Don’t Fall Into The Marketing Vs. Sales Trap

michaelmclarenData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Michael McLaren, executive global group director, high-tech and business-to-business practices, at Merkle.

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting where sales leadership challenged marketing leadership for evidence that their activity has truly driven business outcomes? If the answer is yes, you have found yourself in the marketing vs. sales trap.

There are two major pressure points facing most business-to-business-oriented organizations today. First, there is relentless pressure on marketing teams to demonstrate, with hard evidence, how marketing spend delivers real revenue and customer results.

Second, there is growing pressure on most internal sales organizations to reduce costs and build a more modern customer engagement model that is better aligned with the way customers shop today. In many instances, this means enabling a growing customer appetite for increased self service with less direct sales engagement. 

In many organizations, these two opposing forces can create a breaking point in relationships. This is particularly true if the two sides are operating in silos, which is commonplace today.

When this happens, it is bad news for everyone. In this instance, neither side will be effectively aligned; both will vie for internal resources and executive management attention. As a result, neither will be able to help the company solve these two critical challenges. Both the teams and the company will likely continue operating in an ineffective, dysfunctional way.

So, what needs to change to avoid this marketing vs. sales dilemma? How can these two critical growth drivers work together in a more collaborative and harmonious way?

One of the most important metrics that B2B marketers use to determine efficacy and efficiency of their marketing efforts is sales lead quality.

The simple exercise of defining a sales qualified lead (SQL) can reveal telltale signs of trouble. An SQL is a prospective customer who has been researched and vetted – first by the marketing department and then by the sales team – and deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process. In the all-too-common “Glengarry Glen Ross” world, the perception from the sales team is that leads provided by marketing are “weak.” As a result, the general perception is that marketing has no idea what they are doing and everything that comes out of the team is weak.

When things are not going well, it is a common human reaction to blame someone else. It is a whole lot easier to point to the other guy when results are poor than it is to sit down and work through a shared problem. But this is exactly what needs to happen. Meeting and exceeding sales goals requires mutual agreement on common definitions and common strategies. Shared goal alignment should be the first step of any high-performing sales and marketing team. Both parties need to work together to clarify objectives, customer engagement plans and shared commitments.

Another area ripe for improvement is lead scoring. This process also needs to be a shared exercise. Predictive analytics and advanced technology platforms, when used effectively, are major advantages today and need to be properly deployed. Shared lead-scoring efforts will help the company identify quality leads with the best possible potential.

In an ideal world, there is no gap between a marketing qualified lead and an SQL. The more involved the sales teams are in this important exercise, the better. When sales and marketing are on the same page and reviewing hard data from modeling and algorithmic exercises along with more subjective evidence from the front lines, the more successful the outcome.

There is no such thing as unlimited resources. Businesses will increasingly demand more from their marketing functions. They expect business outcomes delivered at scale via ongoing, always-on, integrated programs. As a part of this, they expect delivery on both brand reputation and revenue goals in one seamless program execution.

At the same time, pressure on sales and the associated costs will continue to grow. As companies grapple with the changing demands of the marketplace, sales teams will need to reinvent the entire sales process – from demand generation and customer engagement to sales enablement, bid support and account-based marketing.

The efforts of one team must amplify and enhance the output of the other. Only by working together will the two be able to achieve shared success. And only by working together will the company experience the growth they seek.

Follow Merkle (@MerkleCRM) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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