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How to Get Sales Teams to Use Your Leads

Marketing and sales teams' distrust of one another has a long history that costs their companies dear. One firm has made strides in resolving the problem

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-teamwork-passing-baton-partnership-concept-two-businessmen-handing-over-image32836052Like a number of other corporate functions, marketing teams can often find themselves stuck in the middle of different arguments.

There’s the age old argument between R&D teams who want to produce the “perfect product” and marketers who want something they can promote to be developed as quickly as possible, and there’s a similarly storied and ongoing debate between the marketing and sales teams in most firms.

Sales reps often feel marketers are overly optimistic about a new campaign and the leads it generates and think that all that naivety would dissipate if they just saw how hard it was to make a sale. Marketers, for their part, are frustrated with sales teams ignoring them or being (as they see it) negative about every idea or lead they pass on.

CEB data show that, on average, sales reps are more willing to follow-up on their own leads that involve a customer’s procurement department than they are to take leads from Marketing. Given reps’ hatred of procurement teams’ penny-pinching ways, that’s a damning indictment indeed.

In fact, only 8% of B2B companies said they have tight alignment between their sales and marketing teams. CEB data from 2013 show that 30.4% of marketers don’t even know if their leads are followed up on, and 37% of marketers say less than 45% of their leads are followed up on by Sales.  Meanwhile, 49% of sales reps confess to ignoring more than half of Marketing’s leads.

Making Nice

To repair the problem, many firms have done one of two things. They’ve put on happy hours with sales and marketing teams so they can get to know each other better or, at the other end of the spectrum, they’ve implemented service level agreements of some sort. Marketing and sales teams say that neither has done much good.

Sharing a drink may put a face to a name but it doesn’t do much to encourage formal collaboration the next day, while SLAs won’t improve personal relationships and do nothing to help Sales and Marketing understand the context of a situation and promote information sharing.

CEB ran two surveys: first to get a better idea of what Marketing thought Sales wants in a lead, and second what Sales actually wants in a lead. The results show that sales teams want leads that match defined criteria and information on why leads are actually considered ready for Sales (see chart 1).

Perceptions of good lead qualities

Chart 1: Perceptions of good lead qualities, Sales versus Marketing  n=56 marketing organizations, 1,125 B2B sellers  Source: CEB analysis

Granted, half of marketers are working to qualify based on Sales’ criteria already, so that’s good news, but perception is everything and what’s not reflected in this data is whether or not sales reps actually understand what Marketing is doing. Other CEB data suggest that 49% of reps ignore more than half of all Marketing-provided leads.

Some firms are making progress, however. The marketing team at technology firm, National Instruments, used trust and transparency as building blocks to change perceptions and create a more positive and productive working relationship between Sales and Marketing.  Trust doesn’t happen overnight, but by humanizing Sales and Marketing and encouraging transparency on both sides, National Instruments not only developed trust, but also improved overall lead quality and lead process management.

More On…

  • CEB Marketing Leadership Council

    Learn more about improving the skills of your marketing team, and how CEB works with leading marketing functions around the world.

  • Aligning Marketing and Sales

    CEB Marketing Leadership Council members can see more about our National Instruments’ work, along with many other tools, data, and best practice case studies to help with similar problems.

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