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The argument is as juvenile as it gets: “this is mine, and that is yours…”

What this means in grownup speak is there is a sharp delineation between marketing’s role in driving qualified demand, and sales role in turning those into opportunities closed/won.

As a CEO and former CMO, and after working with more than 50 portfolio companies over the last few years, other than product, it’s the greatest failure point in the company, and the most avoidable.

As a marketing agency whose services align with revenue attainment, we invariably get involved in the tension between the two departments. Here’s a small sample of what we see and hear:

  1. There is no documented definition of a qualified lead or MQL. If there is one, it’s evolving, but changes aren’t documented, and neither is the terminology in the definition itself.
  2. Because there is no agreed upon, documented definition, there is no clear understanding of how many MQLs need to be created.
  3. Now the problem escalates. If you can’t define an MQL then how can you understand the lead qualification perimeters for an SAL? There’s a really obvious metric we look for which tells us, using data, that there is no agreement. In a healthy funnel, the handshake between MQL and SAL is typically very high; 70% to 80% +. Because the rules of engagement are clear between the two departments.
  4. The forecast is also flawed because there is no reliable cost per lead or cost per MQL data. Why, you ask? It’s near impossible to forecast if you don’t know what qualified is, because you can’t properly orchestrate inbound and ABM campaigns without the proper rules of engagement.
  5. Because of the above, lead scoring, if it exists, is also inaccurate, because a qualification score in the marketing CRM system is based on, you guessed it! The definition of a qualified lead.
  6. Lets play devil’s advocate and say you crammed some demand through the funnel to SAL. Next step is SQL or lead qualification. Guess what happens? The SDR gets on the phone with the prospect, and they aren’t qualified. Boom! Now the pain really sets in.
  7. Sales is yelling at marketing for driving unqualified demand and marketing is digging in their heels because there isn’t agreement on what qualified means.
  8. Self preservation kicks in and the war begins. It typically ends in someone losing their job.

So how can this be avoided?

The number 1 problem we see is communication, or lack thereof. I know how simple this sounds, but communication solves everything.

The number 2 problem is ego and self preservation. People are afraid to be wrong and will do almost anything to protect their self interests.

So first and foremost communicate openly, honestly and frequently with minimal bias. The only way to win is if the company wins. Companies don’t win without revenue.

But both marketing and sales teams need to bring their cards to the table and commit to transparency.

Try to keep things simple between sales and marketing. This is especially true with start-up companies.

What do I mean by keeping things simple? Start with simple and clear agreement on what is a qualified lead and the fundamental rules of engagement for lead qualification and funnel progression.

After that, I’d suggest revisiting the definition every quarter. Not every week. Not every two weeks. Not every month. Because if you’re constantly revisiting them, trying to understand them, you never had an agreement in the first place.

Marketing should join the weekly all-hands sales meeting and just listen. What I’m saying is learn to eat crow. Listen to sales complaints, concerns, and wins. Ask what you can do to help. Usually the answer is more qualified leads. No matter how much demand you drive, there is never enough qualified demand to keep all the mouths fed at once. By listening and asking thoughtful questions you will be showing you care and you empathize with how difficult their job really is.

Next are weekly one on ones, for 20 minutes with the heads of marketing and sales. This is your time to ask about what’s working, what’s not, what can be improved, current performance, etc. Never miss this meeting. If traveling, or with a customer, then send a quick email update and reschedule the meeting.

The marketing and sales tech stack will only work for you, if they have consistent clear rules and instrumentation. The tools themselves do nothing. They will not solve your problems. Only communication and aligned goals will be what causes you to get a real shot at meeting and exceeding your targets.

This last one is for the CEO’s. Communication and transparency are learned by example, not by telling. Over communicate, at every turn. Create an environment where employees feel safe to speak their minds and make mistakes. Get your arms arounds them by getting to know what they want from work, and give it to them. Lastly, treat them as individuals who have dreams of their own. In the end everyone wants to do and be admired for great work. We all want the same thing…happiness.

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