Is Sales a Mere Bystander in Marketing Automation?

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Is Marketing Automation implementation in an organization akin to an army truck being rolled in by the marketing department with the sales folks watching as mere bystanders?

Is Marketing Automation solely within a marketer’s purview? Does Sales have nothing to contribute?

Today, the decision on which Marketing Automation, sales enablement or lead generation tool & platform will get used in an organization is largely a marketer’s call, but for successful implementation it requires wider participation. Especially, the Sales Department needs to weigh-in with crucial input. Let’s examine which are these inputs and collaboration opportunities.

Definition of a Lead

It is important to define what constitutes a lead and have an agreement between the two departments (Sales and Marketing).



This is clearly an area of maximum conflict between the two departments and the way to resolve this is to divide it into 2 buckets – Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads. But, just having a name and address cannot qualify a lead. There needs to be additional attributes which qualifies them as a possible buyer for products or services.

Here is an example of a lead: a business doing $50-$100M in annual revenues having an annual budget of above $1M for clean-tech project implementations.

Feedback on Quality of Leads

Basic feedback on a lead would mean reporting on whether a conversation with an interested customer occurred, if there is an interest and when the deal is closed. Most of these are expected to be reported using a CRM system. Additionally, how a lead performs over time (potentially months) is of interest and the lead’s reaction to all marketing touch-points is critical.

Along with positive feedback, negative feedback is also required for the marketing department to further optimize the marketing automation process.

Input into Scoring Rules

Feedback from the sales team on the quality of the leads should be used in refining the lead scoring rules. Asking the sales team for their criteria (for example, which lead source consistently delivers high-quality leads) should be mandatory for marketing departments.

With a better lead score, sales team can focus on the promising prospects: this makes them more effective and also more likely to hit their sales target. This also gives sales a sense of ownership over the scoring criteria and reduces friction between the departments.

Input into Workflow

Similar to improving lead score calculations, the workflows can be optimized by repeating the events which have had a positive impact on the prospect and even improving the sequence in which the events are delivered based on feedback from the sales team.

Follow-up Handshake

Establishing specific lead follow-up expectations within sales department is important for marketing department in terms of the lead source or lead score. The expectation should include how quickly the follow up should occur, the methods of follow-up (e.g. phone, email) and the number of attempts to make contact.

Lead Capacity Model

This means determining how many leads the sales team can effectively follow-up on. If the lead volume exceeds capacity, then scoring & filtering leads becomes a key element in the process.

Returning Leads



It should not be solely the marketing department’s responsibility to take back leads. The sales team needs to be equally responsible for returning leads as ‘not sales-ready’, with reason for recycling, and pointers for the type of nurturing campaign required.

All the collaborative steps mentioned above are important, as at the end of the day, Sales folks want a higher quantity of leads, which have a high potential to convert to sales. If they have a bad experience and develop questions regarding the quality, they will cease to follow-up.

Marketing Automation projects are highly successful when treated as a joint project. I have even seen a few sales guys who get so involved in the operational aspect of marketing automation that they cross over to the marketing side as part of marketing operations.

Of course, the best way to measure the success of a marketing project is to get Sales to give a score card on how well Marketing did in terms of production of leads using Marketing Automation.

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