In a recent blog post, Dan McDade with PointClear wrote that in “chaotic” organizations, 70%-94% of leads generated by marketing are ignored by sales reps. Dan’s statistic pertains to what he considers to be poorly-performing companies, not average firms. Nevertheless, this statistic seemed to be shockingly high, so I decided to look for other recent research regarding sales follow-up on marketing leads.
- An article at Business2Community by Sherry Lamoreaux contained a reference to a survey by CEB in which 49% of surveyed sales reps said they ignored more than half of all marketing-generated leads.
- The 2013 Lead Management Optimization survey by CSO Insights paints a slightly more positive picture. In this study, 46% of respondents said that sales reps actively pursue at least 75% of marketing-generated leads. Unfortunately, 42.6% of respondents indicated that sales reps actively pursue less than 75% of marketing generated leads.
Even if the CSO Insights study provides the most accurate view, it’s clear that there’s still a significant disconnect between marketing and sales in many companies.
Let me be blunt here. In 2014, successful B2B demand generation requires a coordinated effort by both marketing and sales, and a lack of alignment between marketing and sales is now both intolerable and inexcusable.
Marketing/Sales Misalignment is Intolerable
The lack of marketing/sales alignment is intolerable because it results in waste and significant lost revenue opportunities. As proof, consider the following research findings.
- Companies’ inability to align their marketing and sales teams around the right processes and technologies has cost them upwards of 10% or more of their total annual revenues each year. (IDC)
- Companies with highly aligned marketing and sales functions achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth, while less well-aligned companies saw a 7% decrease in revenues. (Aberdeen Group)
- B2B companies with highly aligned marketing and sales operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth, and 27% faster three-year profit growth. (SiriusDecisions)
Marketing/Sales Misalignment is Inexcusable
The lack of alignment between marketing and sales is inexcusable because the process for creating alignment is well known. The marketing/sales alignment puzzle has four major pieces.
Value Creation – This refers to how you create value for customers. Marketing and sales must be aligned on this issue because it’s the foundation of your entire demand generation system. To create alignment, marketing and sales should agree on your core go-to-market value propositions.
Target Market Definition – This includes both the kinds of organizations that will make your best prospects and the identity of the individuals within those organizations who make or influence the decision to purchase your product or service. If marketing and sales use a common target market definition, there will be fewer disagreements about the quality of leads produced by marketing.
Messaging – This refers to the content you use to tell your story to potential buyers. There is often a huge disconnect between marketing and sales when it comes to messaging. Various studies have shown that between 50% and 90% of the content resources produced by marketing are not used by sales and that sales reps spend hours every month creating their own sales materials. These problems can be avoided if marketing and sales agree on the major components of your company’s messaging.
Lead Management – In this area, alignment means that marketing and sales have agreed on:
- What constitutes a “sales-ready lead”
- How the hand-off of leads by marketing to sales will be handled
- How sales will follow up with leads supplied by marketing
- When leads will be passed by sales back to marketing for additional nurturing
None of these steps is particularly complex or difficult to implement. The only thing preventing better marketing/sales alignment is the unwillingness of marketing and sales leaders to put aside cultural baggage and take the necessary steps. The time for lame excuses is over.