by: Jon Miller

Sales & Marketing Management magazine recently posted that the average tenure of a sales manager / VP is 19 months, which I found courtesy of B2Blog.

This is even shorter than the average tenure for a CMO (23 months) – which in turn is shorter than the tenure for CIOs (36 months), CFOs (39 months), and CEOs (44 months). (Note: The CMO study, from Spencer Stuart, surveyed large consumer branded companies, but I assume the numbers apply to B2B companies as well.)

S&MM gives the following reason for the short sales tenure:

“The sales department of most organizations lags other departments in the areas of compliance in documented processes (think GAAP for accounting and ISO 9000 for manufacturing), performance measurement, technology support, and in many cases the employment of best practices.”

I agree these factors can contribute to short sales tenure, but there’s more going on. The reason is because when it comes to things like standardized methodologies, performance measurement, and technology support, Marketing is much worse off than Sales. Sales executives have the advantage of standardized SFA tools, institutionalized sales methodologies like Miller-Heiman, and an easy way to measure performance (just look at the end of quarter revenue number).

Marketing doesn’t have any of that support (although Marketo is trying to fix that). So why would sales executives have an even shorter tenure than their marketing counterparts?

Part of the answer is that top sales people have an incentive to switch companies, since new companies bring new products they can sell to the same customers. (A similar factor applies to marketing, since the best CMOs – especially those who excel at modern marketing techniques – are in demand and prime for poaching.)

Accountability is a double-edged sword

The biggest reason why sales has such a short tenure is because better accountability makes it easier and faster to identify underperformers. Since Sales is the most accountable function in the organization, it is no surprise that it has such high churn.

There is no doubt that marketers need better predictability and accountability. However, accountability shines a bright light on poor performance as well as good performance. This means that predictability and accountability are necessary but not sufficient conditions for CMOs to earn the respect – and job security – they deserve. Without better performance, better accountability will actually hurt marketing’s role in the organization.

In addition to accountability, Modern B2B Marketing requires best practice b2b marketing methodologies (supported by software automation solutions) that fundamentally improve marketing performance by driving more high-quality leads to sales. If a CMO can improve bottom-line performance for the company AND demonstrate marketing’s role in the improvement, then he is bound to enjoy a long tenure at the company – at least until he gets poached to do the same thing somewhere else.

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