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Plugging the Sales and Marketing Leak

November 19, 2014

There's a leak in your revenue-generation boat. And I can tell you where it is by asking 3 questions:Leakyboat-Mike-Pratt-Flickr-289536-edited

  1. What's a qualified lead (to your sales manager) that should be accepted by sales?
  2. What's a qualified lead (to your marketing manager) that should be passed onto sales?
  3. What happens when a qualified lead a salesperson is working on either delays the purchase or turns out to not be qualified after all?

Here’s our experience with most small and mid-sized companies (B2B, generally selling services or technology).

First and foremost, do the answers to question 1 and question 2 match? They should. In fact, they should be exactly the same. This is common sense, right? It should be easy to do. It is not. The ongoing war between sales and marketing has littered the skirmish battlefields with bodies from this particular conversation. But why is it so hard?

Because you're asking each team to take on a responsibility that they probably aren't (in their eyes) compensated for or to take accountability for something they can't control the entire process for.

It's also difficult because the customer buying process has changed – a lot – and your team structure doesn’t align to this new process.

Let’s deal with the accountability issue first:

Your sales team, like most, is probably rewarded based on the revenue and customers they bring to the company. After all, that’s what they're there for.  And if they're good, they get that revenue from leads that come from various sources – marketing, referrals, networking, cold calls. Basically, they do what they have to in order to hit their number. They're probably not compensated for the activities of a) accepting leads from marketing or b) providing your marketing team feedback on a deal that was delayed or a lead that wasn't properly qualified. So those activities sit on the bottom of the to-do list.

Most business owners would now say to me, “They are compensated for that, it's part of their job responsibility and part of the reason they get a salary.” Nice try. What your sales team should do for the marketing team and what they do do for the marketing team are generally worlds apart unless you have built an incredibly collaborative culture (and most small/mid-sized companies haven’t because, in the end, it's about revenue and the sales team knows they're on the hook).

Your marketing team is probably measured on a number of metrics and has some level of compensation that relates to achieving those metrics. One of those numbers is probably (and should be) qualified leads generated (or, ideally, accepted). They also probably have other metrics like web traffic, events, content created, programs run, etc.

If you look at the list of “activities” above, the marketing team likely has control of the end-to-end process for everything up to getting a lead accepted by sales. Once they qualify a lead to the best of their ability, they have to hope that it will get pursued, worked, and that they'll get some level of feedback (maybe through a CRM system in the 15% chance that one has been properly implemented and is used).

If the sales team is good at accepting and giving feedback, the lead quality will likely stay good. With small, local sales teams, this tends to work out.

But once the salespeople become remote locations for the company, we see a model of disengagement. Marketing is a central, recognizable point of failure, whereas sales individuals are remote, and no lone individual represents enough of an impact to be critical to the success/failure lead loop. But when you take all the sales team together, the lack of feedback, inconsistent lead acceptance, and poor communication on opportunity status doom the revenue generation ship to leaks.

The second reason your revenue generation boat may be leaking is because of the way a customer's purchase process has changed in the past few years.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “inbound marketing” or “content marketing.” You're likely trying to figure out what impact social marketing has on your business. Your marketing team is busy with SEO, and all of this has come about in reaction to, and maybe because of, the explosion of the availability of information.

It's no longer about selling to customers; it's about helping customers to buy. And odds are, your sales and marketing teams aren't structured to support the change. Consider this question: If your marketing team is partially compensated on qualified leads, and a lead comes to a salesperson because of their personal referral network – so it never gets entered into a system by a marketing person – does the marketing team get compensated on it?

Your answer is probably no. But with some research you'll likely find that the marketing team has educated the prospect – they came to the website, registered and downloaded content, watched a webinar, saw the customer testimonials they acquired and posted.  But that prospect never answered enough questions to be considered a qualified lead, so it was never passed to sales (aka our previous issue).

Your teams are disconnected and probably fail to see how inextricably linked they should be. If that salesperson who “got the lead from their referral network” had been able to see the complete marketing history on that lead, how much faster could they have handled the sales opportunity? Did the marketing team even know the customer purchased? If they didn’t, then all the effort and cost they put in isn't taken into account when they evaluate the success of programs, content, and systems. You have to consider how to plug lead number two.

There's no easy answer here, but there is the need to ask a lot of questions and take a long look at team structure, compensation, and goals. If you don’t plug the leaks and repair the revenue generation ship, eventually you'll be overtaken by organizations that have built a more sell-worthy craft.

We’d like to help you in this conversation.

 Sales and Marketing Collaboration Case Study

Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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