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Sales, Marketing and the Fun Friction Between

It seems like no matter what organization you work for, no matter the industry, no matter the location or size- there’s always some sort of rift between sales and marketing. Sales is out there on the front lines cold calling and interacting on a daily basis with the end-users. And Marketing is the content creator that pushes the product and value propositions into the market to the right audience. But what bridges the gap between the two? You’ve got sales literally selling the product and you’ve got marketing introducing the product through various channels. So if marketing is gathering leads and giving them to sales, why would sales have any problem with that? Well, more often than Marketing would like to admit, not every single one of the leads that they send to Sales are qualified enough to convert. But if an end-user fills out a form that marketing was responsible for disseminating and then Marketing sends that over to Sales, why cant Sales convert it, what’s the hold up? Therein lies the beginning of the rift.

You wouldn’t believe how contentious the relationship between Sales and Marketing can become (actually you might already know), but let’s not even go there; corporate spats are no fun. We all need to be held accountable and the solution lies within accountability. I’ve heard the argument plenty of times that Sales are the only ones truly being held accountable; I mean let’s be real here, if a salesperson doesn’t meet their magic quota number, they will get fired so fast everyone’s heads will spin. They have frequent forecast meetings where they’re put on the spot in front of the whole team: “Why hasn’t this converted?” “How many calls have you made today?” “When is the last time you contacted them?” “What’s the likelihood that this will close?” … the list goes on. I’ve worked in organizations where Sales is held to these expectations and marketing just simply is NOT. That’s not how it should be, it just isn’t fair…and I’m a marketer so it isn’t exactly easy for me to dish on why I need to be held more accountable. But it’s only fair. On the other side of the coin, marketers are fervently creating content, managing massive contact databases, leadscoring, behavioral scoring, outreach campaigns, blogging and social media, etc. Marketing manages all of these outlets, the company’s image and branding, and not to mention the never-ending deadlines; and if Marketing misses a deadline, you can bet they’ll get fired too. Both Sales and Marketing have a lot of pressure put on them and although it may be different pressure in different ways, its still better to work together toward a larger goal instead of only focusing on personal quotas.

A great way to meet in the middle is by adhering to agreed upon MQL and SQL standards. Marketing agrees upon what they all believe is a qualified enough to lead to send off to sales, hence a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). Marketing will then pass their MQLs to Sales and Sales then determines, based upon their agreed upon SQL standards, if Marketing’s lead is Sales Qualified or not (SQL). Seems like this could get a bit sticky…well, it won’t if you include an SLA, a Service Level Agreement. In the SLA, Marketing needs to define their MQL and list their requirements for Sales actions. For example, let’s say Marketing defines their MQL as a form fill… Marketing has to create a set of actions that must be taken before Sales can even THINK about disqualifying the lead. If Marketing says that the lead must be called on within 1 hour and that there must be 3 additional touches within a week, then Sales can’t report a disqualified lead until those actions have been taken. For Sales, the SLA needs to include a report of all actions taken for each MQL and whether it converted to an SQL. The SLA should also hold Marketing to a quota as well; it needs to include the required number of leads that Marketing must provide to Sales each week/month/quarter.

If everyone agrees upon the MQLs, SQLs and SLA then you’ve already made a huge step in the right direction, the foundation is in place. It’s much easier to have the Marketing team coming after you for not converting leads than your supervisor for not meeting your quota. We should all feel relieved and thankful that Marketing and Sales are there to support each other and push each other to achieve the same overarching goal…even if it means there has to be a bit of friendly friction!