In business, some amount of friction is inevitable. Sales is tasked with putting more work into the operations side of the business. Operations wants enough of said work to be efficient but not so much that quality suffers. It’s a balance, and like all things requiring balance, inevitably there’s a natural tension.

But in other cases, tension is created where it doesn’t need to be. I’m speaking here about the friction that often exists between marketing and sales, particularly when they’re set up as separate, distinct divisions.

In many organizations, the marketing department is responsible for generating leads and providing them to the sales department. At the point of hand-off between the two, marketing has created a marketing qualified lead, or MQL. Sales vets the opportunity and decides whether or not the prospect is in fact a potential customer/ sales qualified lead, or SQL.

What often happens is that marketers focus on providing a high volume of MQLs to meet their quotas, ignoring lead quality, causing sales to push back citing the minimal number of actual SQLs. This creates an opportunity for blame to be pushed elsewhere and prevents the team from identifying their aligned goals.

If you’re a VP of Sales and Marketing you’ve already learned that any walls between the two departments rarely make sense. But if you’re a part of an organization that has yet to merge, I’d like to make the argument that they should. Here’s what in it for both sides:

Marketers get a seat at the table

In organizations where marketing and sales are not united, the marketing department is generally seen as an expense — or worse, non-essential. A false narrative begins to percolate that many, if not most, sales would happen regardless of marketing spend. And when sales fall or the economy turns, this is how marketers become marginalized. On the flip side, when the marketing department becomes an extension of the sales department, they are looked at to be the solution to downturns. The rationale for marketing now moves from “spending more” to “spending because.”

Sales gets to choose their battles

Years ago when interviewing a prospective sales representative, I asked him for his thoughts on the relationship between marketing and sales. He told me he thought of marketing as the Marines. After all, Marines land first. Once the shoreline is secured, the infantry (sales in this case) can then invade.

While one of the more entertaining responses I’ve received to that question, I feel his answer missed the point. By waiting for the Marines to do their job, chose not to participate in the planning of the attack in the first place. In short, his success would always be predicated by their success.

When sales gets involved with the strategy building process, the two teams can create a plan of attack that keeps better qualified leads consistently coming into your funnel. Gone are the days of having lengthy sales calls trying to convince fringe leads that they need your product. Your representatives can now focus on selling interested leads on multiple, full-service packages.

The metric that really matters

To be clear, at WTM Digital, we do track MQLs and SQLs, but we don’t view MQLs as being owned by marketing and SQLs belonging to sales. The MQLs and SQLs are merely indicators along the way that help to inform our decisions.

A lack of MQLs might mean we need to increase marketing investment. A surplus of SQLs could indicate that marketing has found an itch that our ideal customers are interested in scratching. But in the end, both departments share the responsibility to grow revenue.

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