It can be easy for sales and marketing leaders to stay in their own self-centered bubble. But in order to build a constructive relationship between sales and marketing, it’s important to understand the challenges your counterpart across the aisle is struggling with.

At our recent sales and marketing alignment meetup, we asked our panelists to share their perspective on their biggest challenges in working with their counterparts and how they’re overcoming them.

Marketing Needs a Level of Data Accuracy The Sales Team Doesn’t Always Provide

The sales team tallies up their results at the end of the quarter. The marketing team, on the other hand, is measuring the success of their marketing activities all the time. There’s constant scrutiny on marketing’s budget spend, and their contribution to the sales pipeline.

“You need to be frank and honest if a campaign is working or not working, but you also have to show that you gave these leads a fair shot,” said Jason Dorfman, Inside Sales, Rubrik. “One of the things that drives SDR managers crazy is if they are not actually tracking. Like, if an SDR is not tracking their cadence. They’re saying ‘Oh yeah, I called him eight times but I just didn’t log it.’ But [the CRM] says you only contacted him twice.”

When the sales team isn’t accurately tracking the follow-up, Dorfman noted, marketing doesn’t have an accurate picture of what is or is not working. So, when the sales team tells the marketing team a campaign isn’t working, marketing naturally retorts that sales hasn’t followed up with those leads effectively.

Marketing and Sales Share The Struggle of Managing Growth Under Budget Scrutiny

New startups often receive pressure from their venture partners to quickly ramp and attain 100%+ YOY growth. That means bringing in an ever-increasing number of salespeople. This pressure is often the root cause of a significant amount of sales and marketing tension.

“The venture community wants you to grow, grow, grow, right?” said Ryan Ried, VP Sales, Oracle Marketing Cloud. “Which means more and more and more and more sales headcount. So you bring on more and more and more reps. Early on you set that expectation that marketing is going to provide for 50% of the leads…and that just becomes increasingly more difficult. Typically their budget’s not going to change a whole lot, but they’ve got a whole lot more mouths to feed.”

This challenge unfortunately only increases as the company grows, Ried noted. On the sales side, the budget spend is more tangible. The leadership team can see the salespeople and measure them against the quota. But most organizations lack the right infrastructure—the single source of truth—to have accurate marketing attribution on leads. Too often, you see salespeople claiming marketing-generated as their own. This, in turn, sows animosity between the two teams.

Create a More Effective Lead Flow By Collaborating on Defining KPIs, Providing Visibility to Results

When joining a new organization, it’s important for the head of marketing to talk to the head of sales and agree upon the qualities of the ideal lead. What are the minimum qualifications for a lead? If you don’t establish a common set of KPIs out of the gate, it’s impossible to have sales and marketing alignment.

“Initially, what we did is we created the concept of an MQO (Marketing Qualified Opportunity),” said Jenny Coupe, Sr. Director, Americas Marketing, Akamai. “What is a true MQO? We had an MQO1, 2, 3. It was very basic, but, out of the gate we established a common set of lead qualification criteria and more importantly, a common set of KPIs.”

Coupe’s team didn’t stop there, however. Her team meets with sales weekly and goes through a dashboard that gives sales visibility into the current campaigns marketing is running, what’s going into the pipeline and where it’s from, and what’s converting.

“Once you put some science behind it and get that common set of KPI’s, there’s nowhere to hide,” said Coupe. “Nowhere to hide for [sales] because they’ve got to be accountable for moving leads through the stages. And nowhere to hide for marketing because we’ve got to deliver a certain amount of closed won leads—not just pipeline.”

If you enjoyed this post, check out the first installment in our six-part The New Sales and Marketing Engagement series.

TRANSCRIPT:

Ryan Ried, VP Sales, Oracle Marketing Cloud
Jenny Coupe, Sr. Director, Americas Marketing, Akamai
Jason Dorfman, Inside Sales, Rubrik

Ryan: I think right now, or I should say in prior roles, it’s been … Sales organizations, especially in smaller companies, the venture community wants you to grow, grow, grow, grow, grow. Right? Which means more and more and more and more sales. So you bring on more and more and more reps. Now you have more and more mouths to feed. So, you set that expectation that marketing is going to provide for 50% of the leads, or 35%, or whatever it may be and that just becomes increasingly more difficult because the requirement … I mean, typically their budget’s not going to change a whole lot, or as much, but they got a whole lot more mouths to feed. I think that’s their biggest challenge as the company grows. Every time you go into a staff meeting or something like that, my friend Alex has been in with me, they sit there and they talk about marketing and how much money they’re spending and you’re constantly getting grilled on sales/marketing being the biggest expenditure inside the company, yet they constantly want you to grow. Sometimes you gotta spend a little money to grow, but you have to do it responsibly. That becomes a real challenge.

On the sales side it’s a little bit more tangible, right? You can see reps. You can measure them against the quota. It’s black and white. They either sold it or they didn’t. Right? Marketing it’s a little bit, touching on what Jason said, where did the lead come from? Every rep is going to claim every lead they ever got came from them, I guarantee you. Right? They’re not going to want to give any credit, so you do have to find that source of the truth. Sometimes that can be challenging. So, that’s my thought.

Jason: So the question really was, “What’s the challenge for your counterpart?” You’re meaning all of marketing?

Oleg: No. What kind of challenge are you seeing from your counterpart’s side right now, and how you’re coping with it.

Jason: I think they definitely want continuous feedback. They want to know which marketing campaigns are yielding what kind of results, because we know marketing is typically spending a lot of money. A lot more than sales development. A lot more than other departments, and they have to justify that and sometimes you have a direct hard number. You know, we ran this Google ad campaigns and we got this back, but sometimes you get a celebrity that comes to your booth and how do you quantify that? Maybe that was a good thing for your brand image. Maybe that’s paying out over the long term.

I think on one hand you need to be frank and honest if a campaign is working or not working, but you also have to show that you gave these leads a fair shot. I think one of the things that drives SDR managers crazy is if they are not actually tracking … Like, if an SDR is not tracking their cadence. They’re going, “Oh yeah, I called him eight times but I just didn’t log it.” Well, they’re going, “Okay, well it says it’s open; it says you only contacted it twice.” So now you don’t have a compelling argument when you go to marketing to say, “Actually, this campaign didn’t work, we should try something different.” They’re going to say, “You haven’t followed up with those leads effectively.”

I think that’s something that they struggle with, and as sales leaders, we’re focused on a million other things. We’re trying to recruit. We’re trying to motivate our team. So we’re not always thinking about that, but you have to do that to kind of help out your counterparts, marketing.

Jenny: Yeah, I always get the question of, “We don’t know what you’re doing; we don’t know what’s working and what’s not working, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. Tell us what campaigns are coming. What can we expect.”
One of the biggest problems I saw going in was, when I joined my last company, all leads came in as marketing qualified. It’s like, “Really? Even that student in India?”, all due respect India. It’s like, “Really?”

First thing I did was we agreed on, what are the different qualities or, I should say, qualifications for a lead? What is a lead? If you don’t establish a common set of KPIs out of the gate, you’re constantly going to be out of alignment, right? You’re going to be measuring this. Sales is going to be measuring this. So, initially what we did is we created the concept of an MQO. What is a true MQO? We had an MQO1, 2, 3. It was very basic, but out of the gate we established common set of lead qualification criteria and more importantly, a common set of KPIs.

So, sitting in a room every Thursday at nine o’clock, literally, for an hour and looking at a Salesforce dashboard that says, “These are the campaigns we are running. This is what’s going pipeline. This is where the leads are coming from. This is what’s actually converting.” We know they should have that visibility with them, and having that accountability, I think sales thinks that we think sales just kinda goes and plays golf and goes to these cool social events. I think they think that’s what marketing does. Right?

So, you’ve got this healthy skepticism around, “I know we need you, but I’m not really sure what you do.” At the end of the day, I think, once you kinda put some science behind it and get that common set of KPI’s there’s kinda nowhere to hide. Nowhere to hide for them because they’ve got to be accountable for moving those throughout the stages, and nowhere to hide for marketing because we’ve got to deliver a certain, not just lead number but for the last five years, I don’t have to deliver just pipeline, I got to deliver closed one revenue. It’s got to be at least 40-50%. I better be able to show that in a report or a dashboard.