In the last few years I have seen the gap between marketing and sales getting smaller and smaller. I would feel comfortable attributing it to the fact that marketing has done a better job of adapting to the changing climate of how people want to be sold to by adopting practices such as inbound marketing, content marketing, lead nurturing and even social media. Sales, on the other hand, continues to be consumed with one thing; leads. And I don’t blame them for it but a recent experience made me ask myself the question of who should truly be leading the strategy here.

Sales just wants leads – now

If you have ever worked at a company, most likely a start-up, that has a new product on the market, then you are probably familiar with what I am about to talk about. If you have no history of data to fall back on and analyze, then where do you even start?

Your product may serve multiple purposes to many different types of people all over the world. In this case, should you generate any and all leads holding that one of these days the spaghetti will stick to the wall? In a company I recently worked with, this was exactly what strategy sales wanted to take and I disagreed fervently.

They wanted leads, and I can understand that, but they didn’t want to devote any time to figuring out and defining a strategy to generate the right leads. They clearly wanted to exercise the ‘spray and pray’ methodology just to keep themselves busy. And they were telling ME where to get them.

Now to be fair, ‘lead generation’ has not always been the responsibility of marketing per se. Sales professionals have often been (and still are ) tasked with finding individuals to call upon all by themselves. So it’s not uncommon that you may see a sales leader attempting to control how and when leads were generating for the organization but I just haven’t seen it work.

Marketing just wants a strategy – then the right leads

Using this same example of working at a company with a new product that has multiple uses for many types of people, should a marketer find a way to message and position the product to suit any and all variables? I would have to disagree.

While there are many examples of products that have done a great job at this, I rarely see it work when a company is just starting out. As a marketer, I like data and I love A/B testing. This is why when I am in this type of environment; I will spend a lot of time with the product development teams truly immersing myself in the product and its capabilities. Then I will look at the competition (if there is any) to see how everyone else is positioning themselves to see if I can get an idea of who they are targeting. Then I find the holes.

The holes that everyone else has left are the opportunity. If your product really works across a broad range of markets, then you can pick something (like higher education) that nobody else is focused on and own it and track every single thing about it to know if you made the right decision and should pursue to define a new strategy.

So, who wears the pants?

Should sales be telling marketing where and how to generate leads? Or should marketing tell sales how the strategy is defined and how leads are going to be generating for them?

If sales is managing the marketing team and telling them how to generate leads, I would question where they are getting their data. It’s not often that I meet a sales person that knows his numbers (other than the sales and commission anyways). They often don’t know whether a webinar is converting at a higher rate than a whitepaper or whether consumer products has a higher ACV than restaurants.

Marketing on the other hand is watching this data and mining it daily (they should be anyways). This is the stuff that decisions should be made and based on, not hunches that the retail industry ‘might work’. But when there is no data, should the strategy be to ‘cast a net’ and ‘spray and pray’ and see what spaghetti sticks to the wall? Or should you do the work, the research, and take charge of a defined path and see what happens?

Who do you think should be leading and defining how and what leads are generated?