clear vision and the VPs will set functional strategies from there — creating goals that are actionable, measurable, and tie back to the company strategy.

VP of marketing sets goals that support the business objectives — generally focused outward and on gaining a competitive advantage in the market. For example, if the business goal is to increase revenue by 30 percent, marketing goals might be to expand into new advertising channels.

VP of sales also sets goals that serve the business objectives — but with a slightly different focus. Sales goals are usually centered around turning prospective customers into paying ones. Examples of sales goals might include reducing the sales cycle or increasing sales velocity by using advanced technology or customer support.

Strategic planning
Both VPs develop and lead strategic planning for their functional area. This includes setting priorities and ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals. In order to do this, each VP defines strategic initiatives — the work that will help each team support the marketing and overall business goals.

VP of marketing sets the marketing strategy — how the company will reach the right customers and achieve market success. Strategic planning upfront allows the team to focus on hitting the target audience, messaging, content themes, campaigns and promotional mix.

VP of sales sets the sales strategy — how the company will sell to the target audience and convert customers. A solid sales strategy will help the team understand the target audience and sales tactics, such as channel support, discounting strategies, and opportunity tracking.

Customer and market insights
Each VP is an expert on customers and the market. Yes, the target audience is the same, but the VPs are meeting this audience at different points in the funnel — marketing at “awareness” and sales at “consideration.” Each VP does market research to better understand changes in those areas so they can adjust priorities as needed.

VP of marketing interprets and distills customer and market research to help the team create informed marketing programs and campaigns. This research includes competitive analysis, marketing and positioning, new acquisition channel testing, and conversion strategies.

VP of sales also interprets and distills market research in order to determine the right sales strategy. This research should also include competitive analysis (on both new and emerging companies) to ensure that the company is still offering customers what they need and to help the team spot opportunities for upselling and/or cross-selling.   

Metrics and performance
Senior leaders should be tracking how the team is performing against their goals. This requires following progress on key activities along with monitoring important KPIs. Each VP should be aware of what is being done to deliver meaningful business outcomes.

VP of marketing tracks data related to how marketing work is powering the growth of the business. This will look different at every company. For instance, a SaaS company will most likely want to monitor metrics like visits to the website, product trials, and add-ons. The VP will also watch the revenue and growth rates to keep marketing programs on budget and on schedule.

VP of sales is more focused on data related to revenue — specifically around converting leads to customers. These metrics might include the sales cycle length, conversion rates, effective channels, and revenue. By keeping a close tab on these, the VP can track the health of the sales funnel.

The best leaders prioritize the health of the overall organization — rallying cross-functional teams to work together towards meaningful goals.

Like most things in business, it starts with having a clear strategy. When this happens, it is easier to get marketing and sales in sync around the ultimate goal — to connect with customers and grow the business.

How have you seen senior marketing and sales leaders work well together?

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About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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