Council Post: Five Ways To Close The Chasm In Sales And Marketing Alignment (And Achieve Higher ROI)

CEO of Demand Science, a buyer intelligence platform that accelerates demand gen for the world’s largest software, tech & B2B companies.

We’ve known for years that sales and marketing professionals disagree on how to grow revenue and who does the best job at fueling the lead generation funnel. Today, we have the technology to close the gap between sales and marketing with better processes, healthier data, better analytics and culture that supports sales and marketing teams to work together to close the gap. 

Our company recently commissioned two surveys of 250 sales and marketing B2B decision makers at companies with $10 million+ in revenues and more than 100 employees to explore pain points in driving demand generation at scale and potential upside success if those gaps were closed.

Both sales and marketers agree there is significant upside potential. Respondents said their company could improve revenue by 54% if marketing and sales were more closely aligned. Further, faster-growing companies cited more success with sales and marketing being in sync, underscoring the positive link between growth and alignment.

Proven Keys To Success

Based on our survey findings and my team’s experience in running a platform that helps accelerate demand gen for software, tech and B2B companies, here are some insights any business should keep in mind to close the gap between sales and marketing.


Go after the low-hanging fruit.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said their company didn’t have a definite plan to follow up on old leads that never converted. It’s important to create a multichannel approach, including retargeting, outbound calling and email. This means doing everything from using better intent data to identify in-market prospects to staying top of mind through email nurture campaigns and outbound calls, using account-based marketing (ABM) and programmatic approaches to be relevant to prospects, leveraging site and search retargeting tactics, and following up within minutes (not hours) on prospect engagement.

Make shared success a measurable goal (including bonuses).

Fifty-eight percent of marketing leaders said marketing sources higher-quality leads, but only 14% of sales leaders agreed. Fifty-nine percent of sales leaders said sales sources higher-quality leads, but only 17% of marketing leaders agreed. This stalemate can be solved with testing, data, better processes and shared compensation tied to mutual success. There needs to be a commitment by both to collaborate on definitions for quality leads, refining the marketing attribution model to a reasonable level of credit and contribution, and prioritizing marketing lead follow-up. Commit to a culture that creates sales and marketing shared revenue goals and success. Magic will happen.

Improve speed to lead follow-up.

Seventy-one percent of marketers believe they could double closed/won deals if sales would follow up with leads more quickly, but nearly 80% of companies don’t consistently contact a prospect within 25 minutes of a form fill or inquiry. We have known for a decade that after 24 hours, a lead is all but lost. If the sales team is worried about wasting time on unqualified leads, bring in a lead development rep to vet leads and set up appointments for high-value deals.

Harness the power of a single source of healthy data.

CRM data is often a challenge if there are legacy processes that create duplicate contacts or if there aren’t strong processes to ensure healthy data, including up-to-date contact information. Marketers often limp along with manual attribution efforts if there aren’t automated processes, rules, and sales training that include contact engagement history. This takes time and commitment, but it is certainly doable.

The bigger issues today include the high cost of intent data and complexity for marketers in prioritizing all data enrichment inputs to achieve higher revenue at scale. Our survey definitely corroborated this:

• While 58% of respondents agree that intent data helps qualify leads and 60% say lead conversion improves by at least 50% with intent data, the majority of marketers say they are overwhelmed by trying to use intent data to create high-quality leads.

• 66% say they are using three or more different sources of intent data, and 60% say they are only somewhat successful or worse at using intent to generate leads at scale.

The key is a single source of intent data that doesn’t require marketers to burn endless hours selecting intent providers, updating and integrating their tech stack, and updating predictive models that include which data is driving success. There are more and more options today for better data.

Leverage predictive analytics.

Sales and marketing leaders must scale lead generation in highly competitive categories. For example, our clients are inundated with companies offering many types of third-party and intent data, some at a very high cost, with the promise of using these signals to find new buyers. Yet 36% of respondents in our study said they find it difficult to measure the incremental value or ROI of intent data, and 56% are only “somewhat” sure which vendor(s) generate the greatest ROI.

This is solvable by identifying a partner who uses predictive analytics to make predictions about future outcomes based on historical data and advanced analytics techniques, including statistical modeling and machine learning. Predictive analytics not only provides insights that can grow revenue; it brings the capability to measure ROI to the next level. While marketers and sales pros would prefer a one-stop shop, there are many options out there for one-off intent solutions to round out the marketing tech stack.

Organizations need to make improving revenue growth a shared goal for sales and marketing teams and instill the understanding that closing the chasm can generate significantly more success — for their company and themselves. 

Quality lead generation continues to be highly competitive, and that won’t change. But what can change is the level of alignment you achieve with your marketing and sales teams. Addressing process, culture, and the power and health of your data takes commitment and buy-in. In my experience, the suggestions we’ve discussed today can move the needle for any organization. And I can assure you that once your prospects accelerate their buying, your sales and marketing teams will buy into your new approach.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?