Align Sales and Marketing with Trust

By Drift

Why can’t sales and marketing just get along?

As the two teams most responsible for revenue, sales and marketing are the backbone of any for-profit organization. With that great responsibility, often comes great stress. And that stress can often lead to unproductive bickering between marketing and sales. Seeing thousands of companies, across various demographics (industry, employee size, revenue bands, etc), at LeadMD, we’ve solutioned for every issue between marketing and sales departments. In this blog post, we’ll cover the four most common points of contention and the solutions our clients employ to resolve them.

We think about the four top sales and marketing points of contention with the acronym LCCD: Lead, Content, Credit, and Data. We’ll look at each area from the lens of the symptoms (the things people say) and then translate them into a true diagnosis. As you probably already know, the way misalignment manifests itself is rarely as simple as what people perceive the issue to be first-hand.

How to Align on Leads

The Symptoms: What sales and marketing will say?

Sales says, “Marketing’s leads suck.”

Marketing says, “Sales isn’t doing their job. They’re lazy jerks!”

The Diagnosis:

Not enough consistent buy-in on definitions and activity performed.


That’s a simple sentence, but let’s unpack it a bit. “Not enough consistent buy-in”. Consistent is the word to focus on here (hence the italics). Most organizations we engage with have had the conversation about lifecycle stage definitions. Most organizations using marketing automation (MA) technologies like Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot, or Salesforce Marketing Cloud host a sales and marketing alignment session during the MA implementation where they sit down and define these things. The Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) definition, for example, is a common point of consensus. Everyone agrees that MQLs will be created from a combination of demographic attributes and their behavior. That sounds fine, and the threshold is determined, say 100 points.

But what commonly happens over time is that behaviors start to outperform demographics. Within the month sales is inundated with MQLs that are very low-level people performing a lot of website and email activities. Of course, sales becomes disappointed, as they envisioned executive MQLs. And we know, we all agreed, but here’s the thing… without consistent check-ins, feedback and adjustments, what once was agreement becomes misalignment fairly quickly.

The Solution:

Commit to reviewing timelines.


Yes, define terms and agree to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Definitely do those things! But, where the rubber meets the road is truly in all the review meetings after launch. Ask questions in those review meetings like:

  1. How many MQLs were passed from marketing to sales during x-timeframe?
  2. What percentage of those MQLs are acceptable to sales?
    1. Why? Specifically?
      For example: Is sales unwilling to accept these MQLs because the job title is poor (sorry coordinators and specialists)? Typically, that feedback is actually less about the quality of the lead and more about the action expected from sales for follow-up. Perhaps a phone call to that person truly doesn’t make sense or is a waste of time. The team has essentially three options with feedback like this: 1) Agree with the sales rep and bolster the amount of activity these job titles must do to qualify or remove their ability to qualify altogether 2) Tell the reps we need x-timeframe worth of data to prove their theory of “junk” qualification and need their help working these leads to validate or 3) Ideate a touchpoint that makes more sense. Perhaps sending them a quiz to explore their purchasing or gatekeeping authority would be a better next step?
  3. What’s the average timeframe sales responds to MQLs? According to lead response time research if you’re not responding within five minutes, that alone risks the sales. It’s a noisy world, people forget their actions or get distracted, time is of the utmost importance.
  4. Of the other sales accepted leads the team is working, what are their common traits? This will expose where the scoring model may have missed an opportunity to bubble better leads to the surface.

How to Align on Content

The Symptoms: What sales and marketing will say?

Sales says, “Marketing’s content sucks.”

Marketing says, “Sales isn’t using our content correctly, or at all.”

The Diagnosis:

Marketing is producing content for an unproductive stage in the funnel


Marketers are creative people and sometimes that creativity leads down a path slightly (or broadly) removed from practicality. Salespeople are painfully practical people; they must make their number to keep their job. Seasoned salespeople simply do not care about anything that doesn’t lead them to a sale and that includes, often, very top of funnel content.

To illustrate this point, take a look at some research from Sirius Decisions:

As you can see in the callout, winning reps on average use content 22% more often. But, beyond that, look at the types of content used in various stages of the buying process and how it affects the sale. For example, you’ll see that the effectiveness of vendor thought leadership declines in the selection vs. the education stage.

The Solution:

Involve sales in content ideation and invest in technology.


The ideation process for creating content sales will actually use is absolutely critical. They don’t necessarily need to participate in its creation or editing (though that’d be great!), but understanding what assets they need to get deals done is the main takeaway you need. From our experience, these types of assets are completely different than what marketing has in mind. For example, sales might see that their deals stall when they get to procurement and ideate a piece from your CFO about the areas of a contract to pay the closest attention to in order to go quickly through procurement. How many marketers would come up with that idea?! Not many, we wager.

With that said, don’t involve everyone in sales or you’re likely to get a laundry list of assets no marketing team has the capacity to deliver. If you do this, you risk leaving sales frustrated that their request never comes to fruition. Instead, create a content ideation task force. They can collect ideas from the sales team and rank them in order of importance and then marketing can work with that team to identify which pieces to focus on, plus timelines and resources.

Lastly, you’ll find that most of our recommendations aim to scale with technology, but when it comes to content, we’ve really seen technology as a core element of content success. Leveraging a tool like Seismic, Showpad, or Uberflip creates a hub to collect relevant content and measure its effectiveness. We’ve witnessed this be a true game-changer for content development and optimization.

How to Align on Credit – Or Get Rid of It Altogether

The Symptoms: What sales and marketing will say?

Sales says, “Why is marketing taking credit for creating this opportunity? Without me, the deal would’ve never closed!”

Marketing says, “If marketing hadn’t invested in this tactic, sales wouldn’t have a lead TO close!”

The Diagnosis:

Lack of education, shared metrics, and compensation conflicts.


The value equation in sales is fairly simple: did this person make their number? If a rep meets quota, the business is very unlikely to lose money on that person. Marketing is a completely different beast. It is very possible for an organization to pay marketers and invest in marketing and have no results. That is possible and does happen. The results marketing therefore must show mean it’s marketing’s job to educate the sales team and larger organization on marketing’s role and how it measures success.

That leads us into shared metrics. Many organizations measure marketing on sourced or influenced opportunities. These marketing attribution and ROI models quickly devolve into a complex series of options, which, if you want to explore, you can here.

But ultimately, this is at the crux of the issue. If sales is compensated on the creation of leads, as defined by the lead source, and marketing is compensated (or judged successful) by the same metrics, the business has unwittingly created a huge conflict of interest. And in that conflict’s wake, duplicates will run rampant. Arguments will soon follow those duplicates, as sales closes “their” opportunities to meet their goals, while marketing is left to whine that sales created a duplicate and that really “their” lead should’ve had the opportunity created.

You can imagine the immense amount of wasted time such dialogue at any level creates in organizations.

The Solution:

Compensation come-to-Jesus and education.


If you’re in marketing, we understand having an opinion on sales comp may be uncomfortable. But, here’s your call-to-arms, it must be done. Take your sales leadership out to coffee or happy hour and have a chat about it. Part of that real-talk exchange should also be your education around the effects of the poor practices on the business as a whole. Be sure to reiterate that the reason marketing cares which records they source and influence is to focus more of your budget on what gets sales more of those types of people and accounts. You can also lean on these tips to effectively influence change in your organization.

Pro tip: Be ready to be really open to their feedback. If they say they’d like to see more of some specific tactic you simply don’t believe in, be ready to foster a negotiation.

Also, remove “credit” from your vocabulary. It’s a word that creates tension on its own, like the word “blame.”  It’s just not necessary to use it in conversations of which marketing programs saw a positive return and therefore you’ll invest more in to give sales more at-bats and deals.

One last tip here, as you have meetings around marketing sourced/influenced results, maintain a very explicit and purposeful attendee list, one where everyone’s on the same page and bought into the objective at hand: determining what’s working to get sales more meetings and closed-won deals.

How to Align on Data

The Symptoms: What sales and marketing will say?

Sales says, “I don’t have time to manage all this data. I need to sell.”

Marketing says, “Sales is SO lazy. We’re asking them to do, like, two things!”

The Diagnosis:

Data governance and workflows need definition and streamlining


Let’s again take a look at SiriusDecision’s 2018 Sales Talent Study. In this snapshot, high performers explain how much of their time is absorbed by “CRM input” – AKA data entry. The desired amount is 7%, while the actual amount is closer to 40%. What does that mean? We are asking salespeople to manage too much CRM data. Of course some element of their role should be creating data and communicating organizationally where deals are, but have we gone overboard?


The Solution:

Rework processes and leverage automation.


To rework the process, get out the ole stopwatch and literally time a selection of reps on common tasks. How long does it take to:

  • Create an opportunity?
  • Create an account plan?
  • Fill out the buying committee on an opportunity?
  • Log a task?
  • Add them to a marketing campaign?

Once you see these things real-time, you can identify things like:

  • Time-saving tricks certain reps are using and train those who aren’t
  • Issues in the CRM setup
  • Unnecessary data points to eliminate altogether
  • Areas for automation

Common areas for automation revolve around data providers like DiscoverOrg. If you employ their integration with Salesforce, for example, once a rep puts in an email address or company name, they can click a button and grab other details from the DiscoverOrg record. That saves time manually inputting common and time-intensive demographics, like phone, address, etc.

Lastly on the data point, be sure to leverage automation, like Siftrock, now a Drift company, to help automate things like auto-responders.

In Conclusion: Sales and Marketing Alignment

You’ll notice that most of our recommendations revolve around trust and open communication between sales and marketing. That’s because most of what marketing and salespeople say really hides the underlying nuanced challenge. But, with the right commitment and people, these are merely opportunities to excel at something your competition is likely struggling with too!

Want more content like this? We’re hosting a live session with LeadMD where we’ll unveil a brand new approach for empowering the buyer while generating demand by creating hyper-personalized buying experiences for your future customers. Save your spot here.

Andrea Lechner-Becker, CMO, and Josh Wagner, Account Executive, have worked side-by-side as marketing and sales leaders at LeadMD, a revenue performance consultancy focused on impacting their client’s bottom lines through sales and marketing efforts. LeadMD prides itself on collaborating with clients to impact measurable outcomes that align with organization-wide objectives for growth.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Drift Partner LeadMD. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at