More Evidence that B2B Sales and Marketing Have an Alignment Problem

April 13, 2017 Mark Emmons

Some goals are universal. Adopt a healthier lifestyle. Help achieve world peace. Get sales and marketing teams aligned.

The State of Lead Management survey didn’t give business professionals the chance to offer their thoughts on two of those lofty goals. But they were asked about the working relationship between sales and marketing at their companies. And, boy, did the 527 respondents have an opinion about that. When asked if they believe those teams are properly aligned to achieve their business goals:

  • 41 percent said not yet
  • 6.7 percent said not sure

So, nearly half of survey-takers voiced concerns that the two departments focused on driving company revenue have doubts about their sales and marketing alignment.

Yes, we know. You’re shocked — shocked! — by that finding.

“Those numbers don’t really surprise me,” added Christine Maxey, director of enterprise solutions at LeanData. “Businesses don’t know how to align. I’m not even sure they know what that means. They’re confused because they’ll get into a meeting and agree on an objective. But they don’t understand how to align when it comes to actual execution.”

LeanData conducted the survey to gain a better understanding of how B2B companies are managing the leads that fuel their revenue engines. The answers from respondents uncovered stark divisions between how sales and marketing pros view their lead management process.

For instance, 61 percent of sales leaders said their teams always follow up on marketing-generated leads. But only 30 percent of marketing leaders said they believe sales always works their leads.

Again, hardly a surprise. But that hard reality contrasts with the rose-colored vision most businesses have for sales and marketing — that they’re on the same page . . . or at least reading from the same playbook. Alignment has become a buzzy catchphrase thanks to the growing interest in account-based strategies. One of the core principles of Account-Based Marketing is to have the teams working in tandem to crack open target accounts.

That sounds great . . . in theory.

“Marketing really wants to do a good job,” Maxey said. “They’re delivering what they think are good leads. Sales really wants to sell and drive the company revenue machine. Both teams are doing the best they can. It’s not that marketing and sales aren’t doing their jobs. They are.”

Then what’s the problem? Why can there be so much finger-pointing?

“It’s the hand-off between them that creates the confusion,” Maxey continued. “It’s the system that causes the problem. When systems fail, those applications don’t get blamed. People and departments get blamed. That’s when trust erodes. Or everyone decides that you have an intractable problem that just can’t be fixed.”

The survey results support Maxey’s belief that a root cause of misalignment is the lead management process. More than 57 percent of respondents expressed doubts that their lead workflow creates an ideal customer experience. In other words, they question if leads are consistently reaching the right people in their organizations. Another key takeaway: Respondents admitted that, on average, one out of every four leads is assigned inaccurately.

What traditionally has been perceived as marketers providing poor leads or sales people not following up could instead be a situation of good leads simply falling through the cracks due to a faulty process.

Maxey added that it’s a mistake to think of alignment as the two teams simply “getting along.” Rather, it’s sales and marketing ensuring that software applications — especially the source-of-record CRM — are accurately routing leads to the right place.

“Marketing doesn’t go over to sales and say, ‘Hey, I sent you 500 new leads today. How’s everyone doing over here? You guys good? You get what you needed?’” Maxey said. “They’re relying on the system being the conduit for them. The hand-off is really the only place where sales and marketing touch. The crux of their relationship is the CRM, whether it’s Salesforce or something else. If it’s not working, that’s where the trust breaks down.”

This is more commonly called misalignment.

That, in turn, can lead to a questionable customer experience. And the results indicate that the problem is widespread. Can’t sales and marketing just get along? Maybe, but they’ll have to fix their lead routing issues first.

Learn more about The State of Lead Management by viewing the full survey results.


About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at

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