Two Big Problems Between Sales & Marketing – And How to Solve Them

by Michelle McGinnis on Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Sales & Marketing Alignment

We’re all familiar with the divide between sales and marketing. The two teams should be working together, but often they feel like they’re on separate islands.

This exact situation was the topic of conversation yesterday at Dreamforce ’12 during a discussion among Splunk’s CMO Steve Sommer, Senior Vice President of Sales Tom Schodorf, Eloqua’s President, Alex Shootman, and CMO Heidi Melin.

The group discussed two of the most common, recurring scenarios that plague sales and marketing, resulting in frustration and even dissension. But they also discussed practical ways to solve the problem, leading to a happy state of sales and marketing alignment. Here’s a summary of what the group came up with.

Problem 1: The Lead Quality Problem
This one is marketers are all too familiar with – the dreaded “the leads suck!” situation. It manifests in several ways. Sales may have too few leads or too many. Marketing complains that sales isn’t following up quickly enough. Sales reps are struggling to make their quota, and thus relying less on marketing.

What You Can Do
Splunk’s head of sales and marketing cited several steps both teams can take to overcome lead quality issues.

One, invest in lead scoring and sales enablement tools. With lead scoring you can qualify leads as they move through your pipeline, prioritizing leads so sales are only working those that are ready to buy. You can also equip sales with tools that track leads’ recent online behavior – what topics, eBooks and web pages they’re exploring – and enable them to respond to opportunities on the fly.

Another step is to get buy-in from sales. Marketing needs to break down the walls, letting sales see their plans, how they will nurture leads and prep them for reps. This will probably require getting the head of marketing and sales together to talk it out.

Problem 2: Sales and Marketing Have Different Views of Universe
Like any family, some level of dysfunction. For sales and marketing the dysfunction often comes down to having different views of what works, what doesn’t, and what the data means. Marketing and sales might be judging performance and strategy from different, opposing data sets. Either team may be relying on anecdotes rather than real data. And then there’s the old “who gets the credit?” wars dividing the teams.

What You Can Do
If this is your situation, the first thing you should do is come together and set common definitions for each buying stage. If you can’t agree on what stages make up your pipeline or what qualifies a lead to move through those stages, you’ll never agree on anything.

Throughout this process, sales and marketing should maintain a “bias towards action.” No sales cycle is perfect, just in a constant state of perfecting. You can argue the finer points all quarter long, but both sides should be committed to getting it done.

Finally, tear down the walls. Splunk’s head of sales and marketing attend each other’s meetings, checking in regularly with each other. They take an “open book” approach to budgets. Bottom line: the more you communicate, the less surprises that lead to arguments there are.

Want more practical advice? Download our Grande Guide to Sales Enablement. And if you’re at Dreamforce, don’t miss today’s session with LinkedIn and Eloqua on “When Social Marketing & Social Selling” at the LAM Theater at noon!

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