Why Marketers Should Listen When Sales Talks Trash: New Research Shows the State of Marketing and Sales Alignment

July 18, 2019 | Kirsten Lyons

Marketing is a very different game than it was five — or even two — years ago. “Content marketing best practices” of the past will leave you in the dust today. That’s why we set out to understand how these radical shifts impact the way marketers do their jobs.

In our research, we surveyed over 800 demand gen marketers about their goals and relationships with their sales teams. We learned that not only are the tactics we use are evolving, but how we keep score has also radically shifted. Research shows that the top priority goals for 68% of marketers today are directly tied to sales and revenue metrics:

In fact, the three most common goals cited by marketers today were increasing their MQL acceptance rate, generating more pipeline, and increasing revenue.

Create more content 15%
Generate more MQLs 17%
Increase MQL acceptance rate         30%
Generate more pipeline 16%
Drive more revenue 22%


This shift makes sense, especially considering what we know about the effectiveness of tightly aligned marketing and sales teams:

  • Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions see 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates (source).
  • Sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals (source).
  • Aligning both departments can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing (source).

But they’re the exception, not the rule: Only 8% of companies have strong alignment between their sales and marketing departments (source).

We wanted to find out how marketers view their alignment with sales (regardless of their claims to have interdependent goals). So in our research, we asked marketers what they thought sales would say about them…after a few drinks. But the results…weren’t pretty.

What is sales saying about marketing?

Clearly, marketers are aware that their sales counterparts are not impressed with the leads being sent their way. When only 11% of marketers believe their sales team is happy with the quantity and quality of leads they deliver, we have a problem. Let’s break down what a few of the most problematic responses mean here (and what to do about them).

Understanding the problems behind complaints

Marketing sends a ton of leads, but it is hard to find the winners

Tied for the most common response, nearly ⅓ of marketers believe that their sales team is wasting valuable time needle-in-a-haystack-ing the pile of leads the send over. And this makes sense: marketers today are aware that a quantity approach doesn’t cut it. With increasingly complex buying cycles, traditional lead scoring models aren’t good enough (and sales pays the price).

By optimizing your process to focus on lead quality, your sales team will be buying you breakfast in no time. By scoring and appropriately nurturing your leads based on intent, not simply interest in your content, you’ll be able to prioritize the prospects that will quickly and sustainably transform into customers.

I am not really sure what they do all day

This response speaks to incredibly siloed teams — however, 29% of marketers find themselves in the position of a very serious communication and information flow problem. This response isn’t shocking, when we consider that 66% of marketers either can’t see or don’t care what happens to a lead once it is passed to sales. 

If we can’t (or won’t) invest in understanding which leads are actually converting to deals, we can’t reliably deliver leads to sales that help them do their job.

We have a Marketing team?

When questioning the very existence of your team is the third most popular answer choice, we might call this problem an epidemic. But adopting some basic foundations of marketing and sales alignment can dramatically change the culture (and bottomline) of companies experiencing this kind of disconnect.

Start by mutually defining what makes a great lead for your business. Getting the basics clearly defined makes you better able to build and prioritize campaigns that will serve that goal. But if you find yourself in this situation, there’s likely also some internal work necessary to get your ship righted. Try ideas like moving marketing and sales teams together in your physical office space, set up regular meetings to create content mutually, and walk marketing team members through recent wins and losses.

Final Thoughts

The vast majority of marketers are aware that they need to make changes to align their activities with their sales-focused goals. And that alignment work starts by understanding the complaints that sales has about the leads sent their way to work from.

Learn more about how demand gen marketers’ roles and goals are shifting in our full report.

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