EXPERT ADVICE

Sales and Marketing Alignment: One Lead, One View, One Result

“We need more leads!” cries the sales manager. “What happened to the ones we gave you last month?” replies the marketing manager. “Those leads were lousy” retorts the increasingly frustrated sales manager… and so goes the never-ending lead “quality vs. quantity” debate in many organizations.

New research suggests that this stereotypical back and forth may become a thing of the past as smart organizations align the goals of the sales and marketing teams around common measures of success.

Past Aberdeen research revealed that 56 percent of Best in Class (BIC) companies and 62 percent of Laggards consider the alignment between marketing and sales a target for improvement.

Marketing and sales alignment is also a significant dynamic in implementing new technology. In the recent Success Strategies in Marketing Automation benchmark report, 63 percent of companies ranked sales and marketing alignment as a top two challenge to deploying marketing automation solutions.

The pressure to improve return on marketing investments and increase revenue are driving BIC companies to devote resources to aligning sales and marketing in the hopes of improving both the quality and quantity of leads entering the sales pipeline.

Benchmarking the Best in Class

Last month, Aberdeen surveyed over 617 companies to identify the strategies, capabilities and enablers that Best in Class companies use to improve demand generation practices. The research reveals that leading companies have implemented a foundational structure of organizational capabilities to support demand generation and lead management processes.

Rapidly changing markets and an increasingly educated customer base require marketing and sales to work together to reduce the cost of sale and the length of the sales cycle. Marketing and sales alignment is complicated by differing definitions of the same terms, disparate compensation objectives and separate data stores of similar information.

In this study, Aberdeen used four key performance criteria to distinguish BIC companies, including:

  1. 98 percent reported year/year improvement in the lead-to-sales conversion rate.
  2. 96 percent reported year/year improvement in the lead qualification rate.
  3. 89 percent reported year/year improvement to lead response time.
  4. 98 percent reported year/year improvement to lead-to-sales revenue.

Survey results show that the firms enjoying BIC performance shared several common key process, performance and organizational capabilities. Eight out of 10 of BIC organizations have put goals, objectives incentives to specifically align the sales and marketing functions.

Specifically, 79 percent of BIC organizations have processes in place to pass leads back from sales to marketing for further nurturing. The majority (67 percent) of the BIC have implemented a centralized archive to track and monitor performance over time.

Roadmap to Success

There are several initial steps that companies can take to achieve the same success as the study’s BIC:

  • Measure Lead Generation Effectiveness. BIC are planning on instilling an organizational focus on lead generation metrics and measurement. Ninety-seven percent of Laggards don’t measure lead to sales conversion rates (vs. 100 percent of BIC and 89 percent of Industry Average who measure this metric).
  • Implement a Lead Management Solution. Only 25 percent of Laggards are using lead management solutions. Sixty-eight percent of BIC saw over 25 percent improvement in their lead to sale conversion rate after implementing a lead management solution. Forty-three percent improved their lead response time by over 50 percent after implementing lead management technologies.
  • The marketing department should qualify leads before passing them on to sales. Eighty-six percent of BIC marketing departments qualify leads before passing them on to sales. Both Laggards and Industry Average organizations need to stop “tossing leads over the wall and hoping sales will close them.”

Click here to participate in upcoming research on sales and marketing alignment. The Aberdeen Demand Generation study is available to download for free for a limited time.


Andrew Boyd is senior vice president and research director for the Aberdeen Group, where he is responsible for the customer management practice. Currently, his team’s research agenda focuses on customer-centric business models, the optimization of market-to-order processes and understanding the online customer experience. He can be reached at [email protected].

Ian Michiels is a senior research analyst at the Aberdeen Group. Michiels covers customer intelligence and marketing management under the sales and marketing practice. His current research agenda focuses on demand generation, closed-loop marketing, CRM and marketing automation. He can be reached at [email protected].


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