The Tyranny of the OR in Sales and Marketing

Running Sales

For the past year and a half, I have been the executive vice president of both sales and marketing for a great company called Pixability in Cambridge. It’s not great because we have amazing technology (though we do) and passionate people (got that, too); it’s great because we consistently help our customers achieve outstanding and measurable business results. As the person running sales, I have been able to work with our sales team and our customers to use YouTube to solve some challenging business problems. For Pixability, we achieved record sales results all along the way.

Running Marketing

But marketing at Pixability was no also-ran either, even with a very frugal budget. We achieved brand recognition in New York, one of our most important markets. The press didn’t miss us either, with some nice coverage in both the New York Times and Fortune Magazine. Our coup d’état, though, was securing a prominent speaking slot at SXSW and proceeding to amaze a standing-room-only crowd in one of the largest venues at the event. Even better, the social media community amplified our message while several representatives from major brands engaged us immediately after the talk. They became customers within the following months. Our marketing delivered sales results, which is exactly what any business wants.

Running Sales and Marketing

But with success comes a whole new set of challenges. It becomes difficult to do two jobs effectively. As we grew, so did my time commitments, often peaking at more than 90 hours over a seven-day work week. Though we didn’t have any of the sales and marketing conflicts that so frequently plague business, I knew that to achieve our next phase of growth, I couldn’t do both. It was going to be sales OR marketing. I was facing the loaded gun of the “Tyranny of the OR.”

Rob Ciampa at SXSW

Preparing for Viral Video Panel at SXSW

This past week, I voluntarily gave up my sales role after helping deliver another record sales quarter. Bittersweet? Absolutely. Did I give in to the “Tyranny of the Or?”

Guilt: The Tyranny of the OR

The “Tyranny of the OR” was introduced by noted author and business strategist Jim Collins in his book Built to Last. I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Collins through another great business visionary and CEO of Gazelles, Verne Harnish, in Atlanta last year at the Fortune Leadership Summit. People who know me frequently hear me challenge the “Tyranny of the Or.” It’s the foundation for sound business. What is it? It’s the opposite of what you may think. As Collins puts it:

Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,”  highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND” – the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.

-Jim Collins,  Built to Last

Redemption: The Genius of the AND

So here I am, feeling guilty, like a hypocrite, for succumbing to the “Tyranny of the OR.” But I had it wrong. Very wrong. My marketing success, since day one, has been tied to the “Genius of the AND.” It’s not about sales OR marketing. It’s about sales AND marketing. From that, I’ve never wavered. To my sales and marketing colleagues: isn’t it time to ditch the OR and think about the AND? You may like the results.

Rob Ciampa


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