How to align Sales and Marketing: Leave no lead behind.

By Dan McDade, Managing Partner, Prospect-Experience

Aligning marketing and sales. It’s an age-old issue that’s been tough to solve. Marketing generates leads for sales that sales, traditionally, has been quick to dismiss.Aligning marketing and sales. It’s an age-old issue that’s been tough to solve. Marketing generates leads for sales that sales, traditionally, has been quick to dismiss.

Marketing automation was supposed to help, but it hasn’t. Why? Because without sales and marketing being on the same page, automated email solutions just make it possible for marketing to deliver more leads (that sales doesn’t accept) than ever before.

It takes heads-down hard work up front for sales and marketing to align. To help each other requires:

  1. Gathering data related to past performance and desired future performance for analysis.
  2. Mutually agreeing upon the definition of a qualified lead.
  3. Segmenting the market to prioritize high-return segments.

These are three effective ways to turn what is often an adversarial relationship to one that’s mutually productive.

For some reason, it’s been more difficult than it should be to stop the finger pointing, and put in place the processes, supported by technology, that get the job done for sales, marketing … and the customer.

After 30+ years working with marketing leaders on lead generation, qualification and nurturing programs, I know it is possible to achieve relative harmony. With open minds and respect for the strengths and challenges of the sales and marketing disciplines, the two can work in concert.

What helps the most I’ve found is putting into place what I call a judicial branch. A judicial branch makes sure both sales and marketing adhere to the rules of the game.

To address the tendency by sales to ignore leads and by marketing to send unqualified so-called leads takes executive involvement at the highest level.

It’s up to the judicial branch (usually the CEO or CRO or whoever the CEO designates to assume this role—not someone from either sales or marketing) to see that good leads are generated, and it’s up the judicial branch to see to it that leads generated according to agreed-upon criteria are properly followed up. In both cases, the judicial branch’s goal is to make sure the organization’s not wasting resources, i.e. marketing’s time and budget, and sales’ time and budget.

The judicial branch reviews every lead that is ignored. That “judge” mandates that sales return it for a stated cause, or follow up on it properly. Ignoring a lead is not an option.

If a lead is proactively returned by sales to marketing, that key decider (the judicial branch) must review the reasons given. If the judge agrees with sales, the lead goes back to marketing for cause. If the judge disagrees, sales follows up properly.

The point is, leave no lead behind, and don’t let any lead land in a black hole. That’s a misuse of resources that is inexcusable in today’s competitive marketplace.

Having a person in a judicial role is an example of the kind of change management required to keep sales and marketing aligned, and accountable. It’s one good way to get both organizations sharing the metrics that drive the growth of the business.

Watch for Eric Rotkow’s follow up blog to be posted next week, where he delves deep into the importance of developing a shared metrics framework to keep marketing and sales–and the rest of the enterprise–aligned.