The Painfully Persistent B2B Sales and Marketing Divide

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The historical sales and marketing team divide has been getting worse, suggests a B2B report InsideView released this week.

A disconnect between sales and marketing can have a direct impact on companies’ top and bottom lines.

The 995 United States-based sales and marketing professionals who responded to the InsideView survey came from a cross-section of industries throughout the country.

Fifty percent of the respondents were in sales and 40 percent were in marketing, with the remaining 10 percent classified as “other.”

They represented a range of company sizes, from small businesses to large enterprises:

  • 33 percent from companies with fewer than 500 employees
  • 41 percent from companies with 501-4,999 employees
  • 26 percent from companies with 5,000-plus employees

They cited a host of challenges to alignment:

  • Communication issues – 49 percent
  • Broken or flawed processes – 42 percent
  • Different metrics used by sales and marketing – 40 percent
  • Lack of accurate data on target accounts – 39 percent
  • Reporting challenges – 27 percent
  • Lack of common prospects and customer data – 27 percent
  • Lack of accountability on both sides – 26 percent

Communication issues include the way leads are converted, as well as issues that might affect performance and close rates.

Things sales professionals wanted marketing departments to improve:

  • Lead quality – 55 percent
  • Lead quantity – 44 percent
  • Competitive information – 39 percent
  • Brand awareness – 37 percent
  • Lead nurturing – 37 percent

Improvements marketers wanted from sales:

  • Better lead follow-up – 34 percent
  • Consistent use of systems – 32 percent

It’s the People, Not the Tech

Closing the sales-marketing divide has been a long, slow process, “because alignment is hard and is something that needs continuous attention,” noted InsideView CMO Tracy Eiler.

Sales and marketing departments increasingly have been digitizing, and software vendors have been moving toward adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning, she told CRM Buyer, but “it’s not just a software problem. It’s a people, process and technology problem.”

AI and machine learning “will help tremendously, but they’re not a silver bullet. These are just tools in the greater context of a coordinated and aligned go-to-market strategy across marketing and sales,” Eiler remarked.

“The problem lies with siloed departments and lack of communication,” suggested Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

The challenge is data quality, she told CRM Buyer. “If the data quality is poor, then the insights will be wrong.”

Process and Collaboration Issues

“Technology helps with activity tracking, coordination and reporting, but what’s broken is process and communication,” Zhou said.

The lack of defined and workable business processes, specifically those tied directly to the lead funnel, has become a problem because pipeline is key, InsideView noted. Absence of agreement on key factors — such as lead flow, what makes a qualified lead, and the process to examine the pipeline — has led to misalignment.

Foundational conversations about pipeline either have not been happening or have not delivered equal value for both departments, the survey found.

Collaboration is another issue. While 63 percent of sales executives said they did not collaborate with marketing on lead scoring, 57 percent of marketers indicated they met with sales weekly to discuss lead scoring.

“Marketers should take the initiative and include sales in discussions about [target] accounts,” Zhou recommended. “Remember, the goal is the same — to drive revenue.”

Sales and marketing often have different focuses, InsideView found.

Traditional sales focuses:

  • Quota attainment
  • Accounts, titles and names
  • Closing deals
  • Velocity through the sales cycle

Traditional marketing focuses:

  • The top of the lead funnel
  • Segments
  • Campaign metrics
  • Brand awareness

Further, sales people have been incentivized on quota attainment, while marketers have been incentivized on lead volume, InsideView’s Eiler noted.

Successful companies focus on lead quality, and they discuss pipeline twice as frequently as unsuccessful ones. They work on lead scoring together five times as often, and they place an increased priority on database quality and enrichment, the survey found.

Going forward, essential strategies for sales and marketing departments likely will include the adoption of common measurements and consistent communication practices, the report suggests, as well as a stronger focus on lead and data quality and buyer insights.

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