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Solving the Classic Sales vs Marketing Issue

Most organizations have the classic issue where the Sales teams and Marketing teams simply don’t get along.  Sales thinks Marketing is sending over lots of low quality leads and Marketing thinks Sales ignores them or that they just keep butting in.  Well, the reality is that they are both right in most cases.  So how to you solve this problem?

Fixing Sales and Marketing Issues

The answer to this problem it turns out is quite simple.  Its so simple you may not believe it.  I’ve seen this resolved in every organization I’ve been in where there was bitter sales and marketing battles.  The real problem with sales and marketing teams is that they don’t agree on what a lead is and they don’t realize that the other team has a different definition.

Depending on leadership within both teams, the definitions are probably going to be different even from one company to the next.  This can cause a lot of headaches for either team because everyone assumes they know what a lead is or is not.

Alignment of the Teams

So your first step is to get everyone to the table and specifically discuss the following.

  1. Define what is a lead.  Not just a lead, but what is a bad lead and what is a good lead.  At what point does someone become a lead?
  2. Define a Marketing Qualified Lead.  These are the characteristics that will define someone becoming a lead in the eyes of the marketing team.  This does not mean it is ready to handed over the wall to sales.
  3. Define a Sales Qualified Lead.  These are the characteristics of a lead that the sales team is ready to be handed to them.

Example of becoming a Marketing Qualified Lead

In most cases, in digital marketing, I uses some type of marketing automation platform to help keep track of all conversions and actually assign them a score.  Using scoring, I can automatically define whether someone is ready to turn into a Sales Qualified Lead or if they are still just a conversion.

  • Visitor.  Someone has visited the website.  I don’t know who they are, but I might know their company, interest, how they found me and their approximate geographical location.
  • Conversion.  They filled out a form on the website. Depending on the form they filled out, they may be suddenly a sales qualified lead, but be sure to follow the rules defined by sales and marketing.  Remember, we are trying to resolve lead generation issues.
  • Prospect.  There are a number of possible levels of prospects, but this is someone showing interest in the product but not yet ready to buy.
  • Researcher.  Turns out this person isn’t interested in buying anything, but you never know so you keep them in your database until they do something new to change their score.
  • Investigator.  This is someone looking for a solution, but based on your definitions, they aren’t quite ready for sales.  Keep nurturing them until they reach that level.
  • Influencer. This person isn’t buying, but they are doing the research to hand off to their executive.  This person may or may not be someone sales wants to talk to.
  • MQL. They are now a lead as defined by the marketing team.  You may have a pre-sales team get in touch with them to learn more or send them educational webinars. Marketing’s goal is to turn them into a sales qualified lead as soon as possible.

It Takes Time.  It Can Be Done.

If your sales and marketing teams have been at each other’s throats for awhile, the healing process will take time. You’re probably going to have to overhaul your dashboards and reporting metrics to align with the approved definitions of a Lead.  But trust can be built.  The number of leads given to sales is probably going to dramatically drop, but because they are a lot better leads, sales will be able to close more of them rather than chasing rabbits.  This success will end up causing some positive reinforcement for both teams to work together more which will only continue to improve both sides of the camp.

Good luck and if you want someone to help facilitate this healing process, you know where to find us!  😉

John Paul Mains

John Paul Mains is the Chief Marketing Scientist at Click Laboratory. He loves all things digital, but especially SEO and analytics. If you're interested in learning more, his LinkedIn profile is

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