Sales and Marketing Sentiment: Feeling Is Perception Is Reality

About a year ago, I conducted a survey that led to my company’s first-ever Sales & Marketing Sentiment Study. The idea was to get inside the heads of people in sales and marketing and reveal their feelings about the way they worked, the technology they used, and about each other. We split the results into sales and marketing responses (astoundingly, we had exactly one more sales response than marketing response) and compared them.

What we found was revealing. First, the results exploded the stereotypes about the sales and marketing relationship. Sales is supposed to be driven and concerned only about today, while marketing is supposed to be creative and thus flaky. Sales is intense, while marketing is a little more flighty. When it comes to working together, the two sides clash: Marketing hands leads over to sales, who can’t convert many of them and thus concludes marketing is incompetent. Meanwhile, marketing sees sales close few deals and concludes that sales can’t sell. Both sides think the other is the problem, and the cycle continues.

Those stereotypes were not applicable to the people who responded to our survey. The two sides had more empathy for each other than you’d expect, the survey responses revealed, and they were decidedly more thoughtful and self-aware than the stereotypes would suggest. It was clear that the problems were understood by both sides, starting with communication.

Unless both sales and marketing are working from common definitions (what’s a qualified lead?) and common goals (do we want to pass higher numbers of leads or better-qualified leads?), things can get complicated and emotions can run high.

Lead Quantity vs. Quality

To my great surprise and delight, sales and marketing pros understand this dynamic, even if they still fall into its traps, the survey suggested.

Just the same, sales was less satisfied with marketing’s performance than marketing was with sales’ performance, the survey revealed, although most respondents viewed their counterparts’ performance as adequate.

Only about 16 percent of all respondents said their sales and marketing organizations were fully aligned.

Sales and marketing felt like they weren’t getting the tools they needed to succeed, the study indicated. Almost two-thirds of respondents still had all or part of their lead data in systems that were visible only to marketing, meaning that sales lacked full context about the leads they were charged with converting.

One in three respondents said that fewer than a quarter of their sales and marketing processes were automated. Only about 13 percent of the respondents said that three quarters or more of their processes were automated.

Even with automation in place, 29 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with their sales and marketing technology solutions.

Despite technology investments, that classic human bugaboo of adoption continued to raise its head to hamper progress. One in four respondents said that “less than half” or “no one” on their teams had adopted their technology solutions.

Sales saw that deficits in lead quantity and lead quality had about the same effect in hindering sales, while marketing put a much greater emphasis on lead quantity as a key problem.

The evidence is clear: Lead quality makes a huge difference to sales success; excessive lead quantity actually can damage sales’ ability to make its numbers. Yet somehow, many in marketing — and too high a number in sales — have not gotten the message yet and still see quantity as the magic metric.

Perhaps that has something to do with our ability to fully understand sales data. We know how important analyzing data is, but in our sample, one in five respondents said their teams lacked the right talent to analyze the data they collected. In other words, the data was there, but there were no humans capable of turning it into insights and taking advantage of it to improve sales processes. In the big data era, that represents a gaping hole in many companies’ capabilities.

That Was Then

I conducted that survey in late 2014. The question I ask now is this: How have things changed in the intervening year?

Have sales and marketing become better aligned, or are they sliding farther apart? Is the technology our companies invest in allowing us to have greater visibility into customer needs, or is it building new data silos? Has lead quality become the most-valued metric, or are we still trying to shovel lead quantity at the sales problem? Are users gravitating toward technological answers to their problems, or is adoption still limiting ROI for sales and marketing technology?

You can help find the answers, because we’re conducting the survey again, with the same set of questions. If you’re in sales or marketing, your participation would be appreciated enormously. We will then not only be able to share a snapshot of the sales and marketing world as it stands today but also to compare it to last year’s data and see how far we’ve come — or how much we’ve slid backward.

In advance of the actual results, I’ll make some predictions. Sales and marketing technological integration will inch up a bit, but so will dissatisfaction with that technology. Data will remain largely siloed between sales and marketing. The human issues — adoption, opinions about lead quality, and sales and marketing’s opinions of one another — are impossible subjects for an educated guess. I’ll wait until the data’s in to conclude how humans have changed over the last year.

How will it all shake out? The answer is almost literally in your hands. Take the survey here, and check back in January for the results!

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director, content marketing, for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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