Frenemies: The Dangerous Distrust Between Sales and Marketing

Let’s say you’re a local reporter, and you have been sent to a crime scene to interview witnesses and write a story. Like any journalist, you won’t get paid unless you deliver. It’s natural, then, for you to be singularly focused on finding those witnesses—talking to anyone else might seem like a waste of time. 

The scenario is similar for any quota-driven B2B sales team. To keep their jobs, reps need to close as many deals as they can. They’re not interested in engaging with prospects who are not ready to buy. 

Marketing, on the other hand, often has a different definition of a qualified lead. If a person regularly takes the calls-to-action in your outbound email campaigns, downloads content from your website, follows your company on social media, and has visited your product pricing page, that person has self-identified as someone who is very interested in your product or service. 

Unfortunately—and this is where it gets tricky—interest does not necessarily equate to sales readiness. In fact, according to Gleanster, 30 to 50 percent of leads in a pipeline are not ready to buy.

So what can you do about it? 

For a start, you can agree on key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • What is a marketing-qualified lead (MQL)? 
  • What is a sales-accepted lead (SAL)?
  • What is a sales-qualified lead (SQL)? 

Next, agree on a process. 

If an MQL is rejected by Sales, what happens to it? Is that person thrown out altogether? Are they maintained in the database as a possibility for the future? Even better, are they deposited into a workflow that automatically feeds them nurturing content relevant to their demonstrated interests? 

According to Gleanster research, “8% to 10% of ‘not yet ready to buy’ leads will probably convert to a sale; others will be lost to the competition or, for whatever reason, decide not to make a purchase. But survey respondents using lead nurturing indicated that, on average, 15% to 20% of the ‘not yet ready to purchase’ opportunities converted to sales.” 
Gleanster, Measuring the Impact of Lead Nurturing on the Sales Pipeline, 2010 

That entry-level startup employee may not be ready today, but what if she gets promoted six months from now and finds herself with the budget, authority, and timeline that she didn’t have before? If she was outright rejected by Sales, rather than kept in the pipeline and fed nurturing content, you will have lost a deal that you otherwise could have closed. 

Like any sibling relationship, the Marketing-Sales dynamic can be competitive—and even nasty. But with open communication and process agreement, it can be a great example of working successfully toward a common goal.