5 Key Steps to Get Your Sales and Marketing Teams on the Same Page

In the lead management world, we’re all familiar with that volatile relationship between most Sales and Marketing teams. The infamous blame game — you know you’ve heard it! Sales managers complain, “Marketing is sending junk leads and wasting my time.” Then Marketing retorts, “How would you know? You never follow up on the ones I send!” Yet neither side does anything different to change the paradigm.

I’m a marketer at heart, and I’m as guilty as anyone at accusing the sales team of only wanting leads delivered to them with purchase orders sitting atop a golden platter. In hindsight, I can see that this was really a cop-out — a way of pointing a finger so that I wasn’t held accountable for my own shortfall in providing quality leads.

It was a totally unfair characterization for me to call them lazy. That being said, they too would point the finger of blame so as not to be held accountable for missing their quota. That behavior is counterproductive at many levels. But what if there was a way to end the blame game?

Try these five easy steps that I believe will help your organization do just that.

Step One: Understand and agree upon the destination

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s difficult to judge if you’re going in the right direction — let alone when you get there! Of course Sales wants a purchase order! Isn’t that everybody’s ultimate goal? But what does that mean? By understanding the overall revenue projections placed on Sales and the contribution expected from Marketing, you’re able to develop a reverse waterfall calculation that provides a target number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs — see Step 2) needed to meet those goals. These calculations, or conversion metrics, can then serve as your barometer to help you assess and change course accordingly.

Step Two: Speak a common language

Let me be the first to admit that I am a very literal person. If you tell me that you’re going to run to the store, I’m going to ask why you don’t just drive there. Corny, I know. But my point is that different people associate different meaning to the same word. This can cause confusion — or worse yet, a false sense of alignment.

I’ll bet if you ask 10 sales managers and 10 marketing managers to define a “lead,” you will get just as many different answers. Decide on a common definition for each layer of your lead funnel through a direct and focused discussion. Then stay consistent with its use and I promise you there will be fewer misinterpretations.

Step Three: Identify your ideal prospect

Why do marketers insist on making this a guessing game? Sales managers have their ear to the ground and really know who is likely to buy the product they are selling. Doesn’t it make sense to ask them what key criteria they look for when determining if a prospect has potential to be a customer?

Identify a core group of your highest-performing reps and ask them to identify the five most critical things they look for in a qualified lead. Be careful not to just mindlessly list those five things, but really listen to what they are saying and why it is important. Then, take those insights and incorporate them into your marketing automation scoring models.

Step Four: Learn from closed-loop feedback

I’m a huge advocate of the school of thought around “If it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get improved,” so I believe that this step is vitally important. Remember, in Step One we talked about using your conversion metrics as a barometer to help you course correct. In order for those metrics to provide any true value, they have to provide an accurate representation of what is really happening in the field (i.e., sales has to routinely update their CRM records). This is their “voice” into the lead management process — tracking why a MQL was rejected or disqualified, why an opportunity was won or lost, etc.

I also recommend a quarterly review of the quantity and quality of MQLs delivered from Marketing. This is an opportunity to review conversion rates and discuss what has been working and what needs to be changed or even stopped. It is critical to understand these dynamics and make adjustments accordingly.

Step Five: Develop a service level agreement (SLA) for accountability

This is a contract that states Marketing will provide sales-ready leads (i.e., MQLs) that meet or exceed the criteria laid out by Sales. In turn, Sales will act on those leads in an agreed-upon timeframe. This commitment is the foundation of trust and accountability and should be taken seriously. As with most steps in this process, your SLA should be a living document that changes as new insights surface. This document should be reviewed and revised as necessary after each quarterly meeting.

To summarize, I think we can all relate to the blame game and its inherent drag on an organization. By incorporating these five steps into your lead management process, you can end the game and actually start working off the same page.