Sales is from Mars and Marketing is from Venus

(This blog is focused on companies that require a field sales organization to sell their products.)

I recently sat on a panel where the topic we were discussing was lead conversions to sales.  The moderator asked, “What percentage of your sales leads convert into sales?”  I had to laugh because I’ve seen so many situations where the sales teams don’t get any leads from marketing at all.

It’s not that there aren’t any inbound inquiries from customers as much as it is the tendency for some marketing organizations to “over qualify the lead.”  Sales teams find this frustrating.  I get that Marketing doesn’t want to send junk to the sales teams.  However, the fatal assumption here is that the lead MUST turn into an immediate sales opportunity before the sales teams waste their time on it.  Bad assumption!

Most sales people spend a lot of their time nurturing customers who are not ready to buy.  Sales people actually want to go out and meet new customers even if they’re not yet in the buying process.  This means they will get in early and have an opportunity to educate the customer before they develop their requirements.

Sales has not been without their faults in this story either.  Marketing organizations frequently get frustrated because they feel the sales teams don’t follow-up on leads and this has a big impact on their metrics.  Sales leaders need to ensure their sales teams have proper expectations on lead follow up and providing feedback to marketing.

The responsibility to get the sales and marketing teams on the same page is the CEO’s.  They are the person that sets the direction and objectives for everyone in the company.  Here is some advice in establishing better alignment between sales and marketing:

Alignment of Goals – I believe one of the key reasons there tends to be mis-alignment between sales and marketing is because they don’t share the same mission and goals.  In your annual planning process ensure that both sales and marketing share key goals around pipeline development.  And then pay both of them to achieve those goals.

Lead Definition & SLAs – Require sales and marketing to agree on what defines a lead (or types of leads) and ensure that everyone across the organizations (sales and marketing) understand the definitions.  Establish SLAs and metrics for when marketing gets those leads to sales and when sales is expected to provide feedback on the leads.

Partner Models – Many sales organizations sell through partners or resellers.  It seems like these teams are commonly an after thought in this process as well.  Make sure there is a process and clear expectations with these partners that they MUST follow up on their assigned leads timely and MUST provide feedback on the process.  If they don’t comply, they don’t get more leads.

Integrated CRM System – Make sure your CRM system is integrated with your marketing and sales systems so you can tie together your marketing, sales engagement and bookings data.

Report the Data in Terms Everyone Understands – We certainly have enough data to work with in this area.  The challenge isn’t having data.  The challenge is publishing the data in a meaningful way for everyone to know what’s going on.  It’s also important to publish the terms in plain English not just marketing terms that others can’t relate to.  The key data points to consider are:

  • Qualified lead volumes
  • Campaign effectiveness
  • Pipeline generated by inbound leads
  • SLAs on leads to sales and sales follow-up
  • Closed business from inbound leads

Publish the data in places where both sales and marketing teams will see them frequently.

I know I’ve been a bit rough on sales and marketing in this blog.  I do believe we are living in a very exciting time when it comes to sales and marketing and the options available to reach customers.  The issues I’m pointing out are organizational and the core responsibility to ensure good alignment between sales and marketing falls to the CEO. 

Make sure you’re not inadvertently pitting these two groups against each other by assuming they can come together and work out the alignment problem.