Unhappy Couple

The blame game between sales and marketing

It’s a long held stereotype that marketing and sales do not get along. Marketing blames sales for never following up on the “awesome” leads passed forward. Sales complains that all marketing ever sends over is junk.

The simple fact, is both things are true. Companies that are working to move from the Traditional marketing phase to the Lead Generation phase of the Revenue Marketing Journey™ fall into this trap almost 100% of the time. It’s the first time marketing has signed up for a formal Lead Generation goal. They’ve got a nifty new email tool, they’re doing some pay per click and search marketing, and they are in a state of perpetual giddiness over their newly acquired email addresses. “We have leads, let’s pass them to sales!”

What happens next is like a scene pulled straight from a Dr. Phil episode. Sales sees the new lead pop up into the CRM queue and they are excited, initially. “Look, it’s a new lead from marketing. Wow, this is a first.” That excitement quickly wanes after sales picks up the phone to call the prospect, only to discover that they are:

  1. Not the right fit.
  2. Not the right size.
  3. Not the right point of contact.
  4. Not even interested

Eventually, sales stops paying attention and begins completely ignoring marketing leads. Over time, marketing becomes increasingly irate over the fact that they are passing leads over to sales and no one is doing anything with them.

Where’s the rub? It’s likely that sales and marketing never really had a conversation about what constitutes a qualified lead. And, even if they did, the conversation probably went something like this:

Marketing: What kind of leads do you want us to send your way?

Sales: I’ll take anything. I need to fill my pipeline. Just send me everything you’ve got and I’ll take it from there.

Well… that’s just plain not true is it? The only time sales is going to cold call on an even colder prospect is when they literally have nothing else in their pipeline. If everything marketing passes to sales is cold and unqualified, they aren’t going to call on any of it. And, frankly who can blame them?

If marketers want to move beyond being seen as a cost center to being seen as a revenue generator, it’s time for a little sales and marketing marriage counseling.

This starts with a frank and honest discussion between marketing and sales that identifies the characteristics of a qualified lead. Both teams must mutually agree on the attributes and determine what level of engagement indicates a readiness to buy. This is easy to say and very hard to do. By the time marketers are ready to move to the Demand Generation phase of their Revenue Marketing Journey, damage to the relationship has already been done. There is often so much bad blood between marketing and sales that it’s nearly impossible to have a productive conversation. But, it’s worth the pain. Through active dialogue comes healing. That may sound pretty Zen, but it’s true. Regardless of how contentious the relationship between marketing and sales may be, no one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I think I want to fail today.”

The key to starting that healthy dialogue is having both a sales leader and a marketing leader willing to bridge the gap. Both have to leave their egos at the door and not dwell on the “as is” state. Now is the time to focus on the “future state”.

It’s the marketer’s job to find, nurture and qualify prospects until they are sales ready. Both sales and marketing need to agree on what “sales ready” means and commit to adhering to the criteria. Once marketing sends those leads over, it’s sales’ turn to follow up. But, it’s what happens next that is the most vital.

Measure and Evaluate!

If something isn’t working, tweak it. This is where it’s easy to fall into the same ole blame game. But, if both sides are committed to identifying qualified leads, then constant discussion, measurement and evaluation must take place.

Alignment is a tough nut to crack. But, if both marketing and sales are willing to come together to have a meaningful conversation about leads, then you will be on your way to a more peaceful co-existence and a much healthier bottom line.

You may find yourself wondering how to even start this conversation. Here are some tips:

1. Determine what specific criteria make for a good lead.

    • For example are annual revenue, number of employees, industry or region relevant indicators?

2. Determine what job role and function are mostly likely the decision makers within your target companies.

    • Do you find yourself closing deals with Directors and VPs?
    • Are they typically in finance, marketing or sales?

3. Determine how, and at which point, a lead is passed to sales.

    • Does it makes sense for marketing to have an inside sales presence who pre-qualify leads to get a sense of their interest?
    • Are there specific behaviors that exhibit interest signifying a lead may be ready to buy?

So… what’s the moral of this story? As is the case with any successful marriage, communication is key. One has to work to maintain a healthy marriage and the same holds true with the relationship between sales and marketing. There will be struggles and disagreements along the way. But, as long as everyone is unified toward a common goal, willing to talk it out, and enthusiastic about generating revenue, a long and happy life together is attainable.

Congratulations on your union and may you have many lucrative returns.