4 min.
Whose job is lead generation, sales or marketing?
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Whose job is lead generation, sales or marketing?

Business Strategy

To ensure growth, all companies must develop an effective strategy and customer acquisition tactics. But is it the sales team or the marketing team that is responsible for translating these investments into concrete results?

According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, organizations whose sales and marketing teams are well aligned achieve an annual growth rate of 20 percent of their revenue. Sound interesting? Have you heard about smarketing yet?

Smarketing (“sales”  + “marketing”) is a process involving the alignment of sales and marketing teams on common goals within a company or organization with the aim of improving business performance.

This means that generating leads is the responsibility of BOTH marketing and sales. Yet why is collaboration between these two teams so hard to achieve?


Competition between sales and marketing departments

This is not a new problem. At many companies, these two departments function within silos despite the fact that their final objective is the same: increasing the company’s revenue.

(Psst – you can download our Sales-Marketing SLA right here!)


Main sources of conflict

The first question to ask is why it might be hard to unite the sales and marketing teams around a common goal. Let’s explore the five main sources of conflict that affect the relationship between these two teams:

  1. Mistaken perception of marketing’s role
  2. Responsibility for leads
  3. Communication: terminology and frequency
  4. Updating of CRM data
  5. Performance reports


1.    Mistaken perception of marketing’s role

The sales team often sees marketing purely as support that allows them to achieve their revenue-related goals. That support includes the creation and management of:

  • promotional material;
  • presentations (PowerPoint);
  • brochures;
  • events;
  • campaigns;

These teams all too often forget that marketing can play a more central role in order to generate even more revenue for the company, thereby contributing to sales objectives.

While some channels can produce immediate results (digital media), others such as content marketing (SEO, content strategy, social networks) require some time before returning concrete results, yet nevertheless can generate a lot more profit in the long term.

Note that successful execution of this type of campaign requires a deep understanding of the user (notably defining profiles, the user journey, analytics and the customer experience), which involves performing research in advance in order to execute pertinent campaigns with positive ROI.

For some companies, it’s hard to convince management to invest in activities that don’t produce quick results, but which are essential to business growth.

People often tend to think in terms of a funnel (TOFU or top of funnel, MOFU or middle of funnel and BOFU or bottom of funnel), however you need to occasionally step back from this idea and understand that marketing can help in a variety of ways, and not just by putting together a presentation using the brand’s colours or launching a campaign on Google Ads.

Marketing also plays a central role in the way a company communicates its products or services. From its positioning to its lexical field, marketing is a great ally in order to promote consistency in the sales process. This facilitates the transfer of knowledge and the hiring of new employees.  

Marketing can also help move service sales from low to high margins by positioning them in the market, penetrate new industries or geographic segments, optimize customer lifetime net worth, support struggling territories, or increase average transaction value. In short, marketing is not just about attracting customers, but about supporting sales by increasing the value of each transaction.


2.    Responsibility for leads

Marketing must also think in terms of a pipeline, since marketing and sales too often think they have different goals instead of a common, overall goal.

Thus, instead of collaborating, we often see teams drifting apart because they’re not motivated by the same results and have different expectations.

This source of conflict is related to lead generation. The sales department always wants more leads, while marketing sometimes struggles to respond to their expectations.

Typical scenarios:

Sales: “It’s hard to achieve our quarterly quotas because marketing either doesn’t give us enough leads or the leads are not really qualified. If the person simply came to one of our events and downloaded a white paper, that doesn’t make her a qualified lead, so it’s a waste of time.”

Marketing: “The sales team always wants more leads, but it’s important to target our profiles and wait until they’re further along on their customer journey to be qualified and then transferred to the representatives. We need more time to be able to provide quality leads.

“Furthermore, follow-ups are effected much too late because the reps are always busy, on the road, in a meeting or working on offers, which reduces the chances of their being converted.”

To avoid talking past one another, you need to take time to understand the other side, their expectations and their goals.

You need to specify processes, define your terms (what exactly is a qualified lead?) and identify problems to ensure the entire team shares the same understanding.


3.    Communication: Terminology and frequency

In order to generate more qualified leads and increase the company’s revenue, sales and marketing must speak the same language and communicate regularly to create a feedback loop so that marketing can adjust its initiatives and improve its performance.

To speak the same language, sales and marketing must understand:

  • Customer profiles and journeys: Given that the sales department is sitting on a gold mine of information on the subject of profiles and customer journeys, this knowledge needs to be put to use in marketing campaigns. Marketing also has information about customer behaviour that the sales team can use in its canvassing or follow-ups.
  • SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) objectives to be achieved: Every team thinks they have SMART objectives. But sometimes those objectives are not realistic and need to be scaled down, or they could be based in vanity metrics and aren’t relevant for achieving your goals (number of site visits, email open rate, etc.).
  • The SLA (service-level agreement) that provides definitions for contacts, leads, MQLs (marketing qualified lead), SQLs (sales qualified lead), opportunities: When sales defines what a qualified lead is, it could be the case that this lead is considered differently by marketing, therefore it’s important for both teams to be on the same page and ensure they’re talking about the same thing.
  • Qualified lead = Lead that produces a direct request OR Qualified lead = Job title, industry and region corresponding to the targeted profile? OR both?

In more specific terms, this also means understanding:

  • the length of your sales cycle;
  • the average time spent in each section of the funnel;
  • the steps where leads stagnate;
  • sources that will move transactions forward the fastest;
  • the time necessary to move from lead to MQL, from MQL to SQL and from SQL to opportunity;

Your answers to these questions will enable marketing to effectively help the sales team and develop strategies that will generate positive results.

Effective communication between the two teams also helps to reduce downtime in the long run and to qualify leads during peak periods. This helps the company reduce the seasonality of the sales cycle and improves resource planning.


4.    Updating of CRM data

Updating data is one of the major collaboration issues between marketing and sales. The problem is that marketing transfers leads to sales using CRM, but this is followed by a drop in communication: Sales doesn’t take the time to update the information on these leads.

Have you ever followed-up with a vendor and received a response like

The lead isn’t ready, we have to recontact him in three months, I’ve added a reminder to my calendar and I’ll update the info as soon as I come back from the trade show.

… and then in the end the information in the CRM is never updated?

While the sales team works really hard, sometimes they don’t have time to update contact info in the CRM or don’t want to take on that responsibility.

However, marketing needs to know the lead status and related information in order to know if it is qualified or not, to activate nurturing campaigns for example, but also in order to understand where to invest their marketing budget to optimize their ROI. If the lead isn’t ready, that’s the time to adjust the lead scoring model so that other leads transferred in the future are more qualified.

With sales, it’s possible to see the effect of your work instantly. With marketing, it can be hard to know which marketing initiatives led someone to purchase. That’s where feedback from sales becomes important.

CRM attribution data

Attribution of marketing initiatives is a complex task, which is why it’s important to update the CRM and enter data in order to understand the user journey and the event that precipitated the action, initial contact or purchase—in short, the conversion.

For example, a lead attends an evening cocktail and meets with a representative. Six months later, he finally takes the leap and signs a contract. However, it could happen that before attending the event, the client might have seen a video by your company on social networks, visited your blog and saw retargeting ads that enabled him to keep your company in mind, then engaged in a discussion with the representative during the cocktail.

If these sources are mentioned during conversations with representatives, they must be included in the CRM in order to focus on certain campaigns over others and allocate the budget intelligently. It’s easy to give credit to sales representatives for concluding this transaction during the cocktail, but between you and me, single-touch attribution is very rare.

The CRM will become a powerful lead qualification tool. This will not only help marketing to optimize their acquisition offensives, but also sales to waste less time with less qualified leads. The more information sales integrates into the CRM, the more salespeople will be able to approach qualified areas or participate in profitable events. So it’s not a waste of time, but a way to maximize conversion efforts. 

Read: What Is Attribution? The Shoe Store Example


5.  Performance reports

Closed loop reports

To be able to follow up on leads, avoid duplicate follow-ups, gather data on leads and allocate your budget in the right places, it’s important to establish a closed loop reporting system.

Use a dashboard to evaluate your team’s progress on the established objectives. Share them with the sales and marketing teams by email regularly. This is a good way to stay on target and react quickly if results aren’t up to snuff.

Marketing must provide sales with data on the lead, its source and actions taken before being transferred to sales.

On the other hand, sales must share their subsequent conversations to give marketing all the information necessary on lead status, degree of qualification, interests, barriers and any other data that might affect marketing programs and help them identify the highest performing initiatives. This will allow them to prioritize leads so that the sales team can complete sales.

This way, credit can be attributed to the right sources and the impact of marketing campaigns on ROI can be measured so that the more relevant channels can be prioritized.

Monthly reports

You can create a monthly report for marketing and another for sales, then combine the two to create monthly reports providing detailed information on the strategies of both marketing and sales and their results. Share these with the entire company to ensure your activities and their effects on the organization are transparent.


Smarketing: How to get started

You can start off with monthly smarketing meetings to discuss:

  • what works;
  • what needs to be improved;
  • how to solve problems; and
  • the details of phone conversations.

Do brainstorming sessions, and above all don’t forget to assign tasks to be completed to the sales and marketing teams to avoid their falling off the radar. This kind of teamwork enables you to better understand the role and objectives of each team in order to progress together in the same direction and avoid pointless conflict.

And, most importantly, make sure you have quantifiable and achievable goals. There’s nothing like clear, precise numbers to convince different teams to work together.


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If you have any other questions or would like to get some support, don’t hesitate to contact us. A member of our team will be happy to answer your questions.