The Bridges Strategies Blog

Play by Play: Identifying the Pitfall Between Your Sales and Marketing Teams


Asking "Do I need to work on my marketing or sales?" is like asking "Do I need offense or defense?" It doesn't matter which sport you choose, any fan will tell you that they're interdependent and you need more context to answer the question. 

In this blog post, we'll guide you through the relationship between marketing and sales and explain how you can determine which you're more in need of. 

The Gameplan: A basic agreement between your defense and your offense... Or Your sales & Marketing

The Marketing team plans and executes a campaign with the purpose of identifying potential active buyers (aka lead generation). Sales professionals work with these potential active buyers, helping them through the buyer's journey. Each team on its own is incomplete and needs the help of its counterpart to first identify a potential active buyer and then help her become a customer. 

Win from Within... Until You're Not Winning 

It's all fun and games until sales are down. Then, the two teams are quick to blame each other for the poor performance. According to this Harvard Business Review article, each team gets entrenched in its own view: 

"Sales-marketing tension can also stem from the co-dependence of the sales and marketing teams. Especially when things don’t go well, situations can quickly turn to finger-pointing. Marketing says 'We worked hard and generated good leads for sales, but they didn’t follow up.' Sales says, 'Marketing’s leads aren’t worth my time; the last lead they gave us was for a business that shut down two years ago.'"

What's worse is that it's possible for both teams to be correct and thus, be completely confident in their blaming of the other. 

Establish a line of Information sharing and interdependence 

The best way to overcome this problem is to transparently share information across departments and get both teams to understand their dependence on each other. 

The first pitfall often seen in any organization is the lack of a game plan, more frequently known as a service level agreement or SLA.

It's extremely important that your organization has a basic agreement between Sales and Marketing. The most basic SLA goes something like this: Marketing promises to deliver X number of leads and Sales promises to use a defined and deliberate sales process with every one; at the end of every week (or month) Sales will report to Marketing the progress on each of these leads, completing the reporting loop. 

This Forbes article explains how this brings the teams closer together and makes them more understanding of the challenges at hand: 

"This allows the marketing team to understand the challenges and needs of the sales team and have those needs communicated in a way that the marketing team can help alleviate them. They’ve also established set times for reporting and discussing the current status of both the marketing activities and the sales activities."

This is typically the resolution for poor performance. 

Reading the Defense

Let's get back to the initial question and see if there are ways to tell if a specific team is at fault. 

Signs You Need More From Your Marketing Team

A Marketing team is responsible for establishing a brand, creating content, and generating leads.

If your sales representatives have no leads to work with, then you have to look at your marketing campaign. It's possible that they're targeting the wrong users or simply falling behind on their schedule. 

Additionally, if your sales team is struggling to close leads, this may be a reason to look to your Marketing team as well. In our post-internet world, buyers do their research before making a purchase. It's extremely important to have all of the information a buyer needs to make a decision readily and easily available online. 

Online content should be customer-focused, using buyer persona data and position in the buyer's journey as a guide. 

Signs You Need More From Your Sales Team

On the other hand, if the Marketing team is generating ample leads, but the sales representatives aren't using a definted and deliberate sales process to nurture those leads, then it's a clear sign that there is problem in the Sales department. 

A deliberate sales process, such as inbound sales, will help you diagnose and correct problems in the sales department. 

Signs You Need Better Alignment 

What if the Marketing team is generating lots of leads and the sales representatives are working the sales process, but revenue is still lagging?

The first place to look in this situation is Marketing/Sales alignment. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is there congruity between messaging from Marketing and from Sales? 
  • Do the leads that are coming from Marketing meet our ideal buyer profile?
  • Are we accurately identifying qualifying factors in a good lead? 
  • Is Marketing sending valuable contextual information (like site re-visits and inbound offer redemptions) to Sales and is Sales using that information effectively?

Are you getting the best ROI from your marketing?