In a perfect world, marketing and sales would be the best of friends. It makes sense — the two go hand-in-hand in having a seemingly natural, symbiotic relationship.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. Far from it, the divide between marketing and sales has been a hot topic of discussion for years now.
It’s a story we’ve heard over and over again: Marketing works hard to generate new leads, but the sales team doesn’t appreciate that effort. On the flip side, sales says that marketing isn’t sending over good leads (or sometimes not enough leads) and they’re simply trying to fill the funnel without paying much attention to quality or readiness. In fact, ReachForce has found that sales ignores 50% of marketing leads. It’s enough to make your head spin.
And trust us, the divide matters. According to SiriusDecisions, alignment between marketing and sales teams can help B2B organizations increase revenue growth by as much as 19% and raise profitability by as much as 15%. Meanwhile, MarketingProfs reports that a tight alignment between the two teams can lead to 38% higher sales win rates.
6 Reasons Sales Doesn’t Like Marketing Leads
Given the importance of marketing and sales alignment, what can you do to help right the ship? One of the best places to start is improving your lead handoff process.
As marketers, we know that generating and nurturing leads isn’t easy. And when your sales team comes back and says your leads aren’t good or you haven’t done enough, it’s painful. You know you’re working hard and you’re not just checking off boxes by passing anything that comes your way over the fence, and the fact that your sales team doesn’t recognize that can be upsetting.
But let’s take a minute and put ourselves on the other side, especially since research reveals that it tends to be sales that’s more unhappy with marketing than vice versa. Is there anything you could do differently to pass better leads on to your sales team? Perhaps there is.
Here are the six most common reasons that sales says marketing leads aren’t good enough and what to do about it:
1) Your leads aren’t qualified
The problem: Starting at the top, sales might simply say your leads aren’t qualified. This could mean they don’t work at the right type of company, they aren’t in the right department, they’re just a student doing research or anything else that would mean no matter what, they will never be your customer.
The solution: The answer to this problem lies in your marketing automation program. Specifically, you need an easy way to track when new leads come in and immediately mark them as qualified or unqualified. For example, you might have a list of criteria (such as company size and revenue) that you run through for each new lead to determine whether or not they’re qualified. From there, you can filter out unqualified leads so that they don’t get passed to sales no matter what and drop the qualified leads into nurture streams so that you can warm them up for your sales team.
2) Your leads aren’t decision-makers
The problem: Qualifying leads based on factors like their company, budget and department is a start, but you also need to qualify based on role. An associate might be interested in your business and work in the right department at the right type of company, but that person doesn’t wield a lot of power. As a result, when your sales team gets on the phone with them, the conversation goes nowhere.
The solution: You need to include role-based qualification in your lead scoring. For example, you might identify leads as decision-makers, influencers and so on. It’s the decision-makers and influencers who wield all the power, and that means you want to give leads in those roles higher scores. And the more decision-makers you can pass off to your sales team, the better, as it’s those buyers who ultimately have the final say when it comes to closing the deal.
3) Your leads are too cold or not at all interested
The problem: Let’s say you have a qualified lead who is also a decision-maker (or even an influencer). That’s a good start, but it doesn’t automatically mean that lead is ready for sales. They still have to be warm enough, meaning they’ve shown signals that they’re interested in your company and are looking to buy. Far too often, a qualified lead will download one piece of content and marketing will pass them off to sales. The reality is, the lead is still too cold for that handoff.
The solution: Once again, it’s lead scoring to the rescue. This time, the lead scoring is about tracking behaviors, for example how a lead engages on your site and on other channels like email and social media. Every time a lead engages with your business, you can increase their lead score (or perhaps decrease it if they do things like unsubscribe from emails). When the lead score reaches a certain threshold, you know the lead is warm enough to pass on to sales. To accelerate this process, you can develop nurture campaigns that are intended to warm up leads quickly and weed out those who are not interested.
4) Your leads are stale
The problem: You’ve done it — you properly nurtured a highly qualified lead, who also happens to be a decision-maker and they are on fire. It’s time to pass them to sales. Only you’ve been busy updating nurture campaigns and building landing pages and that burning hot lead actually took all those actions a month ago. Now, by the time you route that highly qualified, burning hot lead to sales, the fire has cooled. Or maybe you did pass the lead off to sales right away, but your sales team didn’t get a notification, and by the time they pick it up, it’s too late.
The solution: Whether the problem lies in urgency on the marketing side or urgency on the sales side, automated workflows can help. First, a proper marketing automation setup can automatically pass qualified leads who hit a certain lead score over to sales, thereby eliminating the burden from your marketing team and making it so that you don’t have to worry about missing certain signals until it’s too late. Best of all, it can even prioritize leads for sales based on their level of interest and engagement. Second, a proper integration between your marketing automation platform and CRM system can ensure those leads get routed to sales and that your sales teams gets notified right away so that they can immediately pick up the ball.
5) Your leads don’t include enough information
The problem: We’ve all had that nightmare where we’re back in school, not paying attention and the teacher calls on us and we have no idea what the question was, let alone how to answer it. No one wants to be caught in the type of situation, but when you pass on leads with sparse information to your sales team, you’re setting them up for exactly that. To do their jobs effectively, your sales team needs to know as much information as possible about the leads you’re passing on, like where they work, what they do and what content they’ve engaged with to date.
The solution: Typically, a lack of information stems from either poor data intake and tagging through your marketing automation platform or a spotty integration between your marketing automation platform and CRM system. Whichever it is, the situation is fixable. On the marketing automation platform side, make sure that you can keep track of how leads interact with your business through content and events and take opportunities to tag certain information, such as the lead’s buyer persona, campaign source, company and title. This information provides background on who the person is, what they’re interested in and where they came from. On the CRM side, make sure that all of the information in your marketing automation platform is visible, because your sales team lives in your CRM system but is unlikely to ever log in to your marketing automation platform. A native integration between the two platforms can help ensure the information is always visible and up to date on both ends.
6) Your leads don’t come from the right accounts
The problem: With 90% of marketers recognizing the importance of account based marketing (ABM), going after target accounts has now become a must for most B2B organizations. And in the world of ABM, you need to focus on attracting and converting those target accounts. While you don’t want to ignore other qualified and warm leads that come through, passing over too many non-target accounts at once can prove a distraction for sales.
The solution: If your sales team is committed to a target account strategy, then your marketing team needs to be committed to warming up those accounts through ABM. That means you need to take on efforts to understand everything about those target accounts and go deep into them with marketing activities that are designed to created demand. In other words, you need to focus heavily on warming up those accounts so that you can make it easier for your sales team to get in the door.
Why Can’t Marketing and Sales Be Friends?
The divide between marketing and sales is nothing new, and while it may take a while to chip away at old grudges, there are several steps your marketing team can take to help build a better relationship. And chief among those steps is evaluating your lead handoff process, including the process itself and how you determine which leads are ready for sales. When you do that, you might just find that you can in fact hand your sales team better leads.