How AI Can Mend the Marketing-Sales Gap


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It is almost an urban myth that sales and marketing are facing difficulties in cooperation.

VP of Sales: “I do not get any relevant lead from marketing! My sales team and I need to hunt down all prospects on our own!”

VP of Marketing: “There are many qualified leads but you just do not follow-up on our hard work!”

Sales and Marketing; they are almost like cat and dog. Both departments are running a number of tools. A Forrester study found that there are around 15 of them that the average marketing department uses.

On the other hand the sales team is using quite some tools as well, notably sales force automation (sometimes falsely referred to as CRM), often augmented or replaced by e-mail.

The company as a whole is often depending on its web site as a lead generation and sales support machine.

The Customer’s Voice

On the other hand there is the customer

  • who mostly ignores ads
  • only infrequently opens marketing e-mails
  • and more often than not contacts a sales person only at the very last moment

In other words, the customer, who is the ultimate judge, articulates that neither marketing nor sales departments are not doing a very good job. This holds true for both, B2C and B2B companies.

Data gathered by multiple studies and continuously being collected and published by Google is speaking in a clear voice. This data basically says that not only are sales and marketing poorly aligned but also not providing their (prospective) customers with the right content at the right time and through the right channels.

They are irrelevant. And becoming irrelevant is a grave danger for businesses.

The Way Out

Especially B2B organizations are starting to address this danger with strategies like account based marketing or account based selling, earlier with consultative selling or even trying to get into the position of a trusted advisor.

All these strategies share three fundamental traits:

  • They base upon collaboration and an alignment of sales and marketing
  • They target at providing customers with the right information, early on, the way the customers want and need it, in brief: relevant engagements
  • They do not scale without sophisticated technology

And this is where the three topics — business application platform, integration, and AI — come back into the picture. The diagram below brings it all into one picture (including service). The gist of it is that technology is a helper that enables strategies and processes — and that the technology is there.


We are talking AI-infused — not powered — intelligent business applications, which are delivered by vendors small and large – vendors like SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle on one end of the spectrum, and specialists like Kahuna, Nimble, Sprinklr, Inside Sales, Circleback, and many, many more.

All these vendors provide some of the tools that are necessary to automatically qualify leads in real time, help prioritizing prospects, automatically provide customers with relevant offers in real time or to gather intelligence about a company and the people there, even about what web research is done from within companies.

This is all invaluable information that can get used to mutual benefit of customers and business, assuming that the business has a sound strategy in place.

What it Takes

It all hinges on a people-centric strategy, followed by smart execution. The best of all tools are mere cost items if they do not support a strategy. They will not become part of an integrated whole without a strategy.

I guess the mere repetition of this one word — strategy — emphasizes its importance.

Create one.

Can’t do it alone? Get some help doing it.

Sadly, tools all too often are employed only tactically. And this regularly causes more problems than it solves.

From there on it is process. ABM and ABS are good helpers to align around customers’ needs and giving them the right information at the time of need. Most importantly from an internal point of view, both offer a framework that helps marketing and sales collaborate.

Now think of immediate challenges and more strategic ones to solve. There are mainly the following three groups in the context of mending the gap between marketing and sales:

  • Collaboration
  • Prospecting and customer intelligence
  • Lead scoring and qualification
  • Automated relevant recommendations and offers

Prioritise the short- and long-term challenges, select the business application platform that is most suitable for your company and then select the right tools. These tools need to be capable of integration into each other without much effort.

Collaboration and lead scoring are easiest and probably easy fixes. Collaboration in its simplest form is a behavior. Support it by email and collaboration tools like Slack, Jammer, SAP Jam, MS Team, … but think of your business application platform – and the shortlist of marketing automation tools that you look at.

Lead scoring sits in a bigger realm of lead qualification and generation of relevant recommendations and offers, all of which have the potential of generating more quality leads and achieving an increased conversion rate. Depending on the chosen platform (and the budget) high-end solutions like Marketo, SAP hybris marketing, the Adobe Marketing Cloud, or the Salesforce Marketing Cloud might be a good start. They all offer strong marketing data management, engagement, and lead transfer possibilities. There are “smaller” ones, too. Think Kahuna, Hubspot, etc. All of these tools offer sophisticated, learning algorithms to extract signals out of the noise.

Support this by deep prospecting of more promising contacts and leads to get more information about actual interests.

Deploy step by step, depending on current priorities, keeping the people centric strategy in mind. This adds value, regularly and frequently.


Rinse and repeat.

Need help? Ask for it.

Thomas Wieberneit

Thomas helps organisations of different industries and sizes to unlock their potential through digital transformation initiatives using a Think Big - Act Small approach. He is a long standing CRM practitioner, covering sales, marketing, service, collaboration, customer engagement and -experience. Coming from the technology side Thomas has the ability to translate business needs into technology solutions that add value. In his successful leadership positions and consulting engagements he has initiated, designed and implemented transformational change and delivered mission critical systems.


  1. It’s human to compete. A personality attribute that can great for sales.

    A more sophisticated skill is cooperation. Knowing when to compete and when best to support the members of your own team.

  2. Hi Warren, sorry for the late reply. Yes, it is human to compete, but should marketing and sales compete?


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